Getting shirty with Cristiano Ronaldo
After a couple of weeks in the treatment room with the humiliation of a biscuit tin on my backside and being run ragged by the physios, I've been back on the training pitch this week. What a relief!
It's brilliant to be back in training and winding up the rest of the lads - I'm sure they've missed me. Not that all of the lads need winding up, some of them can't help humiliating themselves. So imagine my delight when a ball flew from nowhere to flatten Darren Potter's nose across his face!
We were all pretty worried for a while because the blood poured out of his nose and across his top lip. There was real concern amongst the lads that there could be permanent damage to the tache. Thankfully, Potts has recovered and after careful surgery all of the dried blood was removed from his prize tache. He's hoping to have the Freddie Mercury look perfected by the new year.
Anyway, I gave you the first half of the team of the best players I've played against last week so here is the midfield and attack...
Right wing - Cristiano Ronaldo
Well, where do you start? He's just got everything. I played against him a few times and he's just like a steam train when he's running at you. What do you do? He's done about 15 step-overs before he gets to you so you don't know if he's going left or right. Whichever side he does go, he's equally as strong on both feet so you are totally up against it. You just have to do the best you can because he's a full-back's ultimate nightmare. He's basically got everything and that's why he's the World Player of the Year. He's an amazing player and it was a pleasure to grace the same turf as him - he's that good. I ended up getting his shirt from one of the games I played against him in and I have to say it's one of my prized possessions. When Ronaldo first came over there were a few questions about whether he was play-acting to the referees but he lost that quickly and his talent soon took over. To score as many goals as he did from a wide area is just incredible. He's a special talent and I think he and Lionel Messi are the two stand-out players in the world right now.
Centre midfield - Roy Keane
The total midfielder for me: just unbelievable. Did he ever give the ball away? Not that I can remember. He was an incredible leader and his passing, his energy and his tackling were outstanding. Anybody would have wanted Roy Keane as a player when he was at Manchester United - the ultimate midfielder and a nightmare if you were on the opposition. He struck fear into the opposition and you could see that when players went into tackles with him. He has moved into management now and I took keen notice when he went to Sunderland, being a Sunderland fan myself. He did an incredible job for the city and despite not winning in his first few games he soon built a stable side and got promotion from the Championship in his first season. He put Sunderland on the map again and he deserves a lot of credit for getting some of the players he did to that club. His situation probably looks a bit more difficult at Ipswich now but they won their first game recently and I am sure we will have a tough test when we go down there next week. Roy was a natural-born winner on the pitch and that has not left him. He wants to win just as much as his players do and I'm sure they'll be a million miles away from going down at the end of this season.
Centre midfield: Steven Gerrard
Mr Liverpool. When he doesn't play for Liverpool their results seem to dip. He is an amazing player and has scored so many important goals for Liverpool in the Premier League and the Champions League. He's hungry to win and what put him on the map as one of the best midfielders in the world was when he won the Champions League. He was absolutely outstanding throughout that whole competition and took his team by the scruff of its neck in the final to come back from 3-0 down against AC Milan to win - incredible. He is first class and another player you'd love to have in your team but hate to see on the opposition's team sheet. He is an adaptable player and can play at right-back, up front or out on the right but for me he is a centre midfielder all day long.
Left wing: Ryan Giggs
Any youngster coming into the game should look at Giggsy as a perfect role model. To play more than 800 games for the biggest club in the world is just phenomenal, especially when you consider the trophies he's won. He's still, at 36 years old, hungry to go and win trophies and that is testament to him. He's a great lad and one of, if not the best player in Premier League history. I played at United for two years when I was a kid and was a left-back at the time. We had a tournament in France one year and every time I got the ball I just looked for Giggsy. Whether he was 50 yards away or two yards away. I'd give him the ball and he'd dribble it around about seven players before setting up somebody else for a goal or scoring himself. At the time he was called Ryan Wilson but he'd obviously changed his name by the time he got into the first team. I knew it wouldn't be long until he made his debut for Manchester United because everyone was talking about him. Once he made his debut he never looked back.
Striker - Wayne Rooney
Just a first-class player and another who people were talking about when he was 14 or 15-years-old. I was at Sunderland then and Peter Reid, with his Everton connections, was saying we should look out for his debut. When people are talking like that you know they are talking about a special player. He's never disappointed and for Manchester United to pay £27m for him at such a young age was unheard of. Rooney is a great talent, he's so strong and an all-round centre forward who's going to be around for years.
Striker - Thierry Henry
Without question the best foreigner to play in the Premier League (alongside Ronaldo). He had about five or six years where he was just untouchable. He really was special. You'd think you were doing OK in a game against him and then in an instant he'd pop up on the left wing and within five seconds he'd have had a shot on goal. I think Andy Gray once said 'take a bow son' talking about Henry and that sums up how special he was for Arsenal. We were playing Arsenal at Blackburn one year and thought we were doing pretty well at 0-0 and then Henry just turned it on and we lost 2-0 in the blink of an eye.
It was hard to get it down to 11 players and here are my subs:
David Beckham - very close to making my first XI, he never gave you a moment on the ball, his energy levels were unbelievable and his array of passes were second to none. Probably the best passer of a ball I've ever seen.
Robert Pires - an amazing left winger who, I think, still holds the record for the number of assists in one season. A special player who knew how to get behind the back four and put in the perfect pass - a centre forward's dream.
Didier Drogba - Probably playing as well as he ever has and he was just like that when he first came over - unstoppable and a nightmare to play against
Steve McManaman - someone with unbelievable energy but great skill to go with it as well. An amazing player with great pace and ability.
Patrick Vieira - Very Roy Keane-like in a lot of ways and very close to being in my team but Keane just pipped him.
Next week look out for my team of great players sporting moustaches with none other than Darren Potter as the play maker!