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 Saturday, 21 December, 2002, 11:13 GMT
The old pals' network
Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole now play for Blackburn Rovers
Yorke and Cole will be trying to embarrass their old club

Manchester United's past and present will come face-to-face at Ewood Park on Sunday when the resurgent Red Devils play Blackburn.

United's new central defensive partners, Mikael Silvestre and Wes Brown, will find themselves up against former United strikers Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole.

The reunited pair will be facing their former employers as a partnership for the first time since their short move up the A666.

During their time at Old Trafford they forged an impressive partnership, most notably in United's treble winning season in 1998/99.

Mikael Silvestre (right) congratulates Dwight Yorke when they both played for Manchester United
Silvestre (right) and Yorke will soon be opponents

Between them they scored 186 goals for the Red Devils (Cole 121, Yorke 65) and for a while they were among the most feared strike partnerships in Europe.

However, both fell out of favour with Sir Alex Ferguson and they made their way to Blackburn.

Rovers' boss Graeme Souness signed Cole in December 2001 and Yorke followed seven months later.

The irrepressible Yorke and the dour Cole may make an unlikely pairing but their on-pitch understanding is mirrored by a close friendship off the field.

Yorke may have lost some of his sparkle over the past couple of years and Cole can still be frustratingly profligate.

But they know each other inside out, unlike Silvestre and Brown.

Mikael Silvestre plays centre back for the French national team
Silvestre has been in commanding form for United

The new United central defence was thrown together by necessity only a few weeks ago but it has since blossomed.

The left-footed Silvestre and right-footed Brown complement each other beautifully and they have been at the heart of United's recent revival.

A host of injuries threatened to derail the Red Devil's season but they are on the march again with eight wins on the trot.

And, depending on Arsenal's and Chelsea's results on Saturday, victory the following day could send them back to the top of the table for the first time since March last season.

When United saw the heart of their defence - Rio Ferdinand, Laurent Blanc and Gary Neville - all succumb to injury, pundits were queuing up to bury the Red Devils.

Ferguson had nowhere to run, Silvestre and Brown were the only options, and they have not let him down.

Instinctive understanding

The match-up between the two disparate partnerships - the experienced strike force and the rookie defence - could well decide whether United make it nine wins in a row, or if Rovers arrest a slide that has seen them win only once in seven games.

Cole and Yorke's instinctive understanding will serve them well but they are not as sharp as they used to be and Brown and Silvestre will have the edge in terms of pace and power.

And whichever pair comes out on top will have a large bearing on who takes the spoils in the Lancashire derby on Sunday.

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See also:

26 Jul 02 | Blackburn Rovers
26 Jul 02 | Blackburn Rovers
29 Dec 01 | Man Utd
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