You rarely see a striker like Everton legend Duncan Ferguson in the modern game.
Standing at well over six-feet, the former Scotland striker relished a battle with those tasked with marking him and never backed down from a physical confrontation.
Of course, in today’s era of VAR, it seems that even the slightest instances of contact are deemed to be foul play in the Premier League – and the resentment among fans when the video technology is called upon for trivial incidents is often immediately obvious.
‘Big Dunc’ would have struggled under the gaze of the Video Assistant Referee, with the increased scrutiny likely to have robbed him of the ability to make a nuisance of himself in the opposition box.
Footage of Ferguson’s tussle with Manchester United’s Jaap Stam while playing for Newcastle in 2000 is a perfect example of the sort of genuine physical contest for the ball that used to be part and parcel of the game.
As you’ll see in the video below, there’s a fair bit of contact between the top men as they both chase the ball close to the byline. Although Ferguson ultimately fouls Stam, the sight of the match official allowing the pair to compete for possession beforehand is actually quite refreshing.
Neither complains all that much afterwards, either.
Watch: Duncan Ferguson and Jaap Stam grapple for possession during Newcastle vs Manchester United
That the video has been watched more than 1.7 million times on YouTube suggests this throwback has gone down well with supporters who long for a more physical element to their football.
“No complaining, no crying, no VAR…I miss these times,” read one reply in the video’s comments section.
“You won’t get good footballing battles like this anymore,” wrote a second fan.
Can you name these 15 obscure Manchester United footballers from the 2000s?
“Back in the day when footballers were hardmen,” declared another in agreement.
“Proper men having a tussle and moving on. That was the football I was growing up watching,” recalled a final supporter.
You have to wonder how many of Ferguson’s 68 Premier League goals would have been chalked off by VAR for excessive physicality had he been playing in modern times. Innovation does not always equal improvement.
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