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TOP FIVE: Manchester United Players’ World Cup Moments

top fiveAs with any good list, some ground rules are needed. The first is that the player in question had to be playing at United at the time at which their World Cup moment happened – sorry Fabien, you don’t make the cut, though I suspect the fact that you won the thing probably eases the pain.

The second is that it has to be a moment of glory, so no David Beckham getting sent off in 1998, albeit that is an iconic moment. So, without further ado, the top five.

Norman is the Youngest!

On June 17th 1982, against Yugoslavia in La Romareda, Zaragoza, Norman Whiteside achieved the remarkable feat of supplanting Pele as the World Cup’s youngest ever player. Aged 17 years and 42 days, Whiteside became an integral part of the Northern Ireland that advanced against almost all expectation to the second group stage of the tournament.

Whiteside, a United youth product, did not score at the finals, but his record as the youngest player ever to have taken part at a World Cup still stands, and will for at least another four years.

This is good news for Big Norm, because it means he doesn’t have to change his twitter bio.

Bryan is the Fastest!

Staying in Spain in ’82, and just over a week after Big Norm (or Young Norm, as he was presumably then known), had written his way into the record books, Bryan Robson decided he fancied a piece of the action.

England kicked off their opening game of the World Cup against France, and Steve Coppell’s pace nearly allowed him to get on the end of a through-ball, near the right hand corner flag, seconds after the game had begun.

The French left-back did a fine job of marshalling Coppell and the ball slid out of play. Mick Mills grabbed the ball, and tossed it to Coppell, who paused, took a run up, and launched a long throw that would have made Rory Delap proud. As the ball made its way into the box the French defence crowded around Trevor Francis, who managed to flick a header on, into the path of the onrushing United captain. Robson, entirely unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box unleashed a flying/falling volley into the back of the net.

England were 1-0 up, 27 seconds into their World Cup campaign, and Robbo had scored the fastest goal an England player had every managed at a World Cup finals.

United boys run the group stages, 1998.

In 1998, United’s class of ’92 had begun to graduated to their national sides. Gary Neville, Paul Scholes and David Beckham were all in Glenn Hoddle’s squad, but only Scholesey started the debut game against Tunisia.

Hoddle was more tactically astute than the England managers that dominated Scholes’ time with the national team, and he played him in a midfield three which allowed him free reign to operate in his best position. And operate he did, scoring a sumptuous chip to extend England’s lead against Tunisia, showing England what they could have had, if only they were bright enough to notice.

Becks didn’t feature in the first game, but was brought on against Romania following an injury to Paul Ince as England succumbed to defeat. Gary Neville started that game, and all three started the final, crucial group game v. Colombia.

After Darren Anderton had open the scoring, England were awarded a free-kick. There was only ever one outcome likely, as Becks did what he did best, and bent one to the keeper’s right, from 30 or so yard out.

It all went a bit wrong in the next round, but those group stages, with United’s young lads flourishing, foreshadowed the season that was to follow, and it was glorious.

Beckham’s redemption.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. England are not that good at penalties. Now, let me give you a minute to get over the shock of that…are you okay? Great.

With all that happened in the aftermath of David Beckham’s sending off, against Argentina in 1998, that it would come down to a test of his nerve from 12 yards, against the same opposition in the group stages of the 2002 World Cup was an extraordinary moment of narrative perfection.

It was a moment he had earned. He had almost single handedly earned England’s place in the 2002 World Cup. A fairly dismal qualifying campaign saw England needing at least a draw against Greece. We all know the story. There was a free-kick in the dying embers of the game, and Becks, again, did what he did best and began his rehabilitation in the hearts of the nation. (The hearts of the ridiculous bits of the nation that didn’t already know how obviously brilliant he was, like we did.)

It is fair to say Becks has hit better penalties than the one which sealed his redemption. He just sort of walloped it as hard as he could and trusted to fate, and fate, that day smiled upon him. England might not be that good at penalties, but at that moment Becks was. He celebrated like he had undone a great wrong, like he had paid his penance. From then on his status as an England player was never in doubt.

Nobby and Bobby win the thing

8 years after surviving the Munich Air Disaster, Sir Bobby Charlton won the World Cup. As United fans, we naturally tend to focus on the 1968 European Cup win, and for all sorts of reasons, that was clearly a moment of staggering emotional complexity for Sir Bobby, but the England World Cup win was another truly remarkable achievement.

Charlton was absolutely key to England’s progress in that tournament, scoring against Mexico in the group stages and getting both goals in their 2-1 victory over Eusebio’s Portugal in the semi final. The first, a cool finish from the edge of the box following a rebound, and the second a Scholes-esque wallop from 18 yards.

In the final, Charlton and Franz Beckenbauer rather cancelled each other out, but Nobby Stiles played a crucial part in England’s win, as he would do so many times for United, tigerish in his attempts to break down opposition play.

Their celebrations are iconic, with Stiles’ toothless grin and Charlton’s combover as indelible as Bobby Moore being held aloft with the trophy.

We might care more about their triumphs at Old Trafford, but it’s still nice to see our boys doing well in the World Cup. Here’s to Danny scoring a hat-trick against Italy at the weekend.

About Paul Ansorge

Paul is the co-host of the United Rant podcast Rant Cast. Follow @utdrantcast on Twitter.

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  1. ashtheking says:


    Hi mate. Agree current brazillian side is no way like the old one. But I do think this side is better than that of 2010. Atleast theyye were not boring to watch like Spain are.

    Not a Neymar fan but I do feel if the kid keeps his head down the boy can become special. He has talent. Can run past players and can score. Just stop the theatrics you will be fine

  2. Tommy says:


    I think Mirainashe was being sarcastic mate althoufgh I personally think that they werent great in 2002, it was a poor tournament as a whole, the worst German side in living memory ended up in the final, I vaguely remember the Brazilian side in 94 but that and tghe side who reached final in 98 would of wiped the floor with the 2002 side in my opinion.

  3. ashtheking says:


    Yes not a great tournament. Off course of when you have a turkey and Korea reaching top 4 then it has to be a weak World Cup but Brazil side of 2002 was real good to watch. Ronaldo,Rivaldo and ronaldinho were playing some great football. As far Germany goes , they should thank Oliver Kahn. He really made some brilliant saves.

  4. wayne barker says:

    Lol I was winding you up mate every time you comment write essays to fucking long for me to wade through I get bored quick you do ramble on a lot though mate with not really saying anything

  5. Tommy says:


    Yea I agree Oliver Khan was the best player in the tournament even kaiser said hed shoot everyone in the team except Khan lol. They had some good players but it was followed up by having some avarage in their team, it wasnt a great world cup winning side in my opinion

  6. ashtheking says:


    I enjoyed personally watching Brazil. 2010 tournament for me was really bad. Nothing memorable apart from Germany’s performances and waka waka. Nothing was great apart from these two. Spain were really boring. England were shit. Hell even Netherlands managed to play some boring football. And the worst of all that shit thing vuvuzela . Pain in the ears.

  7. wayne barker says:

    King Eric hi mate that ref shouldn’t be allowed to officiate another game he’s either bent or incompetent.Cant be dealing with all the faking and play acting mate and all the bollocks of players holding up their hands suggesting the ref should be giving out cards,if that was me they’d be the cunts getting the cards
    If the first game is any indication of what’s to come going to be a hard watch

  8. Tommy says:


    Hahaha yea mate, those vuvuzela did my head in, even my gf who does not like football could not stay in the same room when the footbasll was on because the noise kept given her a migrane. Its their culture so fair plasy but their not for me. The funny thing is the FA actually banned them from all grounds in England lol in my 28 years on this earth ive never seen one at an English ground

  9. ashtheking says:

    I feel sad for our chicharito . Now can’t even start for Mexico. I still believe he should start for Mexico

  10. Tommy says:


    I think he should start for mexico, ive seen their friendlies and they cant buy a goal at the moment, their seriously shocking going forward and have looked more dangerous with Chicharito, it doesnt shock me though, Even in the last world cup when hed burst onto the scene they were choosing 37 year old Blanco above him for some games, i remember a mexican lad was furiming about it at the time

  11. Mirainashe says:


    Was just being sarcastic. I think the 2002 Brazil side is actually underrated. Those guys had great quality in almost every department, though for the life of me I’m not sure how Kleberson started every game. He was actually quite key in their setup going about his duties neatly and efficiently. But that was the Ronaldinho show to be honest. The guy was simply magic and if I’m to be honest, that was truly the last WC with “magic”. It was too easy for Brazil though, which is why people feel underwhelmed by Korea-Japan. Turkey were the surprise hit then, like Ghana in 2010.

  12. Mirainashe says:


    You could skip the post everytime you see my name so you won’t “have to” go through my nonsense and bollocks.

  13. Tommy says:


    Question mate, do you think Ghana would do anything outside of their own continent. as soon as south africa got eliminated, the entire country got behind the african side, in a similar way to Korea semis in 2002 but very little elsewhere. The tes is now and then in 4 years time, if they go out in the groups in the next 2 world cups it would prove my point, when theyve got the crowd it inspires them to play above and beyond what their normal capabilitites are

  14. Mirainashe says:

    You have to consider that South Africa was the only time a WC had been held in Africa so I think it’s not too much of an issue. They did exceptionally well in Germany 2006, you have to remember. They beat a strong Czech Republic and got knocked out by Brazil in the second round, so they have proved their level of quality outside Africa. They were still raw back in 06 and had invested their future by fielding a very young squad featuring the likes of Jordan and Andre Ayew and a 23 year old Gyan. It was youth based. Ironically they have not done well in African competitions actually which is quite strange. So I think they have the quality and the right strategy to do well consistently. It’s this youth policy that had them win the U-20 World Cup in 2009 I think, so they are making progress. They are in trouble this time around because it’s going to be tough to get out of their group because obviously they will probably be fighting it out for second place with Portugal and USA, two very competent teams. But I think they’ll do well under pressure and they have experience playing against USA at this stage of the world cup.

  15. Mirainashe says:

    It is also interesting but not important I should add, that Daniel Welbeck could actually have been Ghana’s main striker right now.

  16. Tommy says:


    I wouldnt neccacerily think because you do well in a youth tournament, their all going to be top players, it ujsually works out maybe a couple of them go and play for the full national team on a regular basis. Im not doubting Ghana have some quality, my problem with them is theirs not enough quality really, the squad is short of numbers but I consider them a nation thats learning at this level so hopefully they will get more quality to have a bigger squad in future years, fingers crossed mate


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