Great Players of Yesteryear
Founded over a century ago and with the Golden Age of Sir Alex Ferguson still fresh in the memory, there’s no shortage of great players to have spent their time at Old Trafford. From the Busby Babes to Fergie’s Fledglings there have been some true legends at the club. Scouring the archives, here’s our all time top 10 list for MUFC players.
No list of all time greats would be complete without George Best. Ironically, he was rejected by his local club (Glentoran) before being spotted by an eagle-eyed MUFC scout. The hyper-talented Best helped his team win the 1964-5 title, beating rivals Leeds United for the glory. A skilful winger brimming with technical ability and well over 100 goals for the team, Best lived up to his name.
A member of the 1966 England World Cup winning team and winner of the Ballon d’Or, Bobby Charlton spent more than a decade and a half at the Red Devils. One of the Busby Babes, Charlton was a survivor of the Munich air disaster, pulled from the plane by the heroic keeper Harry Gregg. After the disaster, Charlton won the FA Cup and League titles with the team, and, as captain, led it to victory in the European Cup Final, scoring twice in the 4-1 win over Benfica.
The last of Busby’s United trinity, Denis Law spent more than a decade at the club and scored hundreds of goals (he’s behind just Charlton and Rooney in the goal lists). Another Ballon d’Or winner, Law is the only Scotsman to achieve that distinction, and was a key part of the team’s success in the 1960s.
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Arguably the best known footballer of the 1990s, and a talisman for Manchester United for much of his career, is David Beckham. Along with the Nevilles, Giggs, and Scholes, he was one of a slew of talented youngsters brought into the club under the auspices of Sir Alex Ferguson. Whilst at MUFC he wore the number 7 shirt which had previously been the number of legends such as George Best and Eric Cantona, and was a critical midfield player for the team’s unprecedented success dominating the Premier League. This success reached its zenith in the 1998-9 season, when he helped the Red Devils win the treble: the FA Cup, Premier League, and the Champions League.
As a player, Ryan Giggs was synonymous with Manchester United, spending his whole career (a quarter of a century) there, making over 600 appearances and scoring over 100 goals. He even served as interim manager after David Moyes’ departure. He was there before Beckham arrived and still there when Beckham left for pastures new, seeing the same period of unrivalled success under the stewardship of Sir Alex Ferguson and forming a fantastic midfield partnership with the aforementioned Beckham. Popular across the country, he was named BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2009 and captained the Red Devils on a number of occasions.
Paul Scholes was another player who spent his whole career at the club (with hundreds of appearances, and over 100 goals). Like Giggs and Beckham, he was a midfielder and part of the team’s core that saw it achieve such staggering dominance. Scholes won 11 Premier League titles with the club (a record for an English player) and two Champions League titles. With his ability to pass, to score, and strength when things got physical, Scholes had a multitude of assets on the pitch.
Manchester United has been lucky to have a number of legendary managers in their long history, men who have gathered fantastic players and forged them into title-winning teams. It remains to be seen if the incumbent, Ole Gunnar Solskjær, will be a great, poor, or middling manager. With the recent departure of Romelu Lukaku and talented youngster Gabriel Martinelli, formerly on trial with the team, now scoring for Arsenal, the Norwegian manager has his work cut out assembling a squad to rival those of yesteryear.
More Recent Stars
Wayne Rooney is the record goalscorer for Manchester United, knocking in nearly 200 goals (he’s also England’s record goalscorer). Strong and physical, and good in the air despite average stature, his versatility and energy has seen him achieve immense success on both the club and national stages.
Hailed by some as the greatest player of his generation, Cristiano Ronaldo combines stunning pace with flexibility that has seen him play on the left and the right, in midfield and as a forward. Technically skilled and good in the air, he was a prolific scorer for Manchester United.
One of the most successful Irish footballers ever, Roy Keane was with MUFC for 12 years. Aggression and competitiveness were hallmarks of the midfield he ran. Thrust into the captaincy in 1997, Keane led the team to their famous treble FA Cup, Premier League, and Champions League triumph.
Nemanja Vidic spent almost a decade with the club, forming a formidable defensive partnership with Rio Ferdinand during the latter years of Sir Alex Ferguson’s tenure and going on to become the team captain. His robust, dogged defensive commitment was a mainstay of the team and helped them win multiple titles, including the Champions League.
Bale to the Rescue?
Looking quickly to the future, the squad could do with more bite up front. With reports that Real Madrid may be looking to lose Gareth Bale, the talented Welshman could be just what Manchester United need to rack up more goals.