Here is my list of the ten best Manchester United players of the Premier League era. This is just my personal opinion, and they feature in no particular order. Did I miss someone? Leave a comment and let me know. I hope you enjoy reading.
Denis Irwin (1990-2002)
Hard working, loyal, understated, and above all very gifted. His trophy haul at United is phenomenal. The man won seven Premier League titles in a nine year period between 1992-2001, while rarely being out of Sir Alex’s side. Irwin was an outstanding defender and that’s why Fergie used to call him 8 out of 10, due to his consistent performances, hardly making a mistake over a decade plus. The Irishman was also an excellent free-kick and penalty specialist, and would regularly weigh in with valuable goals. In my opinion, he was one of Fergie’s very best buys, without any doubt.
David Beckham (1992-2003)
Becks was quite possibly United’s most famous player, but underneath all that stood a player of genuine quality. He won six Premier League titles between 1995-2003, his delivery from the right hand side put terror into the hearts of defenders and goalkeepers for over a decade. He was regularly contributing double figures in goals, his undeniable quality with free-kicks and corners also made him immensely valuable.
On top of that, he was a terrific passer who had excellent range, while always working incredibly hard. He formed a great partnership with Gary Neville down the right hand side for club and country. Unfortunately, David left the club under a cloud of controversy after Fergie got tired of his off-field antics. This famously culminated in a row involving a flying boot, which didn’t help matters much. However, that shouldn’t detract the quality and the achievements of an outstanding player and a true professional, though it sadly often does.
Rio Ferdinand (2002-2014)
What a player! Rio won six Premier League titles between 2002-2013. At the time, he was the most expensive defender on the planet when he was purchased for £30 million. United got their money’s worth and more, out of a simply wonderful player. The reliable centre back formed one of the all-time great United defensive partnerships with Nemanja Vidic. The two were at their absolute peak between 2006-2009, when United won three straight league crowns.
Their goals conceded record over those three 38-game seasons reads as follows: 06/07 – 27, 07/08 – 22, 08/09 – 24. That is a demonstration of incredible consistency. Rio is a Rolls Royce of a defender. He’s exceptional on the ball and good enough to bring it out from the back and start attacks. Unlike David Luiz – who PSG just paid a small fortune for – he could also handle the defensive side of his game with class. What where they thinking?
Rio was an outstanding defender, a superb reader of the game and did not even look like he was running most of the time. He just floated over the ground. A truly world class player who proved to be worth every penny and more.
The best English right back of his generation. The now popular Sky Sports pundit won eight Premier League titles between 1995-2009, and captained the club after Roy Keane’s departure in 2005 until he retired. He was the undisputed first choice right back for club and country for more than ten years. That tells you everything you need to know about his consistent performance. As I mentioned earlier, he formed an outstanding partnership with David Beckham on the right for United and England.
Gary was a great reader of the game and a very intelligent player. Perhaps his most impressive quality was his loyalty. In a world where players change clubs like they change socks, he was United through and through – a true leader in the dressing room and a fans favourite. His dislike for Liverpool was never hidden during his career, as his celebration after Rio’s late winner against the hated rivals at Old Trafford will attest. He was a player that opposing fans loved to hate, but you would want him down in the trenches with you when the going got tough. United still haven’t adequately replaced him since his retirement.
Peter Schmeichel (1991-1999)
This man was arguably the greatest Goalkeeper to ever play in England. The Dane won five Premier League titles between 1992-1999. The big man was an intimidating presence in one-on-one situations and a dominating presence from crosses. He always had control of his area. He was a leader, a talker, an organiser of defenders. He had great distribution with his hands or feet. This truly world class player was voted as the best keeper on the planet on multiple occasions, and was worth his weight in gold. The only comparable keeper in today’s game would be Bayern Munich and Germany’s stopper Manuel Neuer, who is very similar.
The great Dane proved very difficult to replace after his departure in 1999, as it took a full six years and countless keepers including Mark Bosnich, Massimo Taibi, Fabien Barthez, Tim Howard and Roy Carroll before a sound replacement was found in Edwin Van Der Sar. That tells the story of how great he was.
Roy Keane (1993-2005)
I’ll tell you how good Keano was! It’s 2014 and United are still yet to replace him. He left the club in 2005, having won seven Premier League titles between 1993-2003. Roy was the perfect box-to-box midfield player, famed for his aggressive and highly competitive nature. He captained United from 1997 until he left the club in 2005, and it was in this role which he shone brightest. I have never seen a player have more influence and drive over a group as Roy did.
He was an extension of Sir Alex on the field, and led by example. The Irishman inspired everyone around him, chased every loose ball down, and if someone was out of position, Keane filled in for them! He drove the team on. His passing was simple but very effective, and he came up with crucial goals on multiple occasions. His incredible will to win was probably his most important trait. There were more talented players at the club at that time, but few who gave more and were more important. He was a pivotal cog in the United machine, and was also always fun for the media. The fiery midfielder was never short of a comment. In my opinion, he was United’s greatest ever captain.
Cristiano Ronaldo (2003-2009)
The Portuguese joined the club as a raw 18 year old from Sporting Lisbon in 2003 for £12.24 million and left as the most expensive player in the world at the time, when Real Madrid shelled out £80 million for him. Ronaldo won three Premier League titles between 2006-2009 and was the most integral part of those winning teams. His incredible season in 2007/08 – in which he scored 42 goals in 49 appearances – led to United winning the Premier League and Champions League double.
Ronaldo finished as top scorer in both completions with 31 goals in 34 appearances in the League and 8 goals in 11 appearances in the Champions League, and even won the PFA Player of the Year and FWA Player of the Year. He won both for the second consecutive year and won the Ballon d’or too! It’s impossible to dispute the fact that Cristiano is and was an incredible player. He has pace, power, two capable feet, he’s great in the air, and he can play in practically any attacking position.
He has since gone on to prove how great he is at Real Madrid. His name is still regularly sung by the United faithful and rightfully so.
Eric Cantona (1992-1997)
The flamboyant Frenchman won four Premier League titles between 1992-1997. He is a big reason for the way the club is today. In those times, he was an absolute key man in ending 26 years of hurt in the league. He won four League titles in five years, and the only year he didn’t win the title was when he was suspended for the second half of the 94/95 season for attacking a supporter who taunted him after he was sent off.
United went on to lose the Title to big spending Blackburn Rovers. People certainly remember the notorious attack on the Crystal Palace fan at Selhurst Park on January 25 1995, for which the Frenchman was given an eight-month worldwide football ban and also lost his international career with France. However, people should remember the charisma, the impact and the incredible talent he possessed. His unpredictable nature and sheer magnetism seemed capable of carrying the team whenever it was needed. Eric helped develop and inspire the famed class of 1992 to eventually succeed him in leading United into a glorious time.
King Eric was a massively important part of the clubs history.
Paul Scholes was ultimately brilliant, and the most talented midfielder England has ever produced, without any shadow of a doubt. He won eleven Premier League titles between 1995-2013 and was universally praised by such people as Xavi Hernandez, Josep Guardiola, Zinedine Zidane, Edgar Davids, Marcello Lippi and Thierry Henry – that’s not a bad list of admirers.
He had a wonderful first touch and a way of receiving possession. His incredible technical skills, vision, passing range and an ability to find space. Scholes could control the tempo of a game better than anyone and scored some of the best goals you will ever see among his 107 Premier League strikes. Perhaps his most likeable trait was his quite unassuming personality – he was a true professional. He never wanted the spotlight, despite being widely regarded as a true United great. The Ginger Magician really was one of a kind.
Ryan Giggs (1990-2014)
The flying Welshman won thirteen Premier League titles between 1992-2013. As a pacy wide man during the first half of his extraordinary career, some young fans might forget he was Gareth Bale long before he came onto the scene. He possessed searing pace and a great end product, evidenced by his 109 Premier League goals and also his Premier League record number of assists.
Later down the line, he adapted his game to lengthen his career and became a clever deep play-maker where his vision and passing ability shone and allowed him to play beyond his 40th birthday. That is an extraordinary achievement. Speaking of which, he holds the record for the most appearances in Premier League history, and is the only player to play in every season of the Premier League since it began. Ryan played in the old first division before the league began and scored in every Premier League campaign, apart from this last one.
He has just retired to become Louis Van Gaal’s assistant and a possible future United boss. Ryan Giggs displayed incredible longevity and with so much experience is a true icon.
Thanks for reading,