Football

25 players that shaped Ferguson's United: 10-1

Cantona was so often a match-winner for United. (©GettyImages)
Cantona was so often a match-winner for United. (©GettyImages).

10. Peter Schmeichel

Thought of as possibly the greatest goalkeeper to feature in United’s history, Schmeichel made almost 300 appearances for the club, and even though he finished his career at Manchester City, fans still love the Dane considered as ‘bargain of the century’ after being brought for £505,000.

The stopper’s relationship with Ferguson was not always smooth-sailing, with the Scot sacking Schmeichel then reappointing him, but the star’s last match, when he skippered the side in the 1999 Champions League final, will always be his crowning moment.
 

9. Ryan Giggs

Giggs is a footballer who is very tough to come by – at United now for 24 years including his youth spell, the 37-year-old is still dominating in the midfield against players half his age.

After moving into the senior side in 1990, the then-youngster was one of the players to win the Premier League title with the club in 1992, and has now gone on to amass 25 major trophies during his time with Ferguson.

When Giggs does eventually retire, hardcore fans will be almost as upset to see him leave as Ferguson himself.
 

8. Cristiano Ronaldo

Ronaldo was United’s first Portuguese signing in 2003, and only cost Ferguson £12 million. In 2009, the striker was sold to Real Madrid for £80 million.

At one stage the highest paid player in United’s history, his performances and goals for the club meant he played a significant role in the nine trophies that United won during his tenure.

He was reprieved in the 2009 Champions League final following his penalty miss when John Terry missed his own, while the 26-year-old still says he won’t shut the door on a United return.
 

7. Edwin van der Sar

Van der Sar was one of the most enjoyable goalkeepers to watch in the Barclays Premier League, and at a bargain £2 million fee, Ferguson was yet again on a winner who would become a legend for fans and pundits alike.

Van der Sar broke records with his clean sheets, coupled with his unique ability on the ball helped make United’s defence, with Vidic and Ferdinand at the heart of it, one of the most successful back lines in Europe.

When van der Sar retired at the end of last season, even Ferguson hoped he might change his mind, but the Dutchman was ready to move on.
 

6. Wayne Rooney

Rooney wasn’t exactly a cheap buy for United, and the striker was showing plenty of potential to before making the move to Old Trafford in 2004.

While Rooney said he wanted to leave United at the end of last year, Ferguson convinced the striker to stay, and he continually insists now that his long term future lies with the Red Devils.

It’s yet more proof of how influential Ferguson is over players, and how the manager has kept a club together and challenging for trophies, even in moments of great player unrest.
 

5. Paul Scholes

Scholes, like Giggs and Gary Neville, was a one-club man at United during his 20-year long career.

A man of few words, Scholes was a player that Ferguson could rely on at times of need, and the midfielder has been sorely missed since departing the club at the end of last season.

A Manchester United line-up without Scholes over the past two decades would have been a very different one.

Tom Cleverley is now attempting to replicate Scholes' brilliance with Ferguson holding back on purchasing a replacement for the retired star.
 

4. Eric Cantona

Cantona once compared being at United to being on heroine – very, very addictive and equally tough to quit.

And while he only made 140 appearances for the club, the France international was a player who changed the shape of football, foreigners in the English game and the United squad entirely.

So what was Cantona’s most memorable moment for United? Was it his karate-kick on a Crystal Palace fan? When he defeated Liverpool in the 1996 FA Cup final in the final minutes? Or his infamous ‘I am King’ goal celebration? With so many fantastic moments, United fans would feel lucky to have experienced such a player.
 

3. Denis Irwin

Irwin is arguably one of the best left-backs in the history of the club. He won seven Premier League titles with the side, along with being a part of the treble-winning squad, and while he didn’t have the flare of Roy Keane or Eric Cantona, without Irwin, United may not have achieved so much during that golden decade.

After retiring in 2002, Irwin was awarded a testimonial match against Manchester City, but with the two sides harbouring a long-standing rivalry, it was still a very physical tie, and Irwin was sent off in the 37th minute after a bad challenge by George Weah.
 

2. Roy Keane

After 12 years at United Keane became one of the most iconic players ever to feature for United, and Ferguson can be credited with beating off competition to secure the future captain from Nottingham Forest in 1993.

And the British record transfer fee of £3.75 million turned out to be worth it, with Keane leading the club to glory in almost every one of the years he played at Old Trafford.

Of his performance against Juventus in the 1999 Champions League semi final, in which United came back from 2-0 down to win 3-2, Ferguson said of Keane: "It was the most emphatic display of selflessness I have seen on a football field.

"Pounding over every blade of grass, competing if he would rather die of exhaustion than lose, he inspired all around him.

"I felt it was an honour to be associated with such a player."
 

1. David Beckham

Talk to someone who knows absolutely nothing about football, and they’ll know this name. Beckham came through United’s youth system to star for the senior side in the 1990s, and if any player is a testament to Ferguson’s talent as a manager, Beckham would surely be the pillar of all tributes.

With 61 goals in over 250 appearances, the midfielder moved on to stardom for both club and country, as well as having to endure a flying Ferguson boot along the way.

Beckham will go down in folklore as one of the greatest United players ever, and while Ferguson will nurture and purchase talent after talent, in Golden Balls he came closest to perfection.

 

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