Andy Cole believes the Premier League is easier now than when he played in it and says the Manchester United team of 1999 would “100%” beat Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool’s.
The debate over which was the best team of the Premier League era is one which will never be settled, but Cole reckons United’s achievement in winning the Treble in 1999 outweighs Arsenal going unbeaten in 2003-04, Manchester City racking up 100 points – or indeed any of the other teams in the conversation.
Speaking on the third episode of the Target Men Podcast from Football Index, Cole said: “I haven’t seen any team that can compete with our Manchester United team of 1999. The proof is in the pudding.
“Sure, there have been some top-quality teams like Arsenal’s Invincibles and Manchester City’s Centurions, but they never came close to winning on all fronts like we did. There have been sides that have won more points in the Premier League, but they fell away in the other competitions.
“It’s a completely different ball game to fight to the very end of the season and lift every major trophy than it is to run riot in the Premier League but only have one piece of silverware to show for it. I need to see a team win the treble we did before we can even be compared.
“I look at this current Liverpool team and I would never argue with their quality, but we would beat them 100%. The Premier League is a lot easier now than it was when I played. Modern football is faster, but the quality of teams was far superior when we won the treble in 1999.”
Despite feeling an immense amount of pride about it now, Cole admits United “didn’t realise quite how big of an achievement that it was at the time” to win the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League that season.
“The Manchester United mentality was to win the trophy and celebrate it, before moving on and already having an eye on the next season and that next trophy,” he says. “I forgot about winning the treble within 24 hours of Barcelona.
“It’s only 20 years later that I hear people still talking about it that I can look back and appreciate what we achieved that year.”
Cole believes the number of academy graduates in United’s team that season made the achievement “extra special”, but he still feels enormous regret that he was only able to win the competition once during his six years at Old Trafford.
“I think we had during my time at Manchester United should have won the Champions League at least two or three times,” he says. We regularly got to the semi-finals and quarter-finals, but lady luck deserted us when it mattered most.
“I still think about the loss to Borussia Dortmund (in the 1997 semi-finals) and I’ve no idea how we lost that game, even though they went on to win the competition. Losing to Monaco (in 1998) was another sore one. I still get annoyed about it to this day that we only won the Champions League once.”
New episodes of Target Men will be released every Wednesday at 7pm and are available to listen on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify and YouTube. Next week’s episode features Ashley Cole.