For every overrated hack like Nani, there have been underrated, consummate professionals like Ji-Sung Park who go about their job quietly and with passion, giving nothing less than 100% in matches. Yet these individuals are constantly overlooked in favor of the more flamboyant players.
There has been a fair share of unsung heroes at Old Trafford ever since Sir Alex Ferguson took over. Here are 10 of them:
Suffice to say that Dimitar Berbatov got the short end of the stick at United. Ferguson wanted to play differently, and somehow the Bulgarian did not fit in. He went from being being the top-scorer on one season to the fourth-choice striker, behind Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck.
Berbatov was a joy to watch—he held the ball immensely well in the attacking third and allowed teammates to join the attack and orchestrated play beautifully. Had Rooney been more of an out-and-out striker and did not have the additional burden of orchestrating play on numerous occasions, Berbatov might have had fared better. But, it was decreed otherwise.
In the end, it was good that Berbatov parted ways with United, as such a talented player should certainly not be on the fringes of a team.
Phil Neville, despite being unable to replicate the form of his illustrious brother Gary, was a no-nonsense defender. Obviously, Denis Irwin was still there, and he was not as fantastic as other great left-backs of the league like Ashley Cole. Nevertheless, he was a fantastic player in his own right.
His attitude and work-ethic stood out the most. But in a generation that bestowed upon us players like David Beckham, Roy Keane, Gary Neville, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, he was surely going to be overlooked.
Capable of playing at virtually any position, including goalkeeper, John O’Shea typified the notion of “Jack of all, King of none.” He was never really able to claim a position for his own, and despite proving his worth on numerous occasions, he had to part ways with United.
As a Manchester United fan, I feel that there has been no other player in recent history who polarizes supporters like Michael Carrick. To some he is the fulcrum of the team, the player who closes down space, holds the ball well and distributes with perfection.
To others, he is an average player who only passes backwards and sideways and often slows the game down, especially on counter-attacks.
I went from a Carrick basher to a Carrick admirer once I started noticing his presence in the games. His defensive abilities are strong, and he is an absolutely impeccable distributor of the ball. Last season, he came to life by putting several worthy performances and helping United grind out results, yet, there are many who still label him as “non-United” standard.
A personal favorite of mine and several United faithful, Diego Forlan was a disappointment at Old Trafford. Beloved by fans, Diego Forlan was expected to deliver the goals, but he failed to settle well.
Fergie’s impatience with the Uruguayan meant that he was shipped out to Spain at the beginning of the 2004-05 season. Retrospectively, this could be heralded as one of the worst decisions made. At Villareal, Forlan quickly settled, as he won the Pichichi trophy and the European Golden Boot.
He reclaimed the Pichichi trophy again in two years, this time with Atletico Madrid.
His 2010 World Cup performance was absolutely splendid, and it was great to see a former United player put in such a noteworthy performance.
Member of the famous “Fergie’s Fledglings,” Nicky Butt was an exceptional player in his own right. His first two full seasons were splendid, and he also performed Keane’s duties admirably when the Irishman was injured for most of the 1997-98 season. For his performance that season, he was also included in the PFA team of the year.
But with Keane’s return and Paul Scholes having developed into one of the best midfielders around, Butt was sidelined, and he eventually moved to Newcastle.
Many United faithful see Anderson as an utter flop, but there is no doubting that he is sheer talent through and through. Had last season’s injury not forced him out, he and Tom Cleverly could have formed a lethal partnership.
The signs are still there, and let’s just hope Anderson has a chance to prove himself before he is shipped out. But time is running out for the Brazilian.
Un-Sung, Ji-Sung! By the time he departed, Ji-Sung Park had completely won over the United faithful. He was a tireless, big-match performer who did not get as much media limelight as some of his contemporaries. Nevertheless, he was an ever industrious player, and it’s sad that he was shipped out, as United could have kept him on the fringes and utilized him in times of dire need.
Darren Fletcher used to be the Michael Carrick of old. With even his own captain, Roy Keane, bashing him in 2005 and ridiculed by supporters as Fergie’s son, Fletcher was one of the perennial scapegoats.
However, when he could not play in the 2009 Champions League Final, his worth was there for all to see. Supporters finally warmed up to him, realizing finally how much protection he offers to the back four and his ability to set up a quick counter.
After that, Fletcher grew in reputation and held great promise until being sidelined with injury last year. He is back, and we can only hope he regains full fitness.
Tim Howard was exceptional for United—a decisive penalty save against Arsenal in the Community shield won numerous hearts and a handful of worthy performances cemented his cause to be United’s first choice goalie.
However, a terrible match against Porto in the 2003/2004 Champions League shattered Howard. He never fully recovered from conceding a last-minute goal at the hands of Porto which saw them eliminated from the tournament.
With Edwin van der Sar's arrival, he was shipped out to Everton on a loan deal which was later converted to a full-time contract.
He is doing remarkably well at Everton, and at only 33, he still has several good years ahead of him.
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