Revisiting Man Utd’s first Premier League XI of the 2010s
Manchester United are nowhere near the top of the Premier League as the 2010s draw to a close, but at the start of the decade they were in the then-familiar position of contesting a title race.
United were on the heels of leaders Chelsea as the league neared its halfway point, and a surprise FA Cup third-round defeat against Leeds United left them with a clear run at the other three competitions.
Before a League Cup semi-final against Manchester City, there was a chance to move back to the top with victory against Birmingham, only for Cameron Jerome to shock Sir Alex Ferguson’s side with a first-half opener.
United salvaged a draw in controversial circumstances, with referee Mark Clattenburg overruling his assistant’s offside flag and allowing Scott Dann’s own goal to stand, and former Red Devils striker Louis Saha gave his old employers a helping hand by scoring twice to help Everton beat Chelsea the following day.
We’ve taken a look back at United’s team from that game at St Andrew’s, where their opponents were buoyed by the goalkeeping of an on-loan youngster by the name of Joe Hart.
GK: Tomasz Kuszczak
With first-choice goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar on leave after his wife was admitted to hospital with a brain haemorrhage, Polish stopper Kuszczak deputised over Christmas and into the new year.
Van der Sar returned the following week, meaning the game at Birmingham was Kuszczak’s last in the league that season. He played just 11 more games for United before leaving in 2010, but one of those was a start in the 2010 League Cup final victory over Aston Villa.
Ironically, he played more games for Birmingham than United this decade, racking up 92 games for the Blues between 2015 and 2019.
United’s Brazilian was still in the early stages of his career at Old Trafford but returned to the starting line-up in Birmingham after making way for veteran Gary Neville in the defeat to Leeds.
It was one of just eight games Rafael played in the league that season, while his twin brother Fabio – a starter at left-back against Leeds – featured even less frequently.
Both brothers are now in France, via very different paths. Indeed, while Rafael’s eight games marked the fewest he played in a United season, Fabio’s five represented his second-highest total.
CB: Wes Brown
Brown was one of a handful of players to feature in United’s 1999 and 2008 Champions League-winning squads, so it will come as no surprise that the 2009-10 season was one of his last for the club.
The defender played in exactly half of the Red Devils’ league games that season, and also played his last ever England international game in March 2010, completing 90 minutes against Egypt.
The 2010-11 season was his final at United, but he stayed in professional football for another six years before retiring at the age of 37. Not bad for someone with so many well-documented injury issues.
CB: Jonny Evans
Evans had only made his top-flight debut for United the previous season, with Ferguson easing him in following two years on loan at Sunderland, and was a fresh-faced 22-year-old when he played at St Andrew’s less than a week after his birthday.
Under Ferguson, Evans looked like developing into a genuine Premier League quality defender. And he did just that – only not at Old Trafford.
After winning three league titles at United, could he add a fourth with Leicester? Stranger things have happened.
LB: Patrice Evra
One of United’s best performers of the decade, which – when you consider he left in 2014 – says as much about the club as it does about him.
It was the Frenchman’s shot which Dann turned into his own net, and had it flown straight in it would have been his only goal in any competition that season.
A few months later, Evra was ‘credited’ with leading a revolt which saw France’s World Cup campaign end in embarrassment and an almost impressive one point from a group containing Uruguay, Mexico and South Africa.
CM: Michael Carrick
One of the last men standing from this XI, Carrick remained at Old Trafford until his retirement in 2018 and is still at the club now as a coach.
Back in 2010, the former West Ham and Tottenham midfielder was very much a first-choice for his club but a back-up for his country.
Carrick travelled to that summer’s World Cup in South Africa but failed to displace Gareth Barry as Fabio Capello’s England were eliminated in the second round.
— Samuel Luckhurst (@samuelluckhurst) October 12, 2018
CM: Paul Scholes (Mame Biram Diouf, 81)
Scholes reached the milestone of 100 Premier League goals during the 2009-10 season when he scored the winner against Wolves in March, ending the campaign with seven goals in all competitions.
He retired at the end of the following season, only to then return in January 2012 before retiring for good along with Ferguson in 2013.
As United chased a late winner, Scholes was replaced by Senegalese forward Diouf, who was making his debut after signing from Molde the previous season.
CM: Darren Fletcher
Fletcher was sent off in this game, picking up his second yellow card with seven minutes to play.
The Scotland international ended the season with 41 appearances, one shy of his high water mark in a United shirt, and may well have broken that record had the Red Devils not dropped out of Europe at the quarter-final stage.
His dismissal came just eight months after a more famous red card – the one which ruled him out of the 2009 Champions League final.
RW: Antonio Valencia
It’s weird now to think of hard-working, disciplined if boring right-back Valencia as a winger, but that’s what he was in his first couple of years after arriving from Wigan Athletic.
2009-10 was his first season at United, and he never played more games in one season than the 49 he racked up that year.
Valencia was named in the Premier League Team of the Year after notching seven assists, and he went even better with 13 in the 2011-12 campaign.
LW: Park Ji-Sung (Ryan Giggs, 66)
Park was often a more vital player in Europe than in the league, and he played in eight of United’s 10 Champions League matches in 2009-10 but just 17 of 38 in the league.
He scored in a couple of the bigger league games, netting against Arsenal less than a month after the Birmingham game and Liverpool shortly after, and he ended the campaign with four goals, all scored in the second half of the season. The South Korea international also netted at the 2010 World Cup, helping clinch a 2-0 victory over Greece in his country’s opener.
Park was replaced partway through the second half, by Giggs, who was still refusing to age at that point.
ST: Wayne Rooney
The 2009-10 season was, at that point, the most prolific of Rooney’s career.
He scored 26 goals in the league, just one shy of the 27 he managed two years later, though his role as the focal point of United’s attack – finishing off chances rather than creating them – meant he recorded just three assists.
The former Everton man also scored five goals in seven Champions League games that season, including one in the ill-fated quarter-final against Bayern Munich.