Top 10 Manchester United players

Away from the current crop of superstars, the 12-time Premier League champions have enjoyed their fair share of legendary footballers over the years, many of whom enjoyed unprecedented levels of success during their respective time at Old Trafford.

Whether playing under the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson, Matt Busby or Ron Atkinson, the performances were regularly of the highest order; such is the expectations of the United faithful.

Numerous domestic and continental honours have consistently been awarded to the Manchester giants, with the club more often than not competing on all fronts to bolster their already impressive trophy cabinet.

However, it wouldn’t have been possible without the superstars available to the aforementioned managers so, without further adieu, below are the top 10 Manchester United players in their history.

Cristiano Ronaldo (2003 – 2009)

The most expensive player in the world for a reason, Cristiano Ronaldo lit up Old Trafford with numerous dazzling displays throughout his six year stint with United, becoming the clubs first ever Portuguese player upon signing. Arriving from Sporting CP in 2003, many were perplexed by the arrival of the then 18-year-old.

With just one senior year under his belt with the Portuguese outfit, were believed he wasn’t ready for the rigours of the Premiership. However, after making his debut as a substitute during the 4-0 win over Bolton Wanderers, his performances steadily improved before forcing himself into the starting XI under Ferguson.

By the time he left United for a record £80 million in 2009, Ronaldo had mustered an impressive 118 goals in 292 games, picking up three Premier League’s, one FA Cup and one Champions League during his six years with the club. His performances haven’t dwindled either, netting an astonishing 164 goals in 158 games for Real Madrid.

Roy Keane (1993 – 2005)

Famed for his aggressive and competitive style of play, it was no surprise to see Roy Keane captain United during his 12 year stint with the club. Nevertheless, he wasn’t guaranteed a starting spot, regardless of his transfer fee, upon his arrival due to the form of Paul Ince and Bryan Robson.

However, by the time he finally broke into the first-team, the former Republic of Ireland international had become the most experienced member of the United midfield, due to the promotion from the youth-team ranks of David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs.

It was with the aforementioned trio that saw United dominate English and European football between 1995 and 2004, incidentally during Keane’s spell as captain. Arguably his finest performance came in the semi final of the 1998/99 Champions League encounter, dragging the team from 2-0 down to win 3-2 away at Juventus to secure a place in the final, which he missed due to suspension.

Tommy Taylor (1953 – 1958)

One of the eight players who tragically lose their life in the Munich Air Disaster, Tommy Taylor was United’s most prolific strikers during his five years with the club. Having netted 112 goals in 166 games during his five years at Old Trafford following his arrival from Barnsley in 1953, it was no surprise to see him rewarded with a place in the England squad, with many believing he was to be the long-term replacement for Nat Lofthouse.

Taylor warranted his place in the national side with 16 goals in 19 games before his life was cruelly brought to an early end, aged just 26. However, he will always be remembered by all those associated with the club, with his goals seeing the front-man secure his place amongst the all time United greats.

David Beckham (1991 – 2003)

Every team loves a player that is brought up through the ranks and it was no surprise to see United fans take David Beckham to heart. Via a brief loan spell with Preston North End, it was no shock to see the midfielder establish himself as a regular in Ferguson’s starting XI upon his return.

Part of the group affectionately known “Fergie’s Fledglings”, along with the likes of Nicky Butt and the Neville brothers, Beckham shot to prominence on the first day of the 1996/97 season, lobbing Wimbledon goalkeeper Neil Sullivan from the halfway line. From that point on, the wideman became a regular household name, with the playboy-esque looks bolstering his profile further.

Beckham would go on to make almost 400 appearances for United before departing for Real Madrid in 2003, following a bust-up with Ferguson which saw the Scot kick a football boot at the midfielder. However, he’ll forever be remembered at Old Trafford and would be welcomed back to the club with open arms. Currently holds the England appearance record for an outfield player, with 115 caps to his name.

Eric Cantona (1992 – 1997)

There are two moments in history that all but made Eric Cantona the player he was. The first was his karate kick on a Crystal Palace fan in 1995, of which he was convicted of assault, and the other was his audacious lob during the 5-0 win over Sunderland in 1996, which saw the Frenchman, collar up, puff out his chest as if to say ‘who else but me?’.

As erratic as he was brilliant, Cantona more than endeared himself to the United faithful during his five stint at the club, regardless of his moments of madness. 82 goals in 185 appearances during his spell at Old Trafford saw the front-man handed the title “King Eric” by the fans.

One of his most famous moments came after his incident involving the Palace fan, in which Cantona told a bewildered press conference “When the seagulls follow the trawler, it’s because they think sardines will be thrown into the seas. Thank you very much” before exiting the room.

Ryan Giggs (1987 – Present)

It wouldn’t be a list of great United players without Ryan Giggs involved. The Wales international is currently the most decorated player in English football history, having picked up 33 trophies during his illustrious career to date.

On top of that, the wideman has made over 900 appearances for United following his debut during the 1990/91 season. Famously poached from rivals Manchester City in 1987, the Citizens must be ruing their luck having bore witness to the exploits of the 38-year-old over the last 20 years.

Despite his retirement from international in 2007, Giggs was named in the Team GB squad for the summer Olympics and subsequently made captain during their spell in the competition, which came to an unfortunate end at the quarter final stage via a penalty shootout to South Korea. The United veteran has, thus far, never been sent off while playing for the Manchester giants.

George Best (1961 – 1974)

When it comes to footballs great players, George is often, unfairly, overlooked. Lauded by the fans as one of the most naturally gifted wingers to ever grace the game, the United faithful regularly speak of Best in the same breath of Johan Cruyff and Michel Platini.

It has often been said that the only player who could stop George Best was George Best, such was his off field antics involving alcohol, drugs and women – a footballer living the rock ‘n roll lifestyle. Regardless of escapades away from football, the Northern Irishman went on to make 474 appearances during his time at Old Trafford, netting 181 times.

Unfortunately, his drinking problems caught up with him and in November 2005, passed away following complications with immunosuppressive drugs following a liver transplant in 2002. However, he will forever hold a place in the hearts of United fans, with the famous quote “Maradona good; Pele better; George Best”.

Denis Law (1962 – 1973)

Nicknamed ‘The King’ at Old Trafford, it’s a title aptly suited to Denis Law during his 11 years with United. The front-man fully warranted the tag, having netted 237 goals in 404 games for the Manchester side and at present is the only Scottish player in history to have been awarded the European Football of the Year accolade in 1964.

Arrived from Torino for a then British record transfer fee of £115,000, before netting seven minutes into his debut with United, it was the beginning of a stunning stint with the club, which was wrecked by injury later in his career.

He returned to rivals Manchester City in 1973, with only Bobby Charlton scoring more goals for United, and famously netted in the Citizens 1-0 win over their rivals, being substituted following the strike as he feared the Red Devils would have been relegated as a result before retiring from the game in 1974.

Duncan Edwards (1952 – 1958)

Like Tommy Taylor, Duncan Edwards was another whose life was cut short in the Munich Air Disaster, aged just 21. However, the England international had already written his name into United folklore, regardless of his young age.

Edwards is commemorated in a number of ways in his hometown of Dudley through a number of ways, being depicted in a stain glass window at St Francis’s Church, while the cul-de-sac close to the cemetery in which he is buried has been renamed “Duncan Edwards Close”.

Despite being just 21, Edwards was made an inaugural inductee to the English Football Hall of Fame in 2002 and it’s fair to assume that the wing-back would’ve gone on to become one of the finest English footballers in history had the disaster in Munich been avoided.

Sir Bobby Charlton (1953 – 1973)

One of the survivors of the 1958 Munich Air Disaster, Sir Bobby Charlton is widely regarded as one of the greatest midfielders of all time. His record for both United and England speaks for itself, netting 249 times for the former in 758 appearances, while winning 106 caps for the national side, scoring 49 and being part of the 1966 World Cup winning side.

In January 2011, Charlton was voted the fourth greatest United player of all time, coming in behind George Best, Eric Cantona and winner Ryan Giggs. His displays in the middle of the park warrant his place as United’s number one player in their history.

Furthermore, his contribution to United saw him awarded the freedom of the city of Manchester in 2009, with Charlton stating “I’m just so proud, it’s fantastic. It’s a great city. I have always been very proud of it”. 

Naturally, these are just 10 of the greatest players to have graced the Manchester United shirt, but there are a number of stars that could’ve made the list. Below are the 50 best players to have performed at Old Trafford in the club’s illustrious history.

As far as sport franchises are concerned, Manchester United are one of the, if not the, best of an illustrious bunch. A fanbase stretching all around the world, with fans eager to see their heroes in the famous red shirt, it is no surprise to see Manchester United tickets in high demand.