August 21, 2017
Manchester United’s dominant start to the season has no doubt put a smile on the face of United fans across the world. One of the highlights of the Red Devils early start is the play of Anthony Martial. Coming off the bench in both matches, the French winger has scored two goals and assisted another. His pace and composer in front of goal make him a nightmare for tired defenders to face at the end of a game. While his two games are a very small sample size, his performances off the bench had me thinking; Who are the greatest super-subs in Manchester United history.
5. John O’Shea
Here is all you need to know about John O’Shea the super sub; In the 2007 season, he came on for Rooney against Liverpool at Anfield, played up front and scored the winner in the 90th minute. In the same season, he came on against Tottenham at White Hart Lane and replaced Edwin van der Sar in goal. Even though they were already up 4-0, O’Shea punched a cross out of his box and denied a Spurs player in a one on one. The Irishman played all over the pitch throughout his Manchester United career and gave Sir Alex Ferguson a valuable card to play late in games. Don’t let his last few years at Sunderland fool you, O’Shea’s versatility played a big role in United’s success in the 2000’s.
4. Phil Neville
When a manager turns to the bench to make a substitute, he isn’t looking for unknown quantities. He needs to know that whoever is going out there, no matter the situation, will do the job asked of him. This is Phil Neville in a nutshell. Throughout his Manchester United career, Neville appeared 85 times off the bench and did so in numerous positions. Unlike his brother, Phil was never able to nail down a single position at United. While that may have hindered his development as a top footballer, Neville’s versatility, much like O’Shea’s, made him an indispensable member of Ferguson’s squad. Plugging holes at fullback, center back, and defensive midfield, Phil Neville always brought steel and tenacity to any game he played in. What he lacked in pace, he made up for in positional awareness and a complete willingness to do what the manager asked. Although he left for Everton in 2005, Neville should be fondly remembered by the Old Trafford faithful.
3. Teddy Sheringham
I am not the first person to say this but, goals change games. The first two members of this list scored a combined 15 goals in their Manchester United careers. The next three scored a bit more. Beginning with Teddy Sheringham. I got to be honest, I went back and forth on including him or Andy Cole, because we know they both can’t appear on the same list together. In the end, you can’t deny the impact that Teddy Sheringham had in some of the biggest games in his time at the club. In United’s magical treble winning season, Sheringham came off the bench to score the winner in the FA Cup final against Newcastle, and the equalizer in the Champions League final. Not to mention the assist for the winner. Sheringham offered Ferguson, class, intelligence and a pure goal scoring prowess off the bench. In what was perhaps the greatest season in United’s history, Sheringham was a central character in the stories defining moments.
2. Javier Hernandez
One of the greatest strengths Sir Alex Ferguson had as a manager was identifying players with very specific traits and knowing exactly how to use them. Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez is a prime example. Mexico’s all-time leading scorer, Hernandez came off the bench 69 times for United. A proven goal scorer, Hernandez had the rare ability to always be in the right place at the right time. Like Sheringham, the Little Pea was a big game player. During his time at the club, Manchester United’s biggest title rivals were Chelsea. Hernandez absolutely tormented the London club. In 13 appearances against them, he scored 8 goals. However, what makes him stand-out amongst other super subs was the unique goals he scored. Who can forget his first goal against Chelsea at Wembley in the 2010 Community Shield? Streaking towards goal, a low cross from Antonio Valencia is behind the Mexican striker. Adjusting his body, Hernandez hits the ball directly into his face. The ball then ricocheted into an empty net. It wasn’t always pretty with Hernandez, but it was always effective.
1. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Who can forget the infamous words of Clive Tyldesley in the dying minutes of Manchester United’s come from behind win in the Champions League final against Bayern Munch. “Can Manchester United score? They always score?” Tyldesley’s question was soon answered. A flicked-on header by Teddy Sheringham was buried into the back of the net by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. A Norwegian and United legend, Solskjaer had to top this list. Nicknamed the Baby-Faced Assassin, Solskjaer came off the bench 150 times for Manchester United and scored some of the most important goals in the club’s history. Like Hernandez, Solskjaer had a knack for being in the right place at the right time. However, what is often forgotten is how good of a finisher he was. He wasn’t just clinical, the Norwegian scored some truly incredible goals. As a super-sub, you aren’t going to get as many chances. To make an impact, you must take whatever comes your way. During his time at United, no player in the history of the club ever did it better than him. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, an absolute legend.
Written by Ben Soleim