Arguably the most successful English football club since the 2000s’, we look back at eleven of the most iconic Manchester United players.
With eight EPL title wins since 2000, Manchester United has been a hotbed for footballing talents even when Marcus Rashford was still in diapers.
To be fair, then-United manager Sir Alex Ferguson should get his due for fostering and developing the players under his charge.
Well before Paul Pogba bossed the United midfield, there was Roy Keane.
And while Romelu Lukaku’s name is now being chanted in the Theatre of Dreams, there was a time when the Old Trafford crowds were singing Ruud van Nistelrooy.
Those two revered players are but just two who have etched their name in United’s history since 2000.
So which other iconic United players of old makes our list?
1. Cristiano Ronaldo
Arguably, the number one player for United, Portugal national captain Cristiano Ronaldo honed his madcap footballing skills under then-United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
With a price tag of £12.24 million, the two-time PFA Player of the Year was the most expensive teenager in English football history at that time.
Ronaldo would go on to score 118 goals in his six-year United stay; winning three EPL titles, one FA Cup, Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup crown.
He also won his first Ballon d’Or with the Red Devils before making the switch to Real Madrid in a then-world record £80 million deal.
2. Wayne Rooney
Despite being a boyhood Evertonian fan, Wayne Rooney is probably better known for his footballing prowess in a Red Devil shirt.
The former United captain and club record goalscorer is another one of those who benefited under the tutelage of then-manager Ferguson.
Between 2004 to 2017, Rooney scored 253 goals for the club – playing mainly as a forward, as well as a variety of midfield roles.
The five-time league title winner returned to Everton in 2017 after leaving them for United thirteen years ago.
3. Ryan Giggs
A United icon through and through, there is no other player that is synonymous with the club than Welsh winger Ryan Giggs.
Before taking up a coaching role upon his retirement in 2014, the speedy United academy player was the only player to play in each of the first 22 EPL seasons – scoring in each of the first 21 seasons.
Besides holding the EPL’s record for most assists with 271, the 43-year-old ex-player also played an integral part in helping the Red Devils kick start their most successful era with their first league title in 26 years back in 1992.
4. David Beckham
Also a member of the Class of ’92, David Beckham is another academy player that have gone on and established himself as a footballing icon.
The English right winger, best known for his precise free-kicks and pinpoint crossing, was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2008.
During his decade-long stint with his boyhood club, Beckham won six league titles, two FA Cups and one Champions League medal with 80 assists and 62 goals!
He would go on to play for Real Madrid, AC Milan, LA Galaxy and PSG after leaving the Red Devils in 2003.
5. Roy Keane
Though younger United fans will herald Michael Carrick as the quintessential defensive midfield lynchpin, the older fans will know that he is simply taking a leaf out of ex-captain Roy Keane’s book.
A hard tackling, no-nonsense midfield enforcer; Keane is better known for the number of goals that he prevented than the 51 goals he scored.
A fiery character on and off the pitch; the current Irish national team assistant manager was not afraid to lock horns with opposing players and even his own manager Ferguson!
Keane also made the headlines when he was sent off in the 2001 Manchester derby for a blatant knee-high tackle aimed at Alf-Inge Haland: “My attitude was, f*^k him. What goes around comes around. He got his just rewards. He f*^ked me over and my attitude is an eye for an eye.”
6. Rio Ferdinand
Recognised widely as a TV pundit these days, Rio Ferdinand was a part of the United’s rearguard that snagged him six league titles, one Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup win.
The West Ham academy player was snapped up by United for £30 million back in 2002 – a British record for a defender then! Ferdinand would go on to form one of the best EPL defensive partnership with Serbian Nemanja Vidic.
Despite missing much of the 2004 season due to suspension, the ex-Leeds player still managed 81 clean sheets until he left them in 2014.
7. Ruud van Nistelrooy
Before Jamie Vardy scored in eleven consecutive EPL matches in 2015, Ruud van Nistelrooy set the bar with the then-EPL record by scoring in ten consecutive matches back in 2003.
The prolific Dutch striker was United’s fox in the box; sniffing and putting away 95 chances in the EPL alone! He scored 150 goals during 2001 to 2006 for the Red Devils.
However, the fourth-highest Champions League goalscorer left United for Real Madrid after clashing with manager Ferguson. The current PSV youth team manager also played for Hamburg and Malaga before retiring.
8. Gary Neville
A one-club man; Gary Neville was a key part of United’s Class of ‘92 alongside Beckham, Giggs and his own brother Phil!
The ex-United captain and right-back can be found maundering down the flank and peppering the opposition box with dangerous crosses.
During his time, Neville chipped in with 49 assists while keeping it tight at the back with 23 clean sheets.
The English Football Hall of Fame inductee won eight EPL titles, three FA Cups, two Champions League and one FIFA Club World Cup in his 19 years at the club.
9. Paul Scholes
Another one-club man and a member of the Class of ’92, Paul Scholes was an attacking midfielder whose trademark volleys made him a danger man whenever he was on the pitch.
Despite his poor disciplinary record (the fourth-most yellow carded player in EPL history with 97 cautions), the English midfielder was hailed by managers and players alike. Scholes, the 155-goal machine, has been described by Thierry Henry as the greatest player in EPL history.
United missed him so much when he initially retired in 2011 that he returned to play for them in 2012, before finally retiring in 2013.
10. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
One of the heroes responsible for United’s historical ’99 Treble (EPL, FA Cup and Champions League); Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is a cult hero among Red Devil fans.
Nicknamed The Baby-faced Assassin, the Norwegian striker came off the bench to score the last-minute goal against Bayern Munich! It would not be the last time that Solskjaer repeated that trick.
The beloved United icon still managed a total of 126 goals in his decade-long stay despite starting most matches from the bench.
11. Park Ji-sung
Before serving as United’s club ambassador, Park Ji-sung’s office was down on the pitch as a versatile midfielder known for his crazy work rate, exceptional fitness levels and pace.
Affectionately called “Three-Lungs” Park, the South Korea national team captain was a steal at £4 million back in 2005. Though he was the second Asian player to play for United, Park was the first Asian to captain United.
He left United in 2012 for Queens Park Rangers, but not before chipping in with 27 goals and having won four league titles, one Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup.
Did we missed out on your United player? Don’t agree with our retro United selection?
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