Player Profile: Mikaël Silvestre
Date of Birth: 9/8/1977
Height: 1.83 m (6 ft)
Position(s): Left-back, Centre-back
National Team: France
International Caps: 40
International Goals: 2
While Mikaël Silvestre is best-known for his nine-year stint at Manchester United, he has a couple of other big-name clubs in his resume as well. The Frenchman started his career at Rennes and progressed through the club’s youth academy, making his debut when he was just 19. In just a couple of seasons, his performances for Rennes had a host of European top guns sitting up and taking notice.
In the summer of 1998, he was brought into Inter Milan as the club spent heavily in the hope of securing an elusive Scudetto. A big spending summer saw the likes of Roberto Baggio, Andrea Pirlo and Dario Simic join Silvestre through the entrance doors at the San Siro. He made his debut in the club’s first Champions League game of the season, in a 0-2 loss to Real Madrid.
The season did not go well for Inter as they finished eighth, going through four coaches in the process. Silvestre was a mainstay in their defence that season, but as Inter shipped a whopping 54 goals, he shouldered a lot of the blame. After the horror season, Inter owner Massimo Moratti decided that a squad overhaul was the best way to go and Silvestre was among the many casualties.
As he was leaving Inter, Silvestre had the option to join either Manchester United or Liverpool, with fellow Frenchman Gerard Houllier making the case for a stint at Anfield. However, Silvestre opted for United, who were fresh off winning the treble. He chose quite the occasion to make his Red Devils debut, starting in a 3-2 victory for United at Anfield. During his first season, he played a lot of games in the centre of defence, alongside Dutch defender Jaap Stam.
However, over the next couple of seasons, Silvestre established himself as United’s first-choice left-back, edging out veteran Denis Irwin from the position. In 2001-02, Silvestre played a part in 35 league games for United, more than any other player bar Paul Scholes.
By now, he had developed an attacking edge to his game and laid on several goals for United’s new recruit Ruud van Nistelrooy. The next season would prove to be even more prolific for the Frenchman, who had six assists in the league alone, scoring once — the best attacking return that he would ever see in his career.
The 2004-05 season though saw Silvestre forced to return back to the centre of defence after Rio Ferdinand was handed an eight-month ban for missing a drugs test. With Ferdinand out and his regular partner Wes Brown often injured, Silvestre became one of United’s most important figures. No player started more games than him and Silvestre played a role in a whopping fifty games in all competitions that season. But, his partnership with Brown was less than solid and United ended the season trophy-less.
United coach Sir Alex Ferguson opted to bring in defensive reinforcements in the January transfer window of the next season in the form of left-back Patrice Evra and central defender Nemanja Vidic. That marked the beginning of the end for Silvestre’s United career as both players became regular fixtures in the Man Utd starting eleven.
By the end of the 2006-07 season, the Frenchman had been reduced to the role of a bit-part player, making just six starts in the league. And when United, a year later, triumphed over Chelsea in the Champions League final in Moscow, Silvestre was forced to look on from the bench.
His final couple of years for United were blighted by injury and in 2008, Silvestre finally looked set to leave United. Despite the disappointing end, his long stint at United had been fruitful. He had been involved in four Premier League-winning teams, lifted the FA Cup and the League Cup once and was a part of United’s 2008 Champions League winning squad.
At first, it was rumoured that he was going to sign for the club’s cross-town rivals Manchester City, but Arsenal swooped in at the last minute to secure Silvestre’s signature. His time at the club though did not go too well and he was often singled out as a symbol of the decline that had set in at Arsenal during the final years of Arsene Wenger’s reign. He stayed for just two seasons, making 43 appearances for the Gunners.
After leaving the Emirates Stadium, Silvestre moved to Germany to play for Werder Bremen and then to the USA to play for Portland Timbers in Major League Soccer. A serious injury while in the US was feared to have ended his career, but Silvestre resurfaced in India to play in the inaugural season of the Indian Super League. There, he played under Marco Materazzi and alongside the likes of former Man City midfielder Elano. After a season there, Silvestre finally hung up his boots.
Silvestre made his international debut for France against Germany in a friendly in 2001, a match that his team won 1-0. He made two appearances in the 2001 Confederations Cup that France won, remaining on the bench for the other three games, including the final.
He also managed a spot in France’s 2002 World Cup squad but did not make an appearance. He remained on the bench for all three of France’s games as the defending champions crashed out in the opening round.
Silvestre lifted the Confederations Cup again in 2003, but was only involved in two games. A year later, he had a much more prominent role at Euro 2004, playing every match as Les Bleus went out in the quarters.
He also made France’s 2006 World Cup squad but only played one match — against Togo in the opening round, which also turned out to be his final appearance in the blue shirt.
Where is Mikael Silvestre now?
After retirement, Silvestre returned to his first club Rennes, where he took over as director of football. But after a difficult transfer window, he parted ways with the club after one-and-a-half years in the role. He was most recently in the news after being unveiled as an ambassador for Ligue 1.
Did you know? Interesting facts about Mikael Silvestre
– After retiring as a footballer, Silvestre launched his own rum brand — Rhum St Barth.
– Silvestre became the first player to move from Manchester United to Arsenal in 34 years.