Monthly Archives: May 2011
Alex Ferguson was left in no doubt. “In my time as a manager I would say yes, this is the best team I’ve faced.”
But then, on Saturday night at Wembley, the Manchester United manager wasn’t exactly analysing the issue with the most detached viewpoint. His team had just been utterly dismantled by Barcelona. And as he gets closer to the end of his football career, it was a performance that will probably leave as deep an imprint on his memory as that of Real Madrid at Hampden Park near the start of it.
When watching that landmark 7-3 win over Eintracht Frankfurt now though, it is remarkable just how removed the speed and style are from modern football. In fact, they’re almost incomparable. As such, with the debate about the exact position of Pep Guardiola’s team in history reaching new highest, many commentators have complained it’s a futile exercise to try and compare.
And, to a degree, that’s correct. All teams can only ever be products of their own era. Tactical tricks that may have appeared revolutionary in one period may be routine in another. Certain combinations of players that ruled supreme at one stage may have well found themselves routed elsewhere. Indeed, Ferguson saw this with more immediacy than most. His fearsome midfield four of 1999 were rendered outdated by Fernando Redondo’s Real Madrid within less than a year.
As such, it is genuinely futile to try and argue whether one historic side would beat another. The rules, trends and even fitness techniques have all changed far too much.
But one thing never changes: how fully a team dominated their own era.
Since any individual side can only ever be the best in their own time, it is actually possible to compare and contrast how completely they dominated it.