Travel anywhere around the world and say you’re from Manchester, and the first question anyone will ask is, “United or City?”
Until recent times when the Sky Blues became dominant in the Premier League, the football fanatics from beyond the shores of England always plumped for United. But take a look a little further back and you can see that both clubs have stars which could shine in any company, at any time, anywhere on the planet.
Today, I’m looking at five of these players who have thrived in the football hotbed of the North West, and you may have five of your own. But I’m going to start with two Reds, so let’s see where we agree.
Cristiano Ronaldo – 84 goals in 196 appearances for United
CR7 is a football phenomenon, and he owes much of his evolution to the time he spent under the wing of Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.
He arrived as a precocious 18-year-old with bags of talent and an attitude to annoy any hardened Premier League full-back. But by the time he left, he was, without doubt, one of the most complete attacking footballers in the history of the game, and defenders just couldn’t live with him.
Ronaldo won three league titles, as well as an FA Cup and a Champions League in his time at Old Trafford. And for many, he is simply the finest player in the Premier League era.
George Best – 137 goals in 361 appearances for United
The 1968 Ballon D’Or winner was the most naturally gifted player the United Kingdom has ever produced. He burst onto the Manchester scene as a uniquely talented winger, the best two-footed dribbler in the game, and a shy Irish lad off the pitch.
But after he scored two goals in a European Cup quarter-final against Benfica in 1966, he was dubbed the ‘fifth Beatle’ by the Portuguese press and that changed his life forever.
He scored a brilliant individual goal in the 1968 European final against the same team. And at the young age of 21, that was sadly the pinnacle of his career.
Best carried on playing for United until 1974, but he attracted as many headlines off the pitch as on it. And by the time he left the club, his champagne lifestyle had taken its toll on his fitness.
Football will never see the like of Best again.
Sergio Aguero – 180 goals in 261 appearances for City
Manchester City’s Argentine hit-man has been the best striker in the Premier League for almost a decade now and is ranked fourth in the list of all-time goal-scorers. He’s still in the Premier League 2020 news, right in the hunt for the Golden Boot.
Aguero will always live in the memory of Sky Blue fans for his most dramatic of goals, which includes the 94th-minute winner against QPR to lift Manchester City’s first Premier League title from under the noses of the Red Devils.
The latest Premier League 2020 predictions say City are about to hand the league over to Liverpool, but they will be back next year and so will Aguero.
Colin Bell – 117 goals in 394 appearances for City
Known as Nijinsky after the famous racecourse, Colin Bell was a thoroughbred and often spoken of as the best player ever to don the famous Sky Blue shirt.
As a goal-scoring midfielder, he linked up in 1968 with Mike Summerbee and Francis Lee to help City to a second league title – the first coming in 1937.
So respected is he in Manchester that he has a stand named after him at the Etihad, and City fans will forever remember his 14 goals in the 67/68 season which fired the Sky Blues to glory.
He is regarded as one of England’s most cultured ever midfield players, described by one pundit as the most finished article in the modern game.
Denis Law – 30 goals in 68 appearances for City, 171 in 309 appearances for United
In addition to his goal tally for the two Manchester Clubs, The Lawman scored 30 in 55 for Scotland in a career spanning 18 years from 1956 to 1974.
He is loved by both sets of fans. At Old Trafford, he was part of the ‘Holy Trinity’ of Best, Charlton. And at City he is gleefully remembered for a goal which broke the Red Devils’ hearts – a cheeky back-heel which consigned Manchester United to relegation in 1974.
So that’s it, my SBOTOP friends. Growing up in the smoky Lancashire town of Burnley, Manchester United and City were just 20 miles away but on a different planet.
Suffice to say, if one of these legends of the Manchester football scene could do a stint between the posts, it would be the best five-a-side team the world has ever seen!
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