'Man Utd's best XI to win the 2020 Premier League' was predicted in 2011

  • Kobe Tong

Manchester United fans were living the high life in 2011.

By securing their 19th English league title and their 12th in the Premier League era, the Red Devils had overtaken their historic rivals Liverpool as the most decorated club in the land.

And they had done so with Sir Alex Ferguson at the helm and against a Chelsea team that had romped their way to the championship with a record goal tally just the year before.

In other words, it was a far cry from the current situation at Old Trafford with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – the club’s worst permanent manager in 49 years – perching them in a lowly fifth place.

It goes to show that nine years in football is a very long time and especially when you look at what was being predicted for United in 2020 also those seasons ago.

Prediction for Man Utd in 2020

That’s because we’ve uncovered an interesting article by Bleacher Report from August 2011 titled: ‘Manchester United: Predicting a Best XI to Win the 2020 Premier League.’

Well, by happy coincidence, 2020 has now arrived and you can guarantee reflecting on that forecast will be amusing when you consider United are actually more than 30 points off the pace.

So, without further ado, let’s talk through each of the positions and what was laid out to see just how predictable, or not, United have been since their second most recent title victory.

GK – David de Gea

BR: “Despite his failings, you’d like to think a £15 million goalkeeper would mature into his role eventually. The Spaniard will be 29 in 2020, entering his prime.”

You’ve got to applaud the prediction here… although the longevity of goalkeepers definitely makes this one of the easiest shouts in the list.

That being said, De Gea was looking seriously fragile at the time the prediction was written, so fair play for staying strong in the opinion that he would eventually prove his worth.

Besides, the Spaniard is indeed United’s number one in 2020, the only catch is that he’s nowhere the Premier League title and recent form suggests his prime actually came a few years ago.

RB – Rafael

BR: “Rafael will be 30 by 2020 and should be an established leader of the team by that point.”

Yeh, so this is where the prediction starts to tail off. Rafael was starting to establish himself by 2011, but the Brazilian would actually leave in 2015 and he hasn’t exactly been missed.

Rafael has gone on to be a pretty solid asset for Lyon over the last half-decade – not quite ‘an established leader’, mind – but United fans are currently much happier with Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

CB – Phil Jones and Chris Smalling

BR: “Both Vidic and Ferdinand will be retired by 2020. However, Sir Alex Ferguson has made this a pretty simple decision with Jones and Smalling set to take over as the first choices once the current two depart.”

Given the timeframe we’re talking about here, you’ve got to tip your hat for even correctly predicting that these two players would still be at United in 2020, even if one is out on loan at AS Roma.

Nevertheless, neither player has reached the heights expected of them and that’s especially the case for Jones after Ferguson infamously said he could become United’s greatest ever player.

It certainly doesn’t look like a centre-back partnership that would win this year’s Premier League title, that’s for sure.

RB – Fabio

BR: “Evra just turned 30 and therefore won’t be around come the end of the decade. Fabio was superb against West Brom in attack and come 2020 should be the all-round package.”

Oh dear god. If the selection of Rafael really confused you, then imagine thinking that Fabio would be United’s go-to left-back on the way to a Premier League title in nine year’s time… dearie me.

Fabio only made 18 more appearances for United after this prediction was made, heading out on loan to QPR, before leaving permanently for Cardiff City and eventually winding up at Nantes.

So much for an ‘all-round package’ by 2020…

RM – New signing

BR: “Nani relies on his explosiveness and speed but will be 33 in 2020; I have a hard time believing he’ll still be in the conversation. Valencia is already 26 so he won’t be at Old Trafford either. A new signing is the best bet here.”

Pretty accurate, to be fair. Nani was shipped out of Old Trafford in 2015 upon a sharp decline in form after Ferguson’s retirement and Valencia was similarly ejected at the backend of last season.

That, and we can’t really blame BR for failing to predict that Jesse Lingard and Daniel James would be manning the wings when they were aged 18 and 13 at the time of writing.

CM – Tom Cleverley and a new signing

BR: “Cleverley is only 22 and should be an established veteran by 2020, Carrick will be retired, and Giggs may have died of old age. The Anderson experiment will likely have waned thin by that point.

“I’d guess Cleverley’s partner would come from outside the club at the moment.”

That opening line could bring shivers down your spine. Cleverley dropped a masterclass in that year’s Community Shield, but his United career was dead and buried by the time of his 2015 exit.

Uninspiring spells with Aston Villa, Everton and Watford ever since have done little to suggest he could pull the strings for a Premier League title-winning side any longer.

However, they were spot on with Carrick retiring and ‘the Anderson experiment’ failing, although we’re happy to report that Giggs hasn’t actually died of old age…

LM – Ashley Young or a new signing

BR: “As great as Young has been, he’ll be 35 in 2020 and it’s hard to say he’ll still be present when that time comes. Park will be long gone. If not Young, then the solution will most likely come from outside.”

Predicting Young will be in the picture at Old Trafford in 2020 was rather brave mere weeks after his arrival, but they were pretty much bang on the money considering he’s only just departed. 

Nevertheless, the Englishman had long abandoned his days on the offensive flanks by the time 2020 arrived and a new signing in the form of James has indeed inherited the mantle.

Spot on with Park, who retired over half a decade ago, however.

ST – Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck

BR: “Rooney will be 34 and I’m gonna go out on a limb and say he’s still there as captain and a legend in his final few years at the club. If that’s the case Rooney’s partner would be a then-29-year-old Welbeck.”

Several points here, especially as we’ve had to abridge their full prediction.

Forecasting Rooney to still be at United was by no means silly considering his form at the time, but the club legend is now miles off title-winning standards at Derby County, via DC United and Everton.

Similarly, the Welbeck shout wouldn’t have looked the worst in the world, yet his career has fallen off a cliff after an initially promising start at Arsenal having left Old Trafford in 2014.

That being said, they did put the caveat: “however, he may have left by that point to play regular first-team football. In that case the new signing would most likely come via a new signing.”

They also predicted that ‘[Javier] Hernandez will either have left on good terms to see out the twilight of his career elsewhere,’ which is pretty accurate in their defence.

Well, well, well, doesn’t that make for an interesting read after nine years of history at Old Trafford.

The thought of Fabio, Rafael and Cleverley still playing regularly at the club seems even worse than what United fans are justly moaning about with their current team.

Perhaps this prediction would have been more accurate if Ferguson was still in charge but, then again, he could probably have won the league with any team you predicted for him.

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