Manchester United

The Ten Best Man Utd Players From The Past 15 Years

Sir Alex Ferguson with the Premier League Trophy

Sir Alex Ferguson with the Premier League Trophy

Since 1994, a plethora of players have called The Cliff, Carrington and Old Trafford home. In this time Manchester United have won an abundance of silverware including 2 European Cups, 10 Premier League Trophies and 4 FA Cups, not a bad haul by anybody’s standards!

Sir Alex Ferguson is rightly accredited with this success but a number of players must also be mentioned for helping to turn Manchester United into the worldwide footballing power that it is today.

Picking the top 10 Manchester United players from the past 15 years is no easy feat and it would be possible to make two or even three lists with the kind of names that won’t be included. There are even players in the current squad that will be staking a claim for a position 15 years from now, but at this current moment, I present to you my top ten Manchester United players from the past 15 years in no specific order.

Roy Keane

Appearances: 480

Goals: 51

Debut: 7 Aug 1993 v Arsenal (N) Charity Shield

On the 21st April 1999, Roy Keane produced the kind of performance that embodied the man he was. 2-0 down to Juventus after 11 minutes in the second leg of the Champions League semi final , it appeared United were dead and buried. But Roy Keane saw it differently. He began to boss the midfield, dominating Zinedine Zidane and Edgar Davids and dragged United back into the game.

Leading the charge, Keane scored United’s opening goal as the Reds went on to win 3-2 and eventually the Champions League. It did not matter to Keane that he had picked up a yellow card and was ruled out of the final, he always gave 100%. Once asked where his fierce will to win came from, Keane simply replied, “It’s fear. I have a big fear of failure”, and because of this attitude at the end of his 12 year tenure with the club, Keane stands as the most successful skipper Man Utd have ever had.

Trophies:

Premier League : 1993-94, 1995-96, 1996-97, 1998-99, 1999-00, 2000-01, 2002-03

FA Cup : 1994, 1996, 1999, 2004

UEFA Champions League : 1999

Peter Schmeichel

Appearances: 398

Goals: 1

Debut: 17 Aug 1991 v Notts County (H)

One of Sir Alex Ferguson’s greatest purchases, Schmeichel joined United as a relative unknown from Brondby for £530,000, a fee Ferguson would later describe as “the bargain of the century”.

His imposing frame inspired confidence in his defenders and fear in opposing strikers. One of the finest goalkeepers to play the game, his save against Newcastle in November 1996 was voted the best in the first decade of the Premier League and capped a wonderful individual display that day.

In his final season with Manchester United, the team did the treble with him playing an integral part, saving a Dennis Bergkamp penalty in the FA Cup semi final, sending the game into extra time where Ryan Giggs scored that goal, as well as captaining the team for the Champions League final in Roy Keane’s absence.

The 2-1 victory over Bayern Munich brought down the curtain on an illustrious career at Old Trafford.

Trophies:

Premier League: 1992-93, 1993-94, 1995-96, 1996–97, 1998-99

FA CUP: 1994, 1996, 1999

League Cup: 1992

UEFA Champions League: 1999

Ryan Giggs

Appearances: 815

Goals: 150

Debut: 02 Mar 1991 v Everton (H) League

A true United legend whose contribution to not only the team Manchester United but also the club cannot be put into words.

Currently holding the record for most appearances in a United shirt, Giggs has played and scored in every Premier League season and has 11 Premier League trophies to go with that. His longevity is perhaps his greatest attribute as even in the twilight of his career he is still a monumental player winning the PFA Player of the Year in 2009, having won the PFA Young Player of the Year in 1992 and 1993. Even this season he is rolling back the years with numerous important performances notably in the thrilling 4-3 victory over Man City in September.

Gary Pallister once remarked that United defenders “got twisted blood trying to mark him in training” and the world was treated first hand to what he meant when Giggs scored a superb solo effort against Arsenal in the 1999 FA Cup semi final replay. Picking up the ball in his own half after intercepting a Patrick Vieira pass, Giggs danced through the Arsenal team before smashing the ball past David Seaman for what is often regarded as one of United’s finest goals ever.

Ryan Giggs is a true gentleman of the game and a credit to his club, his spot on the list was a certainty with his list of trophies backing this up.

George Best once quipped, “One day they might say, I was another Ryan Giggs.” Unfortunately George, there will never be another Giggs.

Trophies:

Premier League : 1992–93, 1993–94, 1995–96, 1996–97, 1998–99, 1999–2000, 2000–01, 2002–03, 2006–07, 2007–08, 2008–09

FA Cup : 1994, 1996, 1999, 2004

League Cup : 1992, 2006, 2009

UEFA Champions League : 1999,2008

Paul Scholes

Appearances: 614

Goals: 143

Debut: 21 Sep 1994 v Port Vale (A)

Lacking the glamour of his counterparts, Paul Scholes definitely was not left wanting in terms of ability. To put it simply the diminutive ginger player is a footballing genius. His passing is sublime, he makes thoughtful and dangerous runs and when on form his striking of the ball is amongst the best in the world with wonder goals against Aston Villa in 06/07 and Bradford in 99/00 and perhaps the most important, against Barcelona in the 2008 Champions League semi final.

Having missed the 1999 final after being suspended in the semi final against Juventus, it was only fitting that it was Scholes who scored the goal that took United back to the most important game in European club football with a wonderfully struck right footed shot that curled away from Victor Valdes, into the top corner.

Paul Scholes is a player that many not grab the headlines but anyone in the know will recognise he is a stand out player of his generation and when asked about him the plaudits flood in, with World Cup winning manager Marcelo Lippi saying, “Paul Scholes would have been one of my first choices for putting together a great team – that goes to show how highly I have always rated him. Scholes is a player I have always liked, because he combines great talent and technical ability with mobility, determination and a superb shot. He is an all-round midfielder who possesses character and quality in abundance. In my opinion, he’s been one of the most important players for United under Sir Alex.”

Trophies:

Premier League : 1995–96, 1996–97, 1998–99, 1999–2000, 2000–01, 2002–03, 2006–07, 2007–08, 2008–09

FA CUP: 1996, 1999, 2004

League Cup : 2006, 2009

UEFA Champions League : 1999, 2008

Eric Cantona

Appearances: 185

Goals: 82

Debut: 6 Dec 1992 v Manchester City (H)

‘King Eric’ was born to play for Manchester United. Oozing swagger, the French man’s four and a half seasons at United produced the kind of moments that could not have been penned by the best author, as the talismanic French man became the final piece to United’s championship puzzle and was voted Man United’s player of the century.

Despite making his debut in December, his 9 goals in his first season helped fire United to the inaugural Premiership title, the first of four with the club only missing out on a fifth, narrowly, to Kenny Dalglish’s Blackburn in 1995.

The enigmatic Cantona had many memorable moments during his United career, scoring the equaliser against Liverpool on his return to the team after serving a 9 month ban for an altercation with a fan, scoring the winning goal in the 1996 FA Cup final again against Liverpool and lifting the trophy as captain but if one moment could embody the technique, swagger and self assurance of Cantona it came in a single goal against Sunderland in 1996.

He surged forward playing a one two with Brian McClair before deftly chipping the stranded keeper. The goal was sumptuous, the celebration was even more so as he merely looked around, with his collar up in trademark style and took in the cheers and applause of the Old Trafford faithful.

Long live the King!

Trophies

Premier League: 1992-93, 1993-94, 1995-1996, 1996-97

FA Cup: 1994, 1996

Charity Shield: 1993, 1994, 1996

Cristiano Ronaldo

Appearances: 244

Goals: 118

Debut: 16 Aug 2003 v Bolton (H)

In his 6 year stay with Manchester United, Cristiano Ronaldo showed what happens when potential is achieved. He went from talented winger to the best player in the world, a fact not lost on Real Madrid who paid £80m to make him the most expensive player ever.

It is hard to think of words that have not already been used to describe the Portuguese man as his talents undoubtedly contributed to Man Utd’s success in the latter half of this decade.

Already on the club’s radar it was after Ronaldo had given United a torrid time in a friendly against Sporting Lisbon that Giggs and co prompted Sir Alex to splash £12.4m to bring the 18 year old to Old Trafford.

In an era of inflated transfer fees, it appears that Fergie snagged himself a bargain as Ronaldo would go onto become the first European player of the year at the club since the 60s and the first World player of the year at the club ever.

The pinnacle of his 6 years at the club came in the 2007/2008 season where he scored an astonishing 42 goals, won the Premiership, European Cup and smashed a 40 year old record set by George Best for the most goals scored by a midfielder in a season (Best had 32, Ronaldo ended the season with 42).

On the day he left Old Trafford, Sir Alex Ferguson paid him the highest compliment stating, “Cristiano has been a marvellous player for Manchester United. His contribution has been a major factor in the club’s success in that time and his talent, his ability to entertain and his infectious personality have enthralled fans the world over.”

Ronaldo could be one of the most gifted players to have called Old Trafford home and the fact he left at the tender age of 24 is a sticking point with some fans but in his 6 years of service in Fergie’s Red Army he enthralled all and left Old Trafford singing ‘Viva Ronaldo’.

Trophies:

Premier League: 2006–07, 2007–08, 2008–09

FA CUP: 2004

League Cup: 2006, 2009

UEFA Champions League: 2008

Steve Bruce

Appearances: 414

Goals: 51

Debut: 19 Dec 1987 v Portsmouth (A)

Signed in 1987 for £825,000, Steve Bruce along with Gary Pallister proved to be the solid foundation on which Manchester United’s dominance of the modern game was built. The tough Geordie, characterised by his wonky broken nose, never gave opposing strikers an inch and was never afraid to put himself in harm’s way to stop an opponent.

Bruce also had an ace up his sleeve, in that for a defender he was quite a prolific goal scorer. In the 1990/91 season he chipped in with 19 goals and the two late towering headers he scored against Sheffield Wednesday in 1993 are generally seen as the goals that the tipped the title race in United’s favour as they went on to win the inaugural Premiership trophy. His time at United was a decorated one and he also captained the team in Bryan Robson’s injury enforced absence.

Trophies:

Premier league: 1992-93, 1993-94 1995-96

FA Cup: 1994, 1996

Cup Winners Cup: 1990-91

League Cup: 1992

Denis Irwin

Appearances: 529

Goals: 33

Debut: 25 Aug 1990 v Coventry City (H)

The ever reliable Irish man was a constant fixture in the United team for over a decade making the left back position his and even well into his thirties he was preferred ahead of the younger Phil Neville.

As well left back he could play just as well at right back and was an adept penalty and free kick taker notching himself a few goals whilst on defensive duty.

Irwin is United’s second most decorated player with 13 winner’s medals yet despite this, the importance of the role he played at the club is always massively under rated. Fittingly in his tenth year he was made skipper for the final game and lifted the trophy after the final home game with Derby.

Trophies:

Premier League: 1992–93, 1993–94, 1995–96, 1997, 1998–99, 1999–2000, 2000–01

FA Cup: 1994, 1996, 1999

League Cup: 1992

UEFA Champions League: 1999

Cup Winners’ Cup: 1991

David Beckham

Appearances: 394

Goals: 85

Debut: 23 Sept 1992 v Brighton (A)

David Beckham’s rise to prominence in the Manchester United team was matched only by his rise to prominence in the media. As hard as he worked, the ensuing stardom was definitely deserved as he went on to become world football’s biggest name.

He would work tirelessly on set piece delivery staying late after training and eventually became one of the most feared dead ball strikers in Europe with Sir Alex Ferguson acknowledging this, “David Beckham is Britain’s finest striker of a football not because of God-given talent but because he practises with a relentless application that the vast majority of less gifted players wouldn’t contemplate.”

His on field relationship with Ruud Van Nistelrooy yielded great results for the team as Van Nistelrooy would go on to become one of the most feared strikers in Europe. Like Best, Robson and Cantona before him, it seems like Beckham was perfect fit for the number 7 shirt but like the number 7 that followed him, Beckham would depart for the Bernabeau.

But only after cementing his place in Manchester United history.

Trophies:

Premier League: 1995–96, 1996–97, 1998–99, 1999–00, 2000–01, 2002–03

FA Cups: 1996, 1999

UEFA Champions League: 1999

Wayne Rooney

Appearances: 251

Goals: 105

Debut: 28 Sept 2004 v Fenerbahce (H)

Despite being born in Liverpool, Wayne Rooney is undoubtedly a fan favourite at Manchester United. One of the most naturally talented players England has ever produced. ‘Wazza’ as he is affectionately known by team mates and fans alike has continually grown into the role of a Man Utd player after joining from Everton in 2004 at the tender age of 18.

He missed the start of the season through injury but announced his arrival at the club with a memorable hat trick against Fenerbahce in the Champions League and has been on the rise ever since with memorable goals and performances.

Rooney was presented with United’s coveted number 10 shirt (worn by the great Denis Law) at the start of the 07-08 season and duly rose to the occasion netting 18 goals despite his season being ruined by injury.

Rooney always gives 100% and the fact he learned his trade on the streets of the tough Croxteth area of Liverpool shines through his game as his power, aggression and passion serve him well, something not lost on Sir Alex who stated, “He demonstrates great hunger and desire all the time. Without doubt, he is the best 21-year-old I have ever had.”

Although a striker, his self less attitude towards his role in the team has seen him played out of position to accommodate others yet he does not complain, rather he goes about trying to make himself the best in that position also. He once famously offered to play in defence when United were suffering an injury crisis and although Sir Alex said no, it just goes to show the kind of player Wayne Rooney is.

Rooney despite having been at United and having achieved so much is still only 24 and to the pleasure of United fans everywhere, has many more years ahead of him.

Trophies:

Premier League: 2006–07, 2007-08, 2008-09

League Cups: 2006

UEFA Champions League: 2008

As you may notice, greats such as Gary Neville, a true United man and servant of the club and Jaap Stam, a pillar at the centre of United’s treble winning defence were left out, as well as ‘Captain Marvel’ Bryan Robson who could easily go down as the best United player from that era but left United at the cut off point from which the article started.

Andy Cole, Ruud Van Nistelrooy (who many will argue was United’s best goal scorer since Denis Law) and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who scored the dramatic winning goal in the 1999Champions League final all have case as to why they should be on the list too.

Every person on the list deserves their place, with each playing a part in catapulting Manchester United to atmospheric levels. Each player brings something unique to the team Manchester United, and thus Manchester United the club benefitted.

Yet the ultimate praise must go to Sir Alex Ferguson for seeing the potential each of these players possessed and helping them to realise this under him. He has nurtured some of these players from local and national level to world superstars, a task that not just anyone is capable of doing.

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