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Man United 1999 Vs. Manchester City 2023 - Determining The Best Squad

On June 10th, 2023, Manchester City achieved the English Treble of winning the Premier League, the FA Cup, and the Champions League - something achieved only once before, in 1999 by Manchester United. Although the game has changed significantly, and both sides use different tactics and strategies, how do the two teams compare?

The Managers

Both managers are in the conversation for the greatest manager of all time, yet both took very different paths to reach this point. Pep Guardiola took Manchester City to Europe's Summit using a style of fluid football that can find its origins in the Dutch Total Football of the mid-1980s. In contrast, Sir Alex Ferguson developed a Manchester United team that used power and explosion to steamroll through teams.

Guardiola found himself at Manchester City via Bayern Munich and Barcelona, where after retiring as a player in 2006, he took over the Barcelona First team in 2008 and found immediate success winning the Spanish Treble in that first season. Although he has always had the resources to bring in world-class players, Pep is renowned as a motivator and has invented an intricate passing game that frustrates the opponent.

Sir Alex Ferguson had a modest playing career in Scotland. After managing Aberdeen between 1978 and 1985, he took over Manchester United in 1986, where he set about developing a robust youth system and changing the club's culture. This did not reap immediate success, and in 1990 was on the verge of getting sacked before winning the FA Cup and going on to win many more trophies.

Manchester United 1999

Manchester United entered the season without stalwarts Gary Pallister and Brian McClair, but they were replaced with club-record signings Dutch defender Jaap Stam and Striker Dwight Yorke. It was a slow start to the season, tying the first two league games before beating Charlton Athletic 4-1 on September 9th, 1998.

They would then lose only three games the rest of the league season but be run close by Arsenal, and it took a last game of the season win against Tottenham. Their Champions League campaign put them in a tough group with Bayern Munich, Barcelona, and Brøndby. Their only group wins came against Brøndby, and they finished 2nd in the group, meaning they would have to face Italian giants Inter Milan and Juventus to get to the final.

The Champions League Final saw them field a team without the suspended Paul Scholes and Roy Keane, meaning David Beckham would drop into central midfield alongside Nicky Butt. Their task was not easier as the Bayern Munich midfield contained Stefen Effenburg and Jens Jeremies.

After going 1-0 down after just 6 minutes, United took the game by the scruff of the neck and dominated for long periods but could not find a way past a typically organized German defense. However, This Manchester United team did not know when they were beaten and, in the last three minutes of injury time, scored two goals from two dead ball situations to make them the first team to win the Treble.

Manchester City 2023

Manchester City was at the races from the word go, and with new signing Erling Haaland breaking almost every goal-scoring record before Christmas, their attack looked very formidable. However, they lost some momentum in the league in the winter, losing four times, enabling Arsenal to pull 8 points ahead.

However, after a 1-1 draw against Nottingham Forest on February 18th, 2023, they found the consistency to win 12 games in a row and capture the title with two games remaining. In Europe, it has seemed for the longest time that Manchester City was missing one final piece of the puzzle, and Haaland proved to be that missing piece as his goals helped Manchester City sweep the group stage with four wins in six, scoring 11 goals before flying through the knockout stages.

They were made to work in the final against Inter Milan, who would not allow Manchester City to find their groove, with Ilkay Gundogan and Haaland, in particular, not contributing much to the game. It took a 59th-minute brilliance from Rodri to score what proved to be the winning goal in a largely forgettable game.

Comparing The Two Teams

While Manchester City is famous for spending money on players, it must be said that Manchester United was also keen to splash the cash when needed. The team that started in the Champions League Final featured only four players from the famed class of 1992, while City Academy graduate Phil Foden came on in the 36th minute to replace the injured Kevin De Bruyne.

The final league table would show Manchester City finishing with ten more points but losing more games. The United Side of 1999 would only finish 3rd in the 2023 league. A match against the two teams would feature key battles in midfield. While the City defense may struggle with the pace and tenacity of the United attack, it would take an on form Jaap Stam to eliminate the threat of Haaland.

When it comes down to it, both teams and managers have booked their place in history. To rank who would be better than the other is an impossible task, but this writer will say that Manchester United set the benchmark for what is possible. For me, they will always be the standard by which other teams will be judged, including, as Alex Ferguson once called them, "the noisy Neighbors."


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