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World Club Championship Monday, 20 December, 1999, 19:21 GMT
Man Utd: Bidding for unification
Manchester United
Formidable: Can anyone stop United in Brazil?
December's Toyota Cup triumph Tokyo gave Sir Alex Ferguson's team the title of "best club side in the world".

And United are favourites to follow Lennox Lewis and become Britain's other undisputed heavyweight world champions.

So much has been written about the team and the treble that finding a new approach is hard.

United: A threat from everywhere
Yorke and Cole, Sheringham or Solksjaer? Which would you prefer?
Stop Beckham crossing from the right, and Giggs running down the left
Don't let Scholes get in through the middle
If your midfield can dominate Keane, you are very lucky
And when you do get a chance, take it, because Stam and co are unlikely to let it happen again
But imagine that you are the coach of another leading side. How do stop the United juggarnaut from rolling you over?

For a start, your defenders had better be on their best form.

Because even if they stop the feared partnership of Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole, this deadly duo's supposed understudies are the men who actually scored the goals to win the European Cup.

It is too easy to categorise Yorke and Teddy Sheringham as the more creative of United's quartet, with Cole and Ole Gunnar Soksjaer the natural goalscorers.

World Club Championship
But all four are multi-talented: Yorke, with amazing control which will be truly appreciated in Brazil, is unusually strong for a small man.

Cole, the quicksilver run-and-shoot merchant has surprising all-round ability, and almost as great a range of finishes as Yorke.

Andy Cole
Striker Andy Cole is head over heels with his form
Solksjaer, the man as likely to score four in a match as one, is a dangerous customer, while Sheringham is a man who understands what striking partners want, but finishes his own chances with a flourish.

The tacticians' nightmare does not end with stopping the strikers.

Ryan Giggs and David Beckham concern full-backs like few other wide players.

Beckham's boyish looks, carefully-cultivated image and glamorous wife mean he is never out of the limelight.

But he is also arguably the best crosser of the ball in world football, with an almost unique ability to fire in a ball with pinpoint accuracy and pace.

All the marking in the world will not stop those strikers scoring if the supply from Beckham is allowed to get past your left-back.

Meanwhile, the right back must not let Giggs run. The Welshman sometimes appears out of a match, only to turn on that lightning pace and dribble into the danger area.

Beckham
Midfielder David Beckham: Don't let him cross the ball
And stopping United does not end with the defenders staying alert.

Just ask Scotland what happens when Paul Scholes is not tracked by midfield players.

The defence might as well lay out a penalty area red carpet for United's red-head to run along and score.

Then there is Roy Keane, whose value to the team is now a cool 2.6m a year.

The common view of United's captain fantastic is as a destructive influence, and it is true that opponents are faced with a tough task getting past him.

But watch the Irishman in a game and you see how much he adds to the attacking play.

Stam: Defence a weak link? Hardly
Finally, the defence. Surely the weakest element in the team?

Well maybe it is, but do not tell Jaap Stam that. The Dutchman is one of Europe's most respected centre backs and among the very best at recovering lost causes.

And while the men alongside him have made errors this season, they are still a hard act to beat.

Behind them, Peter Schmeichel was a hard act to follow, but Mark Bosnich looks to have the potential to step into the Great Dane's boots, as he proved with a superb performance in Tokyo.

Trying to outwit this lot is truly a thankless task.

See also:

28 May 99 | Uniteds treble triumph
30 Nov 99 | Football
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
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