Man Utd treble-winners vs Man City treble-chasers combined XI: Erling Haaland in, Paul Scholes out

Man Utd 99 vs Man City 23 GFX
The Cityzens are out to match the Red Devils' historic achievement from 1999 over the next fortnight, but which side has the better players?

Manchester United became the first English team to win the treble of the Premier League title, FA Cup and Champions League in 1999, writing their names forever into football history. But their noisy neighbours, Manchester City, are out to steal their thunder and are now just two matches away from matching that achievement.

City chased down Arsenal to win a third consecutive Premier League title with three games to spare and are odds-on to win the Champions League final against Inter after destroying Real Madrid and Bayern Munich in the knockout stages.

So United's best hope of stopping City's treble will likely be in their own hands when they face their arch rivals in the FA Cup final. Just as United stopped Liverpool from doing the treble in 1977 by beating the Merseysiders at Wembley, they can become treble-busters once more by beating Pep Guardiola's side on Saturday.

But which was the better team, Sir Alex Ferguson's thrilling Class of '99 or Guardiola's all-conquering team of 2023? GOAL picks our combined XI ahead of Saturday's showdown...

  1. GK: Peter Schmeichel

    GK: Peter Schmeichel

    Schmeichel was a gigantic presence and made the goal feel smaller to opponents. He was instrumental to the treble win, making two big saves in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich, turning away a Dennis Bergkamp penalty in the FA Cup semi-final replay against Arsenal and repeatedly getting United out of jail in their run to the title.

    The Dane did not have the ball playing ability of Ederson - although he did score a couple of goals himself over the course of his career - but he gets the nod for his knack for making jaw-dropping saves and being a more intimidating presence than the Brazilian.

  2. RB: Kyle Walker
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    RB: Kyle Walker

    Walker is one of the best full-backs in the world at running back to sweep away the danger, making him a valuable asset to any attacking-minded team. He faced a period out of the starting XI earlier this year and had to endure some fierce criticism from Pep Guardiola about his abilities, but he has fought his way back into the team at the crucial stage of the season, and in both legs against Real Madrid he had Vinicius Junior in his pocket, while also producing a defensive masterclass in the title showdown with Arsenal.

    Walker also remains England's first-choice despite fierce competition. That is the key difference between him and Gary Neville, who had few rivals for his place at right-back for club and country.

  3. CB: John Stones
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    CB: John Stones

    Stones has always stood out for his ability on the ball and his skill at playing out from the back is what compelled Guardiola to sign him as soon as he landed in Manchester. The defender has faced difficult spells at City, but he is once more a crucial part of the team and enjoying a new lease of life in his seventh year with the club in the hybrid role of holding midfielder and defender.

    He can also play at right-back if needs be while he makes City even better in possession when he steps up into midfield. And he has scored his fair share of stunning goals to boot.

  4. CB: Jaap Stam

    CB: Jaap Stam

    The Dutchman was one of three crucial signings in the summer of 1998 and gave United's defence a much-needed physical boost. He was a towering presence, excellent at defending one-v-one and also talented on the ball.

    Stam was pivotal to the team's success in 1998-99 and the two subsequent title wins. It is no coincidence that when he was forced out by Ferguson in 2001 and sold to Lazio, United surrendered their crown to Arsenal. Ferguson later admitted that selling Stam was one of the biggest mistakes he made in his 27 years in charge.

  5. LB: Denis Irwin

    LB: Denis Irwin

    The Irishman was one of the most consistent performers in United's treble-winning team and spent a remarkable 12 years with the club, never making a fuss and seldom making a mistake.

    He was excellent going forward, contributing 18 goals and 25 assists in his Premier League career, and he was always reliable in defence. He was adept with both feet, a rare thing for a footballer in his era, while the Ireland international was also superb at free-kicks and United's chief penalty-taker that season.

    Irwin was cruelly denied the chance of playing in the 1999 FA Cup final for an extremely harsh sending off against Liverpool, but was brilliant in the Champions League final against Bayern.

  6. RCM: David Beckham

    RCM: David Beckham

    Forget about the glamour and his celebrity status - Beckham was an absolutely outstanding player and the treble season was his peak. After being pilloried by the English press for getting sent off in the 1998 World Cup against Argentina, Beckham felt the support of United fans and Ferguson, and came back even stronger.

    He began the season with a superb free-kick goal to save a point against Leicester, one of nine goals he scored that campaign, including a vital equaliser against Tottenham on the final day of the season.He also provided 18 assists, delivering both corners which led to United's stoppage-time goals against Bayern Munich.

  7. CM: Roy Keane

    CM: Roy Keane

    Keane was the heartbeat of the treble-winning team, but unfortunately he was barely involved in the last two games as he was suspended for the Champions League final and got injured a few minutes into the FA Cup final against Newcastle.

    He gave one of the best individual performances of any United player in the semi-final second leg against Juventus, putting the needs of the team first and sacrificing himself, flying into tackles and inevitably getting booked and ruling himself out of the final.

    United's captain was a galvanising presence on the pitch and in the dressing room. As well as having a remarkable leadership qualities and ensuring standards always remained high, he was an outstanding player. He was excellent at winning the ball back, fearless in the tackle and an expert at keeping possession. United have not had a player of his like until Casemiro came along.

  8. LCM: Bernardo Silva

    LCM: Bernardo Silva

    Bernardo is the complete midfielder. He is able to play anywhere in the middle and do any job brilliantly. He is a tireless presser and reliable at winning the ball back or even committing a tactical foul when needs be.

    But most of all he is a joy to watch, a silky passer and dribbler who can run rings around opponents while barely breaking stride. And he is an incredible goal threat - he has 55 goals and 58 assists for City in 304 games, averaging more than a goal contribution every three matches.

  9. RW: Kevin De Bruyne
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    RW: Kevin De Bruyne

    De Bruyne is one of the best players the Premier League has ever seen and every season he seems to get even better. He has a tempestuous relationship with Guardiola, but that only seems to bring the best out of him.

    This season the Belgian became the fastest player in Premier League history to reach 100 assists, while in 2021-22 he was City's top scorer in the league with 15 goals. He has been less prolific this season, but that is because Erling Haaland has been responsible for so many of the team's goals, though his presence has helped De Bruyne top the league charts for assists with 16.

    In the biggest game of the season he sliced his way through Arsenal's defence, scoring an exquisite opening goal and also striking in the second half. He turned it on at the crucial moment of the season, scoring three goals and getting two assists in a six-game spell, including City's equaliser against Real Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu with an unstoppable long-range strike before setting up two goals in the 4-0 demolition of the 14-time European champions at the Etihad Stadium.

  10. CF: Erling Haaland
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    CF: Erling Haaland

    Dwight Yorke was the joint-top scorer in the Premier League in 1998-99 with 18 goals, while his United strike partner Andy Cole got 17. Erling Haaland, though, has doubled that tally with a record-breaking 36 strikes in his debut campaign in English football, blowing all records for goals in a single season out of the water.

    The Norwegian does not need many touches to score and he has remarkable reflexes, allowing him to ruthlessly pounce on any loose balls in the box. He also has incredible prowess in the air, helped by the genes of his heptathlete mother. Just imagine him playing in the same team as Beckham, the best crosser of the ball in Premier League history...

  11. LW: Ryan Giggs
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    LW: Ryan Giggs

    Giggs spent 23 years with United and the 1998-99 campaign was one of his best. His mesmeric run from the halfway line against Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-final replay remains one of the finest goals ever scored by a United player.

    But it was far from the only time he delivered for United when it mattered most. He scored a last-minute goal against Juventus in the Champions League semi-final first leg and the only goal in a crucial league victory at Coventry City.

    Giggs was the finest of club servants, playing on until he was 40 years old. No one comes close to him in terms of longevity, and he remains the Premier League's top assist-provider with 162 while also scoring 109 times himself.

    But most of all, he will be remembered for bringing fans to their feet with those thrilling slalom runs down the left wing, the very best of which came against the Gunners at Villa Park.

  12. MANAGER: Pep Guardiola
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    MANAGER: Pep Guardiola

    Ferguson was the godfather of the modern Manchester United, running the club with an iron fist, and it is no coincidence that since he retired the Red Devils have been a shadow of their former selves.

    His record was truly astounding, winning 13 league titles with United, nine domestic cups and two Champions Leagues in his 27 years. He knocked Liverpool off their perch and put United on it. He was widely regarded as the best club manager in football history.

    But then along came Guardiola. In his first season as a first-team coach, the Catalan won the treble with Barcelona, and in only four years in charge at Camp Nou amassed 14 trophies. In his first three years with Barca, he won as many Champions Leagues as Ferguson did in his whole career.

    In three years with Bayern Munich, he lifted three consecutive Bundesliga titles - including one in record time -along with two domestic cups. And in seven seasons with City, he has won five league titles and five domestic cups. The only thing that has evaded his grasp with City is the Champions League, and that is likely to finally arrive in Istanbul.

    In 35 years as manager of Aberdeen and United, Ferguson won 48 trophies, including 14 league titles. But in 14 years as coach of Barcelona, Bayern and City, Guardiola has lifted 34 trophies, including 11 league titles. And with all due respect to Scottish football, the Catalan has tested himself in the toughest divisions in Europe.

    But it is not just silverware. Guardiola has taken football to new heights, breaking points records with all three clubs. His best teams have ultimately played more attractive football than Ferguson's best sides, and dominated their rivals to a greater extent.