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Team of the 90s; Midfielders

Following on from our strikers show and post, on this weeks pod the team discussed the best midfielders of the 90s ahead of the ‘Team of the 90s’ pod on 21 December. Links can be found at the bottom of the page, so have a listen before we talk defenders and goalkeepers over the next two AK90s shows.

After some lengthy discussions on this weeks pod, we’ve shortlisted these eight midfielders who will pick from in 2015’s final pod. So as they say, in no particular order;

Ryan Giggs 

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There is no footballer who has spanned as many decades as Ryan Giggs. The man is a one-off, the most decorated British player of all time, and it all began in the 1990s. The Giggs of the 90s was perhaps the most exciting and flamboyant version of the Welshman we saw, as a fresh-faced out-and-out winger who became football’s first mainstream superstar. Giggsy was one of those players that lifted you out of your seat as soon as he got the ball, his quick feet, raw pace and ability to shame defenders in one movement saw him as integral part of Manchester United’s dominance throughout the decade, topped off by THAT goal in the 1999 FA Cup Semi Final.

Patrick Vieira 

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When this tall, gangly unknown Frenchman (technically Senegalese)  arrived at Arsenal in 1996 along with Remi Garde, few eyebrows were raised in his direction. However by the end of his nine-year stint in North London, the Gunners had been privileged to see one of their best ever midfielders, and the first in a new breed of footballer we saw in the late 90s. Vieira was the complete footballer, he could pass, tackle, score goals and dictate games in a a way Arsenal still lack today. His partnership with Emmanuel Petit brought double success at Highbury and World Cup glory with France, while his battles with this next guy was one the decades most fascinating rivalries…

Roy Keane 

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The heartbeat of Manchester United throughout the decade, Keane was the man every team wanted to have in their team when they went into battle. Keano began the decade as more an attacking midfielder with Nottingham Forest before his then record transfer to Old Trafford saw a more rounded midfielder emerge. As a driving force through the middle, Keane could do it all and his performance in Turin during United’s Champions League semi-final of 99 was one the 90s finest individual performances. The less said about Alfe-Inge Haaland the better though – oh and prawn sandwiches.

Zinedine Zidane 

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A once in a lifetime player who by the end of his career was been spoken about in the same breath as the likes of Pele, Maradona and Cruyff. A footballer of pure elegance who used to glide around a football pitch, while the ball just stuck to his mercurial adidas Predators. At France 98 he quite literally led the hosts to the final (minus the suspension for the mean streak that would rear it’s head on the most public of occasions), scoring two goals in the memorable win over Brazil in the final. His vision, his touch and his ability to score vital and often sensational goals, makes him not just one of 90s best, but one of the very best ever.

David Beckham 

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Becks may only really have made his name at the back end of the decade, but as we’ve learnt with him subsequently he knows how to do just that. It was the opening day of the 1996-97 season that Beckham announced his real arrival, with his halfway-line strike against Wimbledon and the fairytale career bloomed from there. As Cantona left, Becks became United’s new number seven and a key component in the great late nineties side that ultimately ended in treble glory. A crosser of the ball like no other before or since, even his infamous red card at France 98 can’t take away the impact on and off (Posh and Becks were born in 1998) the pitch David Beckham had in the latter part of the 1990s.

Paul Gascoigne 

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As we’ve said quite regularly on the podcast, Paul Gascoigne pretty much was the 1990s in football. From the moment he Cruyff-turned the Dutch defence at Italia 90, through injuries, Colin Hendry flicks, and spells in Italy and Scotland, the decade was dominated by Gazza. And rightfully so too, as behind the controversy was one of England’s greatest ever footballers. For a man of his stocky build, Gazza was so nimble, so quick and had the ability to bamboozle defenders on a football pitch like no other. He may have been ‘daft as a brush’, but between the burping at reporters and Fog on the Tyne was moments that have gone down in football folklore. Ask any fellow pro who’s played with him, and tell you the same thing; he’s the best they’ve ever shared a pitch with. Perhaps the biggest compliment of all.

David Ginola 

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Perhaps a surprise name on this list, but Ginola has become a symbol of the changing face of football throughout the 1990s. As the Premier League opened its doors to an influx of foreign names throughout the decade, David Ginola was easily one the most successful. As part of Newcastle’s irresistibly entertaining side under Kevin Keegan, Ginola went within a whisker of becoming a title winner, before moving to White Hart Lane in 1997. Here, he formed an unlikely alliance with George Graham and became the new darling of the Lane, with his undoubted charisma and skill lighting-up North London and winning him the 1999 PFA Player of the Year award ahead of United’s treble heroes.

Lothar Matthaus 

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Maybe not as highly regarded in this country, due to him never playing in England and the rarity of foreign coverage in the early 90s, but there’s no doubting what a world-class footballer Matthaus was. A real leader, who did the simple things in midfield, but was also capable of scoring some outstanding goals. The decade saw him captain his country to World Cup glory in 1990, as well as a glut of trophies for Inter Milan and Bayern Munich. He would finish his career with 150 caps for his country, and as one of Germany’s best ever players.

To listen to Ash Rose and guests Sachin Nakrani, Andy Rockall and Josh Landy talk through the decades best midfielders, you can subscribe to the pod on iTunes or listen here. Don’t forget you have your say on Twitter to, tell us who you would have up front in your dream 90s XI.

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United all kitted out in the 90s

It’s fair to say that Manchester United dominated most of the 90s, what with their five title wins, three FA Cups and ‘that night in Barcelona’. However, another genre of the decade they dominated was the very attire they adorned on match day throughout the 90s – their classic and somewhat infamous kits by adidas and umbro. So on the eve of United’s reunion with the German brand for the first time since the early days of the decade we celebrate, I’ve picked out some of most memorable Red Devils kits from what was a truly high (or low, depending how on you view it) point for kit design – especially at Old Trafford.

 

Adidas away kit 1991/92

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Easily my favourite of the decade – and one featured in my book, available here – this purple/blue toned adidas number was made up of load of jagged shapes that looked like the top half of a maple leaf. This unique design was repeated in some of the training range, and is rumoured addias have bought it back for United’s third kit this forthcoming campaign.

 

Umbro third kit 1992/93

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The gold and green halves paid homage to Newton Heath the club Manchester United emerged from in the early 1900s, and it was a splendid colour combination. Topped off with the laced collar that was the pinnacle of kit design at the time.

 

Umbro away kit 1992/93

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Another highlight from United’s first Premier League title win was this all-blue number, worn on their travels. The shade of blue is very 70s United, but it was combined with a scratch like doodle effect that included the Red Devils crest. Imaginative design we fail to see in kits nowadays.

Umbro away kit 1993/94

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Pre 1990s, football teams didn’t wear black kits, it just wasn’t the correct thing to do seeing as it clashed with the referees attire. However, the refs move to a fancy aqua-green shirt meant all-black strips made a real impact in the 90s – and United were the first. Topped off with a yellow trim, and Cantona ready collar this was the definitive little black number of football.

Umbro away kit 1995/96

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The reason we rarely see grey football kits these days is this effort, which was made famous by United’s capitulation at the Dell in 1996. It was the fourth defeat for the Red Devils whilst wearing this kit, so Alex Ferguson demanded they changed at half-time whilst 3-0 down to Southampton. Apparently claiming his players couldn’t pick each other out against the crowd. Shame, I quite liked the design.

Special mention must go to the goalkeepers kits too, as modelled by Peter Schmeichel in the article’s header. 90s keepers kits were the craziest by far, and big Pete had to put up with more ludrious designs than most.

Make sure you listen to our August 17 pod, where we’ll be doing a special on all the classic kits of the 1990s, and will be joined by kit expert John Devlin of True Colours.