Football

Best XI of the Sir Alex Ferguson era

King Eric is the captain of Fergie's best ever XI (©GettyImages)
King Eric is the captain of Fergie's best ever XI (©GettyImages).

Despite the fact that the current crop of Manchester United players could attain the largest number of points for the winning team ever (beating Chelsea’s 95 points) or even break 100 points in a season, the current squad is still seen at home and abroad as not quite as good as some of the previous years.

So who are the top 11 players for Manchester United. That seems too hard to answer, so we’ve put together the starting line up as well as a substitute bench.

Goalkeeper | Peter Schmeichel:

It’s not actually a contest, while Van der Sar and Bartez were both great keepers, and De Gea has been excellent, there’s one keeper who has stood out, head and shoulders above the rest.

Bought in 1991 for what Sir Alex called the ‘bargain of the centrury’ (£505,000) Peter Schmeichel helped Manchester United to a treble winning season in 1999. The Danish keeper, who is currently the most capped player for his country, is a living legend in the red half of Manchester, despite the fact that he spent a season at bitter rivals Manchester City.

Right Back | Gary Neville :

For me it has to be Gary Neville. He played the majority of the Premier League in this position. On any list of great right-backs of the last 20 years he’s got to be near the top and his trophy count tells you why.

Eight Premier League trophies, three FA Cups, two Champions League medals and two English League Cups speak for themselves. He’s also been on the PFA team of the year five times in 1997, 1998, 1999, 2005 and 2007; as well as making it to the ‘Team of the decade’, decided by the Premier League 10 Seasons Awards, in 1992 and 2001.

While Rafael has been brilliant over the last few seasons, Neville deserves this spot, he was, let us not forget, the captain from 2005-2011

Left Back | Irwin:

Patrice Evra is for me one of the best leftback’s of all time, he’s played some excellent football, and has managed to keep Fabio Da Silva out of the squad much longer than Alex Ferguson ever thought he would. But when we look over the last 27 years, he’s still not the best player to grace United’s back line.

Denis Irwin won, in his 12 years at United, seven league titles, three FA cups and was part of the Champions League (treble) winning side.

Bought for only £625,000, Denis Irwin is one of Ferguson’s best value for money buys. It’ll be hard to push this man off the first team. Even for Evra.

Centre Back | Nemanja Vidic:

Nemanja Vidić is surely the greatest centre back of the current era. Players like Dider Drogba and Theirry Henry have struggled to get past him. United’s current captain, Vidic is the man that every manager in the country wants; while many have disagreements over whether you’d take Suarez or Bale, I don’t think anyone would come above Vidic in the middle of the best PL back line, even now. Vidic has been in the PFA’s Premier League team of the year four times, been the Premier League’s Player of the year twice and featured in the FIFA World XI twice. Playing for United since 2006, Vidic has four Premier League titles as well as a Champions League winners medal.

Centre Back | Rio Ferdinand:

Rio Ferdinand broke the record for most expensive defender twice, when moving to Leeds, and then again when moving to United. Since being there Ferdinand has won everything there is to win at club level.

Once captain of England, Rio is a player that had aided United in all of their trophies since his arrival in 2002. Making it to five PFA Premier League Teams of the year and one FIFA World XI, Ferdinand gets the nod in our starting XI.

Right Midfield | Cristiano Ronaldo:

Christiano Ronaldo. I’m not sure anything more than his name needs to be said here. One of the best players of the game, ever; one of the top two players of the game right now (possibly, possibly second to Messi), one of Old Trafford’s favourites, even when he plays against the Red Devils. Ronaldo burst on to the scene in 2003 with a goal from a free kick against Portsmouth, and since then has been scoring goals better than almost anyone on the planet.

His move away from United was devastating for many fans, but he has consistently been linked with a move back, especially now with the strong possibility that Jose Mourinho will leave Real Madrid at the end of this season.

Left Midfield | Ryan Giggs:

Giggs is the Premier League. When he retires we’ll have to rename the trophy the Giggs memorial cup. He’s won it more times than any other human being. Not only that but the man is still one of the most influential players in a team of superstars.

His quietness off the pitch hasn’t mattered, as he’s become an icon from simply being great. One of, if not the best, winger of all time, Giggs, at 39, is a phenomenon that will be talked about for decades to come.

Centre Midfield | Paul Scholes

Another Stalwart of the Ferguson-United Era; the former England International Retired in 2011, but came back to play for the Red Devils last season. Although he hasn’t been as involved as he once was, Scholes still commands the game whenever he plays.

His quick thinking and accurate passing has earned him the nickname ‘Sat-nav’ in Manchester. Before the need for a Claude Makelele type midfileder Scholes commanded the centre of the pitch as United dominated the Premier League.

As of yet, Scholes has not signed an extension contract, but even if he doesn’t, and decides to hang up his boots for good, Scholes will remain a legend in the red half on Manchester forever.

Centre Midfield | Eric Cantona:

Recently SAF has discussed the idea that United have become a one-man team, relying on Robin Van Persie’s goals. His response was this:

‘I don't go along with the idea we have become a one-man team. There was a time in our history when one man did carry us for a while.’ And that man was Eric Cantona. When Sir Alex Ferguson describes a player as carrying the United team, during a period of unprecedented success, you know you’re onto someone amazing.

Described over the years as the most influential player the Premier League has ever seen, Cantona, or King Eric, is a United legend. In this line up of champions you’d have to give him the captaincy.

Striker | Wayne Rooney:

Surely it couldn’t be anyone other than Wayne Rooney. With close to 200 Premier League goals, Rooney is one of the greatest forwards England has ever seen. He’s been deployed across the front three, as well as in the midfield for United over the past few years, and has managed to excel anywhere he plays, both attacking and getting behind the ball to defend.

As of yet his club form hasn’t really been seen on the international stage, but he is England’s youngest ever goal scorer, and at 27 years of age, he still has a fair way ahead of him. United fans will surely forgive him for his request to leave United in the 2010-11 season as since then he’s played some of the best football of his life.

Striker | Van Nistelrooy:

It was a tough decision, Ruud Van Nistelrooy or Robin Van Persie. Both Dutchmen have been hugely influential for Manchester United at one time or another. Both have a goal to game ratio of over 0.65 goals per game. But Van Nistelrooy has to pip it. He played for United for five seasons, scoring 44 goals in 52 matches in 2002-03.

If Van Persia continues playing at his current rate for the Red Devils he’ll certainly push Ruud out of contention, at the very least onto the subs bench, but he’s only been there 9 months, so the final spot in the starting XI goes to Ruud Van Nistelrooy

Subs:

Edwin Van Der Sar:

If it wasn’t for Schmeichel, this man would be number one on this list, such was the nature of his game, narrowly losing out to a treble winning year himself, the Dutch goalkeeper was a giant between the sticks. Pleaded with to stay another year, Van Der Sar was a United great in his own right.

Ole Gunnar Solskjær:

It’d actually be more of a crime to have Ole Gunnar starting for the red devils than it would to miss him out on this list. The very definition of a super sub, his goal in the last few seconds of the Champions League final will always be remembered by United Fans.

Jaap Stam

I might get lynched for this decision, but the man won three Premier League titles in three years; as well as being in the treble winning side. I remember him being scary in the back four, helping United along their way and then moving aside for the up and coming players.

Roy Keane:

A commanding midfielder, who scared the living daylights off many a player. Not quite as scary or influential a King Eric was, but still a player of talent and presence. Hasn’t, yet, achieved the same heights as a manager, as he did a player, but on the other hand he has been quite unlucky with being sacked too early.

Park Ji-Sung:

59 of his 205 matches he came of the bench, and almost every time he did, he influenced the game. Park Ji-Sung was a player who saved it for the big games. Many big names seem huge against the lower opposition, but Park managed to seem even bigger against Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool (who at the time came together to be the ‘big four’).

Topics:
Football
Eric Cantona
Manchester United
Wayne Rooney
Rio Ferdinand

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