They say the world is a small place — and you should look no further than Old Trafford to understand why.
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson had observers reaching for their history books on Tuesday night when he named a starting XI against Stoke City which featured players of 11 different nationalities.
And language clearly wasn’t a barrier to progress at the Theatre of Dreams as goals from Portuguese Nani and Mexican Javier Hernandez masterminded a 2-1 win which stretched United’s unbeaten run to 20 games and kept them top of the Premier League.
For the record, the historic United starting XI was Tomasz Kuszczak (Poland), Rafael Da Silva (Brazil), Nemanja Vidic (Serbia), Chris Smalling (England), Patrice Evra (France), Nani (Portugal), Darren Fletcher (Scotland), Darron Gibson (Northern Ireland-born, Republic of Ireland international), Ryan Giggs (Wales), Dimitar Berbatov (Bulgaria) and Javier Hernandez (Mexico).
The international flavour extended to the bench where Englishmen Ben Amos, Michael Owen and Michael Carrick where joined by Jonny Evans (Northern Ireland), Fabio (Brazil) and Gabriel Obertan (France).
But Ferguson’s team selection shouldn’t raise too many eyebrows given how the game has gone global. United have built up a world-wide fanbase since the advent of satellite TV.
The Premier League itself has a worldwide television audience, and clubs are international brands that need merchandise to fly off the shelves.
Asian football stars, including United ace Park Ji-Sung is keeping the demand for United shirts high in South Korea.
United have always cast their recruitment net very wide — but perhaps the biggest irony of all is that, although the club has been owned by US businessman Malcolm Glazer since 2005, they currently don’t have any American-born players in their first-team squad!
In recent seasons Arsenal have been blamed for overlooking English talent. In fact, the Belfast Telegraph has discovered a Premier League game involving the Gunners and Portsmouth on December 30, 2009 that featured not a single English player in either starting line-up.
The Arsenal team that day was Almunia, Traore, Vermaelen, Gallas, Sagna, Song, Diaby, Arshavin, Ramsey, Nasri, Eduardo. Portsmouth's XI was Begovic, Finnan, Ben Haim, Kaboul, Hreidarsson, Mokoena, Yebda, Richard Hughes (Scotland), Boateng, Belhadj and Piquionne.
Twenty-two non-British players were registered to play in the inaugural season of the Premier League (1992) but in the 2009-2010 season, there were 337 registered players — from 66 different countries.