Top 50 Greatest Manchester United Players of All Time

By | August 3, 2017
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50. Frank Stapleton

Initially made his name at Arsenal before a £900,000 move to Old Trafford in 1981. A tough-tackling, imposing forward, Stapleton lifted two FA Cups and scored 60 goals in 223 appearances.

49. Stuart Pearson

In 49 place is centre-forward Stuart Pearson, who scored 66 goals in 180 appearances for Manchester United in his five years at the club. The technically-gifted Englishman was a popular player at Old Trafford, utilising his intelligent movement to get into excellent goal-scoring positions.

48. Phil Neville

The younger brother of Gary, Neville was another ‘Fergie Fledgling’ and his own impact cannot be underestimated after eight years of loyal service. His medal collection from his time at United was vast, including six league titles, three FA Cups and the Champions League.

47. Brian Kidd

Forget his current role at Manchester City, Brian Kidd is United through and through. A seemingly-eternally fresh-faced youngster, the forward made more than 200 league appearances for the Red Devils, scoring 52 goals.

46. Eddie Colman

Eddie Colman was one of several United players taken too soon when he died in the Munich air disaster in 1958. The prodigious wing-half was already a regular for Matt Busby’s side as a teenager, marauding up and down the flanks with vigour.

45. Brian McClair

Brian McClair played for Aston Villa, Motherwell and Celtic, but it is for his 11 years at Manchester United that he is best remembered. A prolific goal-scorer, McClair could find the back of the net from close range or distance, bagging 24 league goals in his first season to become the first United player to surpass 20 since George Best.

44. Paul Ince

The sour taste left in the mouth by Paul Ince’s departure from United should not detract from his quality. The Guv’nor was a central midfielder who brought an immense presence and physicality to the pitch.

43. Lou Macari

Diminutive Scotsman Lou Macari made the switch from forward to midfielder later in his career and United reaped the dividends. He was an imaginative player, capable of leading an attack with creative poise.

42. Dwight Yorke

A key player in the Treble-winning team of 1999, Yorke’s partnership with Andy Cole was formidable. Also scored 22 goals in the following title-winning season.

41. Paul McGrath

It is a shame Paul McGrath was unable to prevent his demons from allowing him to become a true Old Trafford legend. The Irish centre-back’s later days at Aston Villa proved he still had plenty to give, well into his 30s.

40. Joe Spence

Joe Spence may have been the Red Devils’ original heroic flying winger. Between 1898 and 1919, the Englishman enthralled fans with his exceptional skill and speed. Sadly, no footage of him in action exists.

39. Andy Cole

It is almost criminal that Andy Cole only ever won 15 caps for England. He may not have delivered on the international stage, but he was a key member of the treble-winning side of 1998/99, scoring legendary goals against Juventus and Tottenham Hotspur that season.

38. Patrice Evra

Yet another hugely reliable and consistent full-back signed in the Sir Alex Ferguson years, Evra was a loyal servant to United during another period of success. Described by Ferguson as one of the best left-backs in Europe, he made 273 appearances for United before joining Juventus.

37. Michael Carrick
Carrick’s enduring qualities are still vital, he has proven a hugely influential signing since his arrival from Tottenham Hotspur in 2006. His calming presence and inventive range of passing makes him one of the classiest Premier League midfielders.

36. Ruud van Nistelrooy
The Dutch forward’s 100 goals in his first three seasons at Old Trafford have left an indelible mark on the club’s history books. A £19million signing from PSV Eindhoven, his career ended acrimoniously but his goalscoring exploits were legendary.

35. Jaap Stam

It is one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s greatest regrets that Jaap Stam did not play more games for his United side. But in three years at Old Trafford, the hulking defender was a mainstay in one of the strongest back lines in Europe.

34. Gary Pallister

Another centre-back, Gary Pallister formed one of the key defensive partnerships in Manchester United history with Steve Bruce in the early 1990s. A physically-gifted player, Pallister was a calming influence at the back.

33. Billy Meredith

Billy Meredith was a vastly-intelligent player who spent 15 years playing for United between 1906 and 1921. He was a leader both on the pitch and off, eventually being inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2007.

32. Nicky Butt
Another product of the club’s academy, Butt lived the dream in United’s midfield for 12 years. Six league titles and three FA Cups, plus the historic Champions League victory in 1999, were reward for his unwavering commitment. Now the reserve team manager.

31. Shay Brennan

Shay Brennan was at Manchester United during the Munich air disaster, and the club’s eventual rebirth and European Cup triumph. The full-back was a popular dressing-room influence who could always be relied upon to deliver consistent performances on the pitch.

30. Harry Gregg

Like Brennan, Harry Gregg survived the Munich air disaster, the goalkeeper displaying immense heroism that night to help pull teammates out of the wreckage. He was voted best keeper at the 1958 World Cup for Northern Ireland.

29. Gary Neville

Gary Neville may not have been the most naturally talented of “Fergie’s Fledglings,” but his loyalty to Manchester United was as great as any. His combination with best friend David Beckham down the right wing was one of the best double acts in football.

28. Jack Rowley
A key member of the United team in the post-War years, Rowley became one of the most feared forwards in the country. In 1952 his partnership with Jimmy Delaney helped guide United to their first Division One title for over 40 years.

27. Mark Hughes
The bustling combative forward with a penchant for spectacular goals – usually on the volley – Hughes epitomised Alex Ferguson’s unstinting commitment. The Welshman was described by Ferguson as the “best big game player I have known”, scoring 163 goals in 467 United appearances.

26. Denis Irwin

Another class act, Denis Irwin patrolled the left flank with intelligent defending and controlled aggression. The full-back was also one of the most reliable penalty takers in Britain, too, scoring at least a goal a season for nine years.

25. Steve Bruce

Captain of the Red Devils in the side’s first Premier League-winning campaign, central defender Steve Bruce was a born leader. He is surely one of the best English players to have never earned an international cap.

24. Tommy Taylor

There are some die-hard United fans who regard Tommy Taylor as the greatest forward ever to play for the Red Devils. A superb finisher and aerial player, Taylor scored 131 goals for the club in fewer than 200 total appearances.

23. Nemanja Vidic

Tough and uncompromising are two of the words that best describe Nemanja Vidic. The Serbian brute formed a dominant central-defensive partnership with Rio Ferdinand, each complementing the other perfectly.

22. Rio Ferdinand

Has there ever been a United defender who oozes more class on the pitch than Rio Ferdinand? After a difficult start to his Old Trafford career, the former England international was a world-class defender for the side for close to 10 years.

21. David Beckham
Beckham became one of the most iconic players in world football after emerging from the United academy to play his part in arguably the club’s most successful era. Renowned for his spectacular goals from midfield, Beckham also captained England during his glittering spell at Old Trafford.

20. Martin Buchan

Before Vidic, before Roy Keane, Martin Buchan was the side’s most domineering, influential player and captain. The centre-back was a true professional, but also capable of physically overpowering his opponents when necessary.

19. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Known as the baby-faced assassin, Solskjaer cemented his place in United folklore with the dramatic winner against Bayern Munich in the 1999 European Cup. The Norwegian, a £1.5m signing from Molde in 1995, scored 126 goals in 366 appearances.

18. Johnny Carey

As Manchester United’s first post-war captain, Johnny Carey exuded class and authority on the pitch. The 1949 Footballer of the Year winner was a technically-gifted full-back who played for the Red Devils between 1936 and 1953.

17. Nobby Stiles

Nobby Stiles was as unfashionable a player as they come, but his quality was undeniable. The holding midfielder played with an understated excellence, controlling the game with his immense footballing intelligence.

16. Roger Byrne

With Roger Byrne’s passing in the Munich air disaster, the Red Devils lost their captain and one of the best-ever full-backs to grace the game. The Manchester-born lad was a versatile player who could play just about any position and play it well.

15. Edwin van der Sar
Signed from Fulham for around £2 million in 1995, Van der Sar became another in a long line of iconic United goalkeepers. Won the Champions League with two clubs – Ajax and United – and considered on a par with Peter Schmeichel.

14. Bill Foulkes
The defender made nearly 700 appearances for United, a record beaten only by Sir Bobby Charlton, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, in a remarkable career. A survivor of the Munich air crash, Foulkes led United to the 1958 FA Cup Final.

13. Alex Stepney
Another legendary goalkeeper in United history, Stepney was a key member of the team which became the first English club to win the European Cup in 1968. Stepney spent 12 years at United before departing for Dallas Tornado.

12. Peter Schmeichel
The Danish goalkeeper with a formidable penalty box presence, Schmeichel was captain in the historic treble season in 1999. Made 292 appearances in eight memorable seasons.

11. Bryan Robson 
Known as ‘Captain Marvel’, Robson remains the longest serving skipper in the club’s history after joining from West Brom in 1981. Won two league titles and three FA Cups and retains strong links with the club as Global Ambassador.

10. Cristiano Ronaldo
The Portuguese winger inspired United to the 2008 Champions League crown before leaving for Real Madrid in 2009 for a world record £80m fee. Signed by United as successor to David Beckham in 2003.

9. Duncan Edwards
A victim of the Munich air disaster at the age of just 21, Edwards is still regarded as the most complete player ever to play for United and one who is regarded by Bobby Charlton as the club’s greatest player.

8. Eric Cantona
The Frenchman, signed from bitter rivals Leeds in November 1992, proved the catalyst for United’s 1993 title success and the subsequent period of dominance enjoyed by the club during and after his five-year spell at Old Trafford.

7. George Best
Scored 179 goals in 470 appearances and earned nickname of ‘El Beatle’ after performance against Benfica aged just 19 in 1966. One third of United’s so-called Holy Trinity alongside Denis Law and Bobby Charlton.

6. Roy Keane
Made 480 appearances during a twelve-year spell at Old Trafford, which included eight years as captain. A combative leader and wonderful reader of the game, Keane’s highpoint came with performance during Champions League semi-final against Juventus in 1999.

5. Wayne Rooney
Former captain, scored a hat-trick on his debut against Fenerbahce following £27m arrival from Everton in 2004.  Holds all-time scoring record for Manchester United.

4. Denis Law
Earned the nickname ‘The King’ with his goalscoring feats for United, with a remarkable 237 goals in 404 appearances. The Scot missed the 1968 European Cup final through injury, but his status as a United legend secured prior to that game.

3. Paul Scholes
Regarded as the best English midfielder of his generation, a product of the youth system who went on to score 155 goals in 718 appearances. Famously returned to playing in 2012 after about-turn on retirement six months earlier.

2. Bobby Charlton
United’s all-time leading scorer with 249 goals before Wayne Rooney smashed his record, one of only two Englishmen to win the World Cup and European Cup. Survivor of the Munich air disaster and still an iconic figure at Old Trafford, where he is a director.

1. Ryan Giggs
The most decorated footballer in English history, with 168 goals in 963 appearances. Won every major honour worth winning at least once, with 13 league titles and two European Cups. Created records that will never be eclipsed.

Who do you think deserves to be on this list and who shouldn’t be?

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