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Thursday, May 27, 1999 Published at 12:44 GMT 13:44 UK

United '68 v United '99

Ryan Giggs: Would he have made it into the team of '68?

If fans of the Reds Devils are to be believed, Manchester United's victory over Bayern Munich has seen the European Cup return to its rightful owners - 31 years on.

United's treble triumph
But the question now on the tip of every supporter's tongue is: which was the best ever United team?

Would the class of 1999 lay to rest the ghost of 1968 with a goal feast more spectacular than their semi-final massacre of Juventus in Turin?

Or would Sir Matt Busby mastermind another memorable victory as he did so effectively in Madrid?

Comparisons of players are plentiful. Indeed from the moment Ryan Giggs slipped on his first United shirt as a teenager, he was instantly labelled the new George Best.

Keane and Crerand

Admittedly, the industriousness of Roy Keane - suspended for the European Cup final, of course - brings back fond memories of the spirit and leadership of the great Paddy Crerand and in truth, it would be cruel not to compare the razor sharp Dwight Yorke to United's most famous ever goal poacher, Dennis Law.

[ image: Bobby Charlton:
Bobby Charlton: "Turin was United's best ever performance"
Certainly both sides were blessed with the two of the greatest goalkeepers of their generation.

In Peter Schmeichel and Alex Stepney you have two of the most outstanding all-rounders, who were both dominant in the air and defied their colossal size with stupendous reflexes on the floor.

Sir Bobby Charlton, who has always rated Schmeichel, was the first to admit that the two teams possess similar qualities.

"I'm really proud of them," he said after the victory in the final. "English football has been in the wilderness for a long time and now we're back on the world stage,"

But after United's second leg blitz against Juventus even he almost conceded that their current side would be more than a match for the side who defeated Benfica in 1968.

Charlton, who scored when Matt Busby's side beat Benfica 4-1 to win the European Cup in 1968, was full of admiration following the Turin triumph.

"Inevitably people will make comparisons with the 1968 European Cup winning team and as one of the players then, I can honestly say I have never played in or watched a better United performance".

But Stepney, who wore the United gloves in their 4-1 win, admitted it was hard to compare the two greatest sides in United's history.


He said: "It's a different game now, much quicker than when we played and they train much harder too.

"We were very successful in our time, and they are successful now - all I hope is they go on and win it," he added.

Alex Ferguson, who said the European Cup triumph was the best moment in his life, has now joined Matt Busby amongst the immortals of English soccer.

[ image: Yorke and Cole: Could they have kept Dennis Law out of the side?]
Yorke and Cole: Could they have kept Dennis Law out of the side?
Sir Matt was at the helm for 12 years before he won the trophy - his dreams put on hold for a decade after the Munich air disaster wiped out most of his Busby Babes team in 1958.

Ferguson joined United thirteen years ago and has transformed an average First Divison team into a side who have completed an unprecedented treble this season - a feat which Busby never had the opportunity to achieve.

With poetic irony, the date of the final, May 26, was the 90th anniversary of the birth of Sir Matt, who died in 1994.

The nail-biting climax in Barcelona has inevitably prompted more comparisons between the two managers.

A fantasy clash between the side of '68 with Ferguson's school of '99, would make for an intriguing encounter.

On fitness and strength alone there would be no comparison, such are the physical demands of contemporary football.

But with Busby's tactics, the divine skill of Best and the glorious finishing of Law, it would be hard to bet against the Sixties crew.

On the other hand, the spine of the present team is as good as any club side in the world.


With David Beckham and Giggs running the channels, Jaap Stam and Keane marshalling the defence and midfield and the brilliant Yorke defying his early season critics with a constant stream of goals it is an irressistible combination.

All these players could conceivably be called the best players in the game in their respective positions.

Crerand, who was the driving force behind the United midfield, said that it was wrong to even consider comparing the two sides.

"I get sick of the two sides being compared," he said.

"We won the European Cup over 30 years ago and the game has changed so much that you can't even start to compare the two teams," said the 1968 winner.

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