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Thursday, June 04, 2009

Top Ten Footballers of Manchester United of All Time

Making a top ten list of greatest ever players of a club like Manchester United is always a very tough task. It is hardly possible to make a perfect list of top ten players of Manchester United, because there are so many great players in the history of Manchester United that after making the following list of top ten players of Manchester United, I can see a number of great players have been left who could have easily made it to the list by their own. But then, some of the players of this list would have made way for them and that would have been more difficult. To be honest with you, even I am not satisfied 100 percent with my list! You might wonder to know that I spent a whole day only to decide who are the players I would include in my top ten list of players of Manchester United and after reading lots of entries as well as the history of Manchester United, I decided that it is hardly possible to make a perfect list overall.

In making the following list of top ten players of Manchester United of all time, I gave preference to the players’ contribution, record as well as the kind of support and service they provided for Manchester United. Even then, you can raise question about this list because I could not make way for United’s third highest scorer of all time, Jack Rowley who spent about 18 years in the club. I had to exclude some of the early legends of the club like Billy Meredith, Sandy Turnbull, Joe Spence and Stan Pearson who had huge contribution to the club. Many of you might simply dismiss my list, citing that I did not include the players like David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville, Denis Irwin etc. Many would ask why I did not include Cristiano Ronaldo while comparison between Ronaldo and George Best had already started.

Another thing that you might raise question about is the fact that I could not include any specialist defender in the list, except Duncan Edwards who could play in almost every position in the field from defense to attack. Well, yes I did not include any defender in my list, even though there are some great defenders like Bill Foulkes (third highest appearance holder for the club), Roger Byrne, Nobby Stiles, Gary Neville, Denis Irwin, Steve Bruce, Martin Buchan, Gary Pallister, Tony Dunne, Rio Ferdinand etc. and I wish I could include at least few of them in the list. But then, can you exclude any of the ten players from the list. If you can then you please let me know about it in the comment section. Anyway, here goes the top ten players of Manchester United of all time, and at the end of the list, I have named some other great players who could have been included in the list.

Sir Bobby Charlton (midfield/striker)

Sir Bobby Charlton is undoubtedly one of the greatest ever player England has ever produced. He is one of those rare footballers who had success in both international and club football. Bobby Charlton was one of the important members of England’s 1966 world cup winning team and won the European Footballer of the Year award in the same year. With Manchester United, Bobby Charlton won three football league titles, one FA Cup titles, four FA Community Shield titles and captained Manchester United in their 1968 European Cup triumph. Started as a trainee at Manchester United youth side in 1953, Bobby Charlton rose to stardom as one of the best midfielders of his time while playing for Manchester United senior side. His attacking spree in the United and England midfield was a constant threat for the opposition defense.

Bobby Charlton started playing for Manchester United senior team in 1956 and continued playing for United until 1973 before joining Preston North End. During this brief period, he set himself one of the most influential members of United’s legendary manager Matt Busby’s historic team of 1950s and 1960s. For many years, Bobby Charlton was the record holder of highest appearance for Manchester United with 758 appearances before Ryan Giggs took over the record in 2008. As a goal scorer, Bobby Charlton still holds the record of highest goal scorer for both Manchester United with 249 goals and is still the leading goal scorer for both Manchester United with 249 goals and England with 49 goals.

George Best (midfielder/striker)

To many, George Best is considered to be one of the best technically right players in the history of football. Best came to Manchester United in 1963 during the formative years of Matt Busby after Manchester United losing nine regular players to 1958’s Munich air disaster and played a big role in their revival under the legendary manager Matt Busby. His tremendous ball controlling ability, pace, two-footedness and the ability to cut into the opposition defense were weapons to threaten the opposition defense.

Coming from Northern Ireland, George started his football career in England with Manchester United and continued playing for Manchester United until 1974. Best played 470 matches. With 179 goals, George Best still takes the joint fourth place in the all time highest scorers’ list of Manchester United. Along with Bobby Charlton and Denis Law, George Best played crucial role behind United’s dominating form in 1960s. Best won the European Cup with United in 1968 and in the same year, he was awarded the European Footballer of the Year award. In the IFFHS European Player of the Century election, he was ranked 11th and in the World Player of the Century election, he takes the 16th place. His successful club career does not reflect in his international career with 9 goals from 37 matches.

Duncan Edwards (wing half/midfielder/defender)

Those who saw Duncan Edwards play for Manchester United claimed the he was the best ever player in the history of Manchester United. He was one of Busby Babes who lost lives in the Munich air disaster in 1958. Though he could survive the accident, he died 15 days later. Duncan Edwards could play, in fact, as any position in the field and was an automatic choice for Manchester United line up during Matt Busby’s time. He joined Manchester United youth club in 1952 and started playing for senior side from 1953 at the age of 17. In fact, Edwards became the youngest ever player to appear in the Football League First Division and the youngest player to represent England after the Second World War. During his less than five year of professional career, Duncan Edwards helped Manchester Untied to win two Football League championship titles and reach the semi final of European Cup. The fatal Munich air crash brought his life to a premature end.

Duncan Edwards’ versatility on the field was one of the biggest advantages for Manchester Untied. He initially started as a defensive midfielder, but later on he started playing in the wing half because of his excellent physical strength and the ability to read the game. He represented England in 18 matches and scored 5 goals in his short career.

Roy Keane (midfielder)

If Bobby Charlton and Duncan Edwards are the influential figures of Busby era, then Roy Keane is perhaps the life of Ferguson era. Roy Keane was one of the most important players of Manchester United during their successful run in 1990s. During his 17-year long football career, he achieved a number of laurels and most of the achievements came with Manchester United. Born in Ireland, Keane started his career at Irish club Cobh Ramblers in 1989. He joined Manchester United from Nottingham Forest in 1993, the year Manchester United won their first Premier League title under Sir Alex Ferguson after 26 years. He could successfully take the place of another Manchester United legend Bryan Robson in the midfield.

As a midfielder, Roy Keane was not well-known for scoring spree, but he had the ability to dominate the midfield when he was at his best. Roy Keane represented Manchester United in 480 matches and scored 22 goals, before leaving the club for Celtic in 2005. Sir Alex Ferguson handed the captain’s armband to Keane in 1997 and continued his job until his departure with great success. Under his captaincy, Manchester United won the fabulous ‘Treble’ of Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League in 1999. Roy Keane also played for Ireland national team for 14 years and captained Ireland for a long time. Playing 66 international matches, he scored 9 goals. After his retirement, Keane has pursued his career in coaching. Roy Keane is now the manager of Premier League club Sunderland.

Eric Cantona (Forward)

Eric Cantona is another legendary figure in the history of Manchester United. Though he played only for 5 years, but the kind of impression he had over the team’s success is enough to claim Cantona as one of the best ever players of Manchester United. In fact, Eric Cantona played a huge role behind the revival of Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson. He is known as “King Eric” to the Manchester United fans. During his 5-year spell at Manchester United, the French forward won four Premier League, two League Cup and two FA Cup titles. The only year Manchester United did not win the Premier League title during his stay at Old Trafford, Eric Cantona was suspended for that season.

Eric Cantona retired from football in 1997 and was voted as Manchester United’s player of the century in 2001. He represented France in 45 matches and has 20 international goals. He scored 82 goals for Manchester United in his 5 year stay.

Bryan Robson (midfielder)

Bryan Robson is the only members in this list who does to belong to neither Matt Busby era nor Alex Ferguson era of Manchester United. He was signed by former United manager Ron Atkinson in 1981 and finished his United career in 1994 during Ferguson’s managerial term. When he joined Manchester United, fans were expecting their first league title in many years. So, Bryan Robson was among those United players who had play with lots of pressure. At last, he could help United win their first premier league title in 1993 in 26 years. Bryan Robson represented England in 90 games and scored 26 goals. Robson is currently the manager of Sheffield United.

Denis Law (Forward)

The Scottish forward was another important member of Manchester United’s formative years following the Munich air disaster. During his 11 year stay at Manchester United, he was always considered to be one of the crucial members of Matt Busby’s line up. Started his career at Huddersfield Town in 1956, Law did not need much time to show his talent and finally joined Manchester United in 1962.

Denis Law is still the second highest goal scorer for Manchester Untied with 237 goals from 404 matches. Law was awarded European Footballer of the Year award in 1964 for his excellent performance with Manchester United. He played 55 matches for Scotland and netted 30 goals for his country with which he holds the joint highest goal scoring record for Scotland. The talismanic striker represented Scotland in 1974 world cup. To the Manchester United fans Denis Law was known as ‘The King’.

Peter Schmeichel (goalkeeper)

Any list of top ten players of Manchester united will always be incomplete without Peter Schmeichel. No, he did not score goals but he saved many of them because he was a great goalkeeper. I feel that he is the greatest goalkeeper of the last two decades in world football. I cannot think of a bitter goalkeeper than Peter Schmeichel after he retired. He was from Denmark and he was the best goalkeeper of Danish football team too. However, it was in Manchester united that Peter Schmeichel found is that true form and home. The supporters still loved him and a member his great contribution for the club. He participated in 292 matches for the club and he saved a lot of goals.

Ryan Giggs (midfielder)

Ryan Giggs is still playing for Manchester united and you may wonder why I have selected him. Well, if you look at the records that he holds both for his club Manchester united and for his national football team Wales, then I’m sure that you will agree with me that he is a living legend. He holds the record for playing the highest number of matches for any Manchester united player ever. He is a midfield player and did not score too many goals but he holds the record for assisting the most number of goals in the history of English premier league.

Ruud van Nistelrooy (forward)

I still cannot on the stand that why Manchester united did not try to keep Ruud van Nistelrooy and let him go so easily to Real Madrid. It did not cause any problem for the player but it proved to be too much expensive for Manchester united. Ruud van Nistelrooy is indeed a goal machine and he scored ‘a total of 150 goals in 219 appearances, as well as the club’s all-time European scoring record with thirty-eight goals’ for Man Utd. But this is an aging an impressive record and he is still in great form in Spain.

Once again, I would say that making a list of top ten players of Manchester United of all time is a difficult task and you do not need to agree with my list. You may have your own opinion about top ten players of Manchester United. You can feel free to share your ideas and thought with us and other readers in the comment section. Here, I am mentioning some other players who made my task difficult while preparing the list of top ten players of Manchester United and I think, the following players contributed a lot for the club and deserve to be considered as legends of Manchester United.

Some Other Great Players of Manchester United

Before Second World War: Billy Meredith, Sandy Turnbul and Jack Rowley

After the Second World War (During Matt Busby’s Time): Bobby Charlton, Duncan Edwards, Roger Byrne, Dennis Viollet, Bill Foulkes, Eddie Colman, Tommy Taylor, Liam “Billy” Whelan, Harry Gregg, Johnny Berry, George Best, Denis Law, Pat Crerand, Nobby Stiles

During 1969-1986 (After Matt Busby’s era to Before Ferguson’s era): Martin Buchan, Steve Coppell, Bryan Robson, Paul McGrath, Norman Whiteside, Mark Hughes

During Sir Alex Ferguson’s Era: Brian McClair, Peter Schmeichel, Eric Cantona, Roy Keane, Paul Ince, Steve Bruce, Teddy Sheringham, Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Gary Neville, Paul Scholes, Andrew Cole, Rio Ferdinand, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez.

**The players in bold are included in the top ten list.

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manchester_United_F.C.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manchester_United_F.C._records_and_statistics

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manchester_United_F.C._-_50_Greatest_Players_Of_All_Time

http://www.stretfordend.co.uk/appearances/overall.html

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