Where are they now? The Liverpool & Man United XIs from December 2003

Quick Reads

The rivalry between Liverpool and Manchester United has produced some memorable games in the Premier League era – and we’ve remembered the teams from one such occasion in 2003.

A brace from Ryan Giggs was enough to earn United a 2-1 victory at Anfield, but Sir Alex Ferguson’s side could only finish third behind Arsenal’s Invincibles and Chelsea that season, while Gerard Houllier’s side finished one place but 15 points further back than their North-West rivals.

Of the 22 players that started that day on December 15, 2003, 10 have turned their hand to management, but what of the rest?

Jerzy Dudek

Dudek had been at fault for United’s two goals in their 2-1 success at Anfield the previous season, and again came in for criticism as Ryan Giggs scored a brace for the visitors. Given his heroics in Istanbul two years later, the goalkeeper has probably been forgiven by Liverpool supporters.

The former Poland international has enjoyed a varied career post-football, working as an ambassador to help his home country secure the hosting rights for Euro 2012 alongside Ukraine, while also racing in the Volkswagen Castrol Cup.

“Of course there are times when I ask myself why I’m doing this; I have a wife and three kids at home – a very nice life, and when you lose control or focus in the car you can really get into trouble,” he told LFCTV.

“But you need passions in life – they are what keep you going”

READ: 15 footballers who attempted other sports: Maldini, Batistuta, Dudek…

Steve Finnan

We’ve only just realised Finnan was part of a Mauricio Pochettino-managed Espanyol side which beat Barcelona in his first victory as a boss, and that makes us strangely happy.

The right-back has kept a low profile since retiring, with the organisers of a 10-year anniversary event for Liverpool’s 2005 Champions League victory unable to track him down, which led to the hashtag #FindSteveFinnan.

Sadly, the result was somewhat underwhelming, as it transpired Finnan lives in London, where he works in property development.

“I can confirm that I’m safe and well,” Finnan told the Liverpool Echo, who had led the search. “Someone forwarded the Echo article on to me yesterday. I thought it was funny as I normally think I’m pretty easy to get hold of.”

Igor Biscan

While he was an unused substitute in the Istanbul final, Biscan picked up a Champions League winners’ medal after featuring in several of Liverpool’s wins en route there.

That included the 2-1 win against Juventus, with two of the most mismatched starting XIs you’ll ever see: Biscan featured alongside Damien Le Tallec and Djimi Traore but came out on top over Fabio Capello’s team, which featured the likes of Pavel Nedved, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Alessandro Del Piero.

The Croatian joined Panathinaikos in the summer of 2005, spending two years in Greece before seeing out the final years of his career back at boyhood club Dinamo Zagreb.

He’s since become a successful manager, getting Croatian side Rudes promoted in his first job in the dugout, before leading Olimpija Ljubljana to the Slovenian league and cup double in 2017-18.

In spite of that, their chairman Milan Mandaric – yes, that Milan Mandaric – sacked him in 2018 and was appointed Croatia Under-21 manager in 2019.

Igor Biscan

READ: A rare tribute to Igor Biscan, Liverpool’s unsung Champions League hero

Sami Hyypia

The Finn left Liverpool in 2009, having made over 400 appearances over a decade at the club as a pivotal figure in the trophies won by Rafael Benitez and Gerard Houllier.

He finished his playing career at Bayer Leverkusen, returning as a coach alongside Sascha Lewandowski a year later, before taking sole charge in 2013. He was sacked after less than a year.

Unsuccessful stints at Brighton and FC Zurich followed, and he was appointed assistant manager at Finnish side FC Haka in 2020.

Djimi Traore

The full-back has since earned cult status as a loveable overachiever, his name becoming shorthand for the miraculous nature of the 2005 Champions League win. After leaving in 2006, he became something of a journeyman.

He would make fewer than 20 appearances for Charlton, Portsmouth, Rennes and Marseille, only playing regularly once more in European football – making 29 appearances for Monaco in an unremarkable 2009-10 campaign.

Finishing his career at Seattle Sounders, he memorably scored a goal of the season contender with an absolute rocket. He’s now an assistant coach with the club.

El Hadji Diouf

The outspoken Senegalese forward has not been afraid to criticise his former Liverpool team-mates, with numerous shots taken at Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher. It’s safe to say, having scored just six goals from 79 appearances for the Reds, he won’t go down as a club legend.

Spending the biggest chunk of his career at Sam Allardyce’s Bolton, he would also later appear for Sunderland, Blackburn, Doncaster and Rangers before linking up with Leeds in 2012, in spite of then-manager Neil Warnock having previously described him as a “sewer rat” from an incident against QPR the year before.

He retired in 2015, having never scored 10 league goals in one season, with a total of 70 goals from 486 appearances. Since retirement, he’s somehow worked as a goodwill ambassador back in Senegal.

READ: Six times El-Hadji Diouf was a pr*ck at Liverpool: Spitting, turkeys and sh*ts

Danny Murphy

Like others who left at a similar time, Murphy’s honours list is entirely made up of the trophies won with Houllier in the early 2000s. He left when Benitez arrived in 2004, going on to be an important player for Charlton before failing to make much of an impact at Tottenham, then moving to a third London club, Fulham.

He was a stalwart for the club for five years as they established themselves as a solid Premier League side. The late highlight of his career was captaining Fulham in the 2010 Europa League final against Atletico Madrid, but once again he’d suffer the heartbreak of a Diego Forlan winner, well into extra time.

The former midfielder has been a ubiquitous presence in UK punditry since his playing career ended in 2013.

Steven Gerrard

After coaching the youth teams at Liverpool, the club legend took a high-profile first management job at Rangers and is earning plenty of plaudits.

READ: A forensic analysis of Steven Gerrard’s 38-second red card vs Man Utd

Vladimir Smicer

The midfielder will always be loved for the impact he made after being substituted on early for Harry Kewell in the 2005 Champions League final, his final game for the club. Retiring four years later after spells at Bordeaux and Slavia Prague, it’s been over a decade since he played football.

After playing, he went into coaching with the Czech national team but doesn’t look to have a career in management.

He ran as a candidate for election in 2014 to raise awareness of childhood obesity and kept still playing football with Patrik Berger at an amateur level for his local village team in the Czech Republic.

“I spent 20 years as a professional. I have two kids and I prefer to spend more time with them.”, Smicer said in a podcast interview.

“I’m enjoying life. I play golf and I love doing work for LFC as an ambassador.”

Emile Heskey

After winning a pair of League Cups with both Leicester and Liverpool, Heskey nearly added a fifth in 2010 when Aston Villa were edged out 2-1 by Manchester United in the 2010 final.

The one-in-four goalscoring ratio of his early years at Leicester and Liverpool would be about as good as it got for the striker. He maintained that return when he left Anfield for Birmingham in 2004, but it was diminishing returns ever since, his ratio becoming one-in-six for Steve Bruce’s Wigan and one-in-ten for Aston Villa before he went to Australian side Newcastle Jets in 2012.

Heskey returned to English football in 2014, scoring three goals in 45 appearances over two seasons at Bolton and retiring at the end of 2015-16 season as they were relegated to the third tier. He’s since been coaching at non-league, 12th-tier Egerton FC.

Harry Kewell

The Australian’s time in Merseyside was hampered by injuries. He started in Istanbul but was withdrawn after 23 minutes, before featuring prominently in the 2005-06 campaign, in which Liverpool finished third with a respectable tally of 82 points. That season they also lifted the FA Cup with Kewell named man of the match in the semi-final against Chelsea.

He made just 12 league appearances across his final two years at Liverpool, joining Galatasaray in 2008. He didn’t win anything with the Turkish giants and saw out his playing career with different stints in the Australian A-League and the Qatari Super League.

He started his coaching career brightly enough at Crawley but was sacked after less than three months in charge at Notts County as the club sat in the relegation zone.

The 42-year-old was appointed Oldham boss in August 2020, becoming their fifth manager in the last 12 months. 

Tim Howard

The American goalkeeper fared reasonably well as a regular in his debut campaign at Manchester United in 2003-04, but he was never going to get a regular place back in the side once Edwin van der Sar arrived in 2005.

The 41-year-old hung up his gloves in October 2019 after four seasons with Colorado Rapids in the MLS but came out of retirement with Memphis 901 FC a few months later.

Gary Neville

Neville’s work in the media as a pundit has been influential since retiring. The Sky Sports pundit has been one of the most outspoken critics of Ed Woodward at Manchester United.

He spent four years in the coaching set-up at England, working with Roy Hodgson from 2012 until 2016. A short, chaotic and unsuccessful managerial spell followed at Valencia, and he’s since hinted that he’s unlikely to return to the dugout again.


READ: Remembering the week Gary Neville became Man Utd’s deadliest goalscorer

Rio Ferdinand

The former central defender’s career didn’t end on a high. After winning one last league title under Alex Ferguson in 2012-2013, he struggled in the David Moyes season and retired after getting relegated with QPR.

Writing a letter to his childhood self for The Player’s Tribune after he retired, he put: “After your very last match, just stay in the dressing room for a little bit longer.

“Because that’s what you’re going to miss the most. Sitting in there with the lads, after the satisfaction of a win and asking, ‘Who’s next?’ That’s the moment — the feeling — you’ll want back more than anything.”

Mikael Silvestre

From nine years in Manchester, Silvestre had established himself as a steady, presence in defence but increasingly became a squad option when Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic arrived in 2006.

Still only 30, it was thought he’d have plenty to offer Arsenal when he made the switch in 2008, but he failed to make the grade there.

His playing career ended after short spells at Werder Bremen, Portland Timbers and Indian Super League club Chennaiyin FC. He has since worked as director of football at Rennes between 2015 and 2016.

John O’Shea

The Irishman was a useful servant for over a decade at Manchester United before moving to Sunderland in 2011 and offering the Wearside club the same sturdy professionalism. For a time.

After featuring prominently in their back-to-back relegations, O’Shea saw out his playing career with Reading in the Championship.

The 39-year-old returned to the Madejski as a first-team coach in 2019 and is also working as the Republic of Ireland Under-21’s assistant manager.

READ: A tribute to John O’Shea, Manchester United’s great court jester

Quinton Fortune

After leaving United in 2006, Fortune managed little of note. Six appearances for Bolton, one for Brescia, nine for Belgian club Tubize and finally a short deal at Doncaster. His playing career came to an end at the age of 32 when he was released by the club.

He returned to United in 2012 to train with the reserves while completing his coaching badges and has since become a first team coach at Reading.

Phil Neville

Unlike his brother Gary, Phil’s future looks set to be in the dugout, with experience working under Stuart Pierce with England’s Under-21s, back at United with David Moyes and Valencia with Nuno Espirito Di Santo.

Now manager of England Women’s side, his appointment raised eyebrows given his lack of managerial experience and the fact he didn’t apply, not to mention some questionable unearthed tweets.

He led the Lionesses to SheBelieves Cup glory and a fourth place at the 2019 World Cup but will leave the role in 2021.

Roy Keane

The Irishman finished his playing career just a year after his controversial exit from Manchester United, The circumstances around his departure have led to a frosty relationship with Ferguson, which he’s done little to thaw in recent years.

Having worked under Brian Clough and Ferguson, many expected Keane would go on to use their influence in a great managerial career, which started promisingly enough at Sunderland, who were promoted to the Premier League in emphatic fashion in his first season in charge.

He later resigned after falling out with Ellis Short and couldn’t recreate his original success in his second managerial post at Ipswich, who sacked him midway through his second season.

He then joined up with fellow Clough student Martin O’Neill for the Republic of Ireland job. They enjoyed some success, notably qualifying from their group by beating Italy at Euro 2016, but were dismissed after suffering a poor 2018, having failed to qualify for the World Cup after getting thrashed at home by Denmark in the playoffs.

We’re now treated to his uniquely terrifying brand of punditry on a weekly basis.

Ryan Giggs

As was foretold, Giggseh was given in it until the end of the season (for a few games) after the Welshman had spent the David Moyes era at United as a coach.

Now manager of Wales, he had a mixed start in terms of results but did help them qualify for Euro 2020.

READ: A forensic analysis of Ryan Giggs’ final team talk as Man Utd manager

Ruud van Nistelrooy

The Dutchman continued his prolific scoring rate at Real Madrid, scoring 46 times from 68 league appearances. He won the Pichichi award for top scorer in his debut season at the club and helped Madrid reclaim their place back at the top of La Liga.

Subsequent seasons were marred by knee injuries, and he moved to Hamburg midway through the 2009-10 campaign. He did little of note in the Bundesliga before finishing his playing career in 2012, back in La Liga with Malaga.

He’s now Frank de Boer’s assistant with the Dutch national team.

Diego Forlan

He scored just 10 league goals in two and a half seasons at Manchester United but went on to become a decorated player after leaving English football with a Premier League title and FA Cup.

After a successful spell in Spain later played in Italy, Japan, Brazil, Uruguay, India and – finally, in 2018 – Hong Kong, for Kitchee Sports Club.

Forlan took his first steps into management in 2020 but was sacked by hometown club Penarol in September after winning just four of his 11 games in charge.

READ: How Diego Forlan fought to become a Manchester United cult hero

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