Nicky Butt is used to going under the radar despite playing an important role - and you suspect that’s exactly how the former Manchester United midfielder likes it.
The 41-year-old is currently the head of coaching at United’s youth academy, mentoring the next generation of talented youngsters in the hope of providing Jose Mourinho with as many gems as possible over the coming years.
The most unheralded member of the ‘Class of ’92’, Butt also helped the Red Devils win a host of major honours including six Premier League titles, two FA Cups and the Champions League.
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In a wide-ranging interview with The Times, the retired defensive midfielder has spoken about various United-related topics, including the best players he played alongside during his 12-year career at the Theatre of Dreams.
But United fans might be surprised that Butt named Juan Sebastian Veron as the best player he ever saw at the club - with the exception of a certain Eric Cantona.
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Nicky Butt on Veron
“There have been superstars who’ve come to this club and can’t live with it. Juan Verón comes to mind. Verón was the best player I’ve ever seen, except Cantona,” Butt admitted. “In training he was like something I’d never seen. I was suspended against Everton [in 2001], he played and I sat there and thought: ‘I’ll never play for United again, that’s me done, I’ll have to get a move.’
“But as much as Verón was a great lad, and an unbelievable footballer, he didn’t know what it meant to be a United player. He didn’t know the feeling of the club. He couldn’t handle the pace, the tempo. The fans didn’t want the little rollovers, the technical outside of the foot passes.
“They wanted blood and thunder, give it to Peter Schmeichel, throw it out to Giggs, attack, attack, attack. Players need to know that.”
Veron was outstanding (at times) for United
United signed Veron when the Argentina international was at the peak of his powers, in 2001.
Costing a British record transfer fee (£28.1 million), the former Lazio star won the Premier League’s Player of the Month award in his first few weeks as a United player.
However, he would last just two seasons in Manchester before being sold to Chelsea for a £13 million loss.
Veron struggled with the pace and physicality of the Premier League and barely played for the Blues before leaving Stamford Bridge for loan spells at Inter Milan and his beloved Estuadiantes.
At Old Trafford, Veron would often come to life on European nights; some of his displays in the Champions League between 2001 and 2003 were extraordinary.
However, as Butt says: technical ability alone can only get you so far in the Premier League.
Should Sir Alex Ferguson have persisted with Juan Sebastian Veron for at least one more season? Have your say by leaving a comment below.
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