The Onefootball countdown of the 20 greatest club sides ever goes on.
We’re kicking off our top 10 with…
Manchester United 2006-09
Why are they here?
The last team to win three consecutive Premier League titles
Won the Champions League (2008) and reached the final again (2009)
Precision. Perfection. @Cristiano at his elite best 🚀 # PLMoment pic.twitter.com/1g8cGXVzh7
– Premier League (@premierleague) September 17, 2017
Cristiano Ronaldo – the top scorer
Wayne Rooney – the boy wonder
Rio Ferdinand – the modern defender
Heading into 2006/07 season, something strange had happened.
Manchester United, for the first time under Alex Ferguson, had gone three years without winning the Premier League. In fact, they’d never even gone two years since lifting the trophy in 1993.
Some thought Ferguson was maybe past his best, that the club should look to start something new. Instead, the Scot built arguably the finest team he ever put together. And certainly the most flexible.
In that 2006/07 season, Ronaldo and Rooney really stepped up to the plate.
📖 How to find the net from a counter-attack: demonstrated by @WayneRooney and @Cristiano 🔗 # MUFC #GoalOfTheDay pic.twitter.com/pXE3wcnxjQ
– Manchester United (@ManUtd) March 17, 2020
The pair scored 23 times each in all competitions, United scored the most goals in the league (83) by a huge margin and the team was top from the beginning of October until the end of May.
From there they only got stronger.
Carlos Tevez and Nani joined in 2007 and, with a bullish striker and a direct winger, Ferguson could now mold the team to play any way I liked. And he did, from week to week.
Unlike most top teams, who have a trusted way of playing, this United team would line up to exploit the opposition’s weaknesses.
They could play a 4-5-1 and defend deep, breaking at an incredible pace. They could dominate in midfield with the underrated Michael Carrick, the experienced Paul Scholes, and the tenacious Darren Fletcher. They played 4-4-2 and flooded the wings, or 4-3-3 and unleashed Ronaldo, Rooney and Tevez in free roles.
. @ Cristiano fires in his second en route to a hat-trick v Newcastle in 2008. #MUFC pic.twitter.com/X5l9VX2Ya4
– Manchester United (@ManUtd) November 18, 2017
The trio excelled roaming around the pitch, with Ronaldo in particular given license to choose where he wanted to play across the frontline on any given afternoon, looking for chinks in the opposition defense’s armor.
The work rates of Rooney and Tevez allowed him to do that with no trouble behind the scenes. With those two supporting him, the Portuguese scored 42 times in all competitions, by far his best return in a United shirt.
United won the 2008 Premier League title in one of the most hotly contested title races the league has seen.
They then went on to also clinch the Champions League, beating Chelsea on penalties in Moscow. The rock-s0lid backline was crucial and the team didn’t grant in five consecutive games on their run to the final.
Edwin van der Sar was arguably the world’s finest goalkeeper at the time, understated in his excellence. In front of him, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidić formed an incredible complimentary pairing.
Ferguson wasn’t satisfied there and Dimitar Berbatov joined the following summer.
The Bulgarian didn’t fit in to the 4-3-3 but gave the team more guile when they lined up with two up front. Nani played a bit less, Rooney played wider more often and Ronaldo stuck to the wings more too.
The result was another league title, with an incredible 90 points racked up.
Once again United were defensively formidable on their way to another Champions League final, keeping four clean sheets in six knockout games.
The brilliance of Ronaldo, in his last season at the club, had fired them all the way to Rome. The Portuguese scored iconic goals against Porto and Arsenal, before United lost to Barcelona in the final.
#UCL winner for first time in 2008 🏆
Ballon d & # 039; Or winner for the first time in 2008 🏆
⚽️⚽️ Inspirational in 2009 semi-final…
@Cristiano Ronaldo 💪 # HBD | @ManUtd pic.twitter.com/JNg8P2C7eN
– UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) February 5, 2020
Still, three seasons. Three Premier League titles. One Champions League win and another final. Plus two League Cups.
All on the back of three years without being crowned champions of England.
This team may well have been Ferguson’s greatest ever success.