Sir Alex Ferguson's greatest ever Manchester United eleven

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Football News

It seems a lifetime ago now for Manchester United fans but yes, Sir Alex Ferguson was once the manager of the club for almost three decades no less.

Over those near 30 years at the top, Fergie nurtured some of the finest talent and produced some of the greatest teams in the history of the game.

Who can forget the famous treble in 1999 or the notorious late goals. Here is a look at arguably the greatest Manchester United team under the management of Sir Alex Ferguson. 

Goalkeeper: Peter Schmeichel | 1991-1999

Unanimously, Peter Schmeichel is the greatest goalkeeper to ever don the gloves for Manchester United. The Great Dane was voted the best keeper in the world in 1992 following his European Championship triumph with Denmark. He was signed by Ferguson in 1991 from Brondby for a fee of £500,000, described by the manager himself as ''bargain of the century.''

United won the newly formed Premier League in 1993. The first time the club had achieved such success in over 25 years. Much of the reason for this success was the continued superb performances in goal from Schmeichel, who kept 22 clean sheets and was once again named the best keeper in the world for a second successive year.

With United, Schmeichel won the Premier League title five times, the F.A. Cup three times, the League Cup once and of course, the Champions League. He made his final appearance for the club in the Champions League final win against Bayern Munich. The club won the treble (Premier League, F.A. Cup and Champions League) in 1999 ensuring that Schmeichel left the club at the very top of world football.

In total, The Dane made 393 appearances for The Red Devils and famously scored one goal, in a UEFA Cup match in 1995. So influential was Schmeichel in his eight years with the club that it took more than six years to finally replace him with the signing of Edwin Van Der Sar in 2005.

Right-Back: Gary Neville | 1992-2011

Another obvious choice, but Neville is a man who ate, slept and drank Manchester United during his near twenty year career with the club. Neville was part of the United youth side which was dubbed as ''Fergie's Fledglings'' along with fellow club legends such as Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and David Beckham.

He became the regular first choice right-back in the 1994/95 season, a position he remained in for the rest of his entire career. Neville was part of the great side that won the treble in 1999. He was appointed club captain in 2005 following the departure of previous skipper, Roy Keane.

Neville played more than 600 games for United, scoring seven goals. In total, he won the Premier League eight times, the F.A. Cup three times and the Champions League twice in a trophy laden career.

Centre-Back: Rio Ferdinand | 2002-present

Rio Ferdinand joined United in July 2002 from rivals Leeds. The transfer cost the Old Trafford club just under £30 million, a questionable amount of money at the time. However, as the years have passed Ferdinand has proven himself as a world class defender and one of the greatest centre-backs to ever play for the Premier League giants.

In his first season, Ferdinand played more than 40 games in all competitions and won the Premier League title for the first time in his career, justifying the large sum of money invested in him the summer previous. He missed much of the following season after missing a drugs test, resulting in an eight month ban. Due to his absence, he did not figure in the club's last F.A. Cup triumph to date in 2004.

Ferdinand was selected to play in the Champions League final in 2008 against Chelsea. United won the match 6-5 on penalties and afterwards, both Ferdinand and Ryan Giggs lifted the trophy together having shared the captaincy in the absence of Gary Neville.

During his twelve years at Old Trafford, Ferdinand has won the Premier League six times, the League Cup twice and the Champions League. He has also been selected for the PFA Team of the Year on five occasions for United. He has played more than 400 games for The Red Devils in a stunning career.

Centre-Back: Nemanja Vidic | 2006-present

Many would pick Jaap Stam in place of either Vidic or Ferdinand, but not me. While Stam spent just about three years with the club, Ferdinand and Vidic formed a cohesive unit at the back for United for more than half a decade. The Serbian was signed in January 2006 for £7 million. In his first full season with the club, Vidic won the Premier League, playing 38 games and scoring four goals.

As United dominated the Premier division from the latter half of 2006 to 2009, Vidic and Ferdinand were a large part of the reason. Domestic success would in turn lead to success in Europe also and with Vidic in the starting lineup for the Champions League triumph in 2008, few disagreed with the assumption that this was one of the greatest United sides of all time.

He was announced as the club captain in 2010 and collected another Premier League title in 2011, and took his tally to five overall in 2013.

Vidic has been a rock at the back for United for over half a decade and despite his time with the club seemingly drawing to a close, he remains a favourite with the Old Trafford faithful and in his prime, a truly world class defender.

Left-Back: Denis Irwin | 1990-2002

Throughout the 1990's, United's Mr. Reliable was left-back, Denis Irwin. He signed for the Old Trafford club from Oldham in 1990 for a little over £600,000. Irwin quickly established himself as a first team regular, making more than 50 appearances in his debut season.

Irwin was dependable in both full back positions and an expert from set pieces, for many years he was the club's designated free-kick and penalty taker. It was his reliance that saw the Irishman make more than 500 appearances in twelve years with United. Irwin was also a member of the famous treble winning side.

In over a decade at Old Trafford, he won the Premier League seven times, the F.A. Cup three times and the Champions League. Just like former teammate Peter Schmeichel, United found Irwin extremely difficult to replace. In fact it wasn't until Patrice Evra was signed from Monaco in 2006 that the club found a regular full back to finally replace the Irishman.

Centre Midfielder: Roy Keane | 1993-2005

Many United fans will tell you, Roy Keane is the greatest signing ever made by Sir Alex Ferguson. A £3.75 million signing from Nottingham Forest, the Irishman possessed every attribute necessary for long term success. A natural leader and a born winner, Keane didn't know the meaning of the word defeat. 

At the beginning of his United career, there was no guarantee that Keane was going to be a first team regular from the very start as Bryan Robson and Paul Ince had formed an excellent partnership. Keane, however, took over from Robson who was coming towards the end of his career and in his first season, the Irishman played in more than 50 matches, inspiring the club to a second league title in as many years.

He became the club captain in 1997 following the shocking retirement of Eric Cantona just as United won the Premier League for a fourth time. In 1999, he was part of the treble winning side but Keane infamously missed out on the Champions League final win over Bayern Munich due to a yellow card in the semi final against Juventus.

In November 2005, Keane left the Old Trafford unexpectedly by mutually consent. He later joined Scottish side Celtic and remained with the club for the rest of his career. For United, Keane played 480 matches and scored 50 goals. His undying will to achieve helped United to become a formidable force in Europe for much of his twelve years in Manchester.

Centre Midfielder: Paul Scholes | 1993-2013

Cited by many players including Spanish stars Xavi and Andres Iniesta as one of the best midfielders of his generation, Paul Scholes broke into the United first team in the 1994/95 season. He played 25 times and scored seven goals but was unable to help the club win the Premier League, as United missed out on the final day of the season to winners Blackburn Rovers.

His second season was far more successful. Scholes played 31 matches and scored 14 times which helped United win both the Premier League and the F.A. Cup. Scholes was an integral part of the treble winning side, despite missing the Champions League final he scored in the F.A. Cup final in a 2-0 win over Newcastle.

Nine years later, Scholes celebrated another Champions League medal as United defeated Chelsea on penalties in the final in Moscow. In almost two decades as a player with the club, Scholes played more than 700 games and scored more than 150 goals. He has been hailed on a number of occasions as one of United's greatest ever players and one of England's best ever midfielders as well.

Scholes won the Premier League eleven times, the F.A. Cup three times and the Champions League twice in a phenomenal career with The Red Devils.

Right Winger: Cristiano Ronaldo | 2003-2009

In the summer of 2003, Ferguson felt the need to revitalise the team given a number of players were coming towards the latter stages of their careers. Ferguson signed goalkeeper Tim Howard, midfielders Eric Djemba-Djemba, Kleberson, striker David Bellion and Sporting Lisbon winger, Cristiano Ronaldo. It's fair to say that all but one of these signings failed to live up to the expectations of such a big club. That one was Ronaldo who is arguably the greatest foreign player to ever play at Old Trafford.

Ronaldo was signed to replace the departing David Beckham, even receiving the club's iconic number seven shirt. In his early days, the Portuguese winger was a raw talent, capable of giving defenders nightmares with his trickery but still needed to add the goals and maturity to his game to become a complete player.

His breakthrough season was the 2006/07 campaign, as he scored 23 goals in all competitions which helped the club win the Premier League for the first time in four years. The following season was even more of a success for the winger and United. On a personal level, Ronaldo scored an incredible 42 goals in all competitions as United achieved success in both the league and also in Europe, defeating domestic rivals Chelsea on penalties in the Champions League final.

Following a third successive league title triumph in 2009, Ronaldo was sold to European giants Real Madrid for a then world record fee of £80 million. In his six years at Old Trafford, Ronaldo scored 118 goals in 292 appearances.

Today he is ranked alongside the likes of George Best, Sir Bobby Charlton and Ryan Giggs as one of the clubs greatest ever players. In addition, the Portuguese winger's career has gone from strength to strength in Spain as he has averaged more than a goal a game with Real Madrid and also being voted as FIFA Ballon d'Or for 2013. Still his greatest achievements have come at United, including the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 2008.

Left Winger: Ryan Giggs | 1990-present

In this position, there is no one to match the Welshman. Giggs has played for United for more than two decades and has played almost 1,000 career matches for the Old Trafford club. A feat that ''will never be done again'' according to Ferguson.

As of the 2012/2013, Giggs has scored at least once in every single Premier League campaign since its inception in 1992. The winger turned central midfielder was widely been regarded as the best player in the 22 year history of the Premier League. Perhaps his most famous and best goal came in the F.A. Cup semi final replay against Arsenal at Highbury. From taking the ball in his own half, Giggs ran the length of the field, beating defender after defender before hammering the ball past David Seaman to send United into the final.

In his near 1,000 career matches for United, Giggs has scored more than 150 goals earning himself his rightful place among the elite players who have played for the club. To add to these amazing stats, Giggs was voted the PFA Players' Player of the Year for the 2008/09 season. His legacy lives large at Old Trafford and it will be a long time before there is another player with the loyalty, consistency and talent of the Welshman.

Striker: Eric Cantona | 1992-1997

No Manchester United eleven is complete without that of the charismatic Frenchman known as Eric Cantona. A £1.2 million signing from rivals Leeds in 1992, Cantona epitomised the Ferguson style of football and paved the way for many foreign players plying their trade in the Premier League today.

''The King'' was an integral part of the revival of Manchester United as a footballing powerhouse in the early nineties, scoring nine goals in his debut season which the side win the league title for the first time in over two and a half decades. The French striker has been described by many fans of the club as its greatest ever player and also a number of players including former striker and current Cardiff City manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who shared this opinion stating that Cantona was the best player he had played with at the club despite just one season together.

His record of 82 goals in 185 matches is remembered greatly by fans of the club and Cantona rightfully remains in the top ten Premier League players of all time.

Striker: Wayne Rooney | 2004-present

''Remember the name, Wayne Rooney'' is the ever lasting memory following his wonder winning goal against Arsenal in 2002, five days before his 17th birthday. His talent was undeniable, so much so that Ferguson splashed out near £30 million to sign the supremely gifted youngster in the summer of 2004.

Along with Cristiano Ronaldo, Rooney was purchased with the view of building a squad that could potentially dominate the Premier League and challenge in Europe for years to come. In his first season with United, he scored eleven goals and was voted as the PFA Young Player of the Year in 2005. In 2007, he scored 23 goals in all competitions which contributed greatly to his side's first league title in four years. Then in 2008, he won both the Premier League and the Champions League, scoring a further 18 goals.

His best seasons in front of goal came in the 2009/10 and 2011/12 campaigns. He scored 34 goals in all competitions, earning himself the PFA Player of the Year and the FWA Player of the Year award. To date, Rooney has scored 208 goals in 428 matches for the Manchester club, making him the most prolific scorer in the Premier League for United, with 150 goals domestically.

Rooney has won the Premier League five times, the Champions League once and the League Cup twice.

Honourable mentions: 

Edwin Van Der Sar (Goalkeeper), Patrice Evra (Left-Back), Jaap Stam (Centre-Back), Gary Pallister (Centre-Back), Steve Bruce (Centre-Back), Paul Ince (Centre Midfielder), Bryan Robson (Centre Midfielder), David Beckham (Right Winger), Lee Sharpe (Left Winger), Mark Hughes (Striker), Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (Striker), Andy Cole (Striker), Dwight Yorke (Striker), Teddy Sheringham (Striker), Ruud Van Nistelrooy (Striker), Robin Van Persie (Striker).

Do you think that this is Sir Alex Ferguson's greatest eleven? If not would you like to see selected? Have your say below.

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Peter Schmeichel
Paul Scholes
Denis Irwin
Gary Neville
Wayne Rooney
Cristiano Ronaldo
Ryan Giggs
Roy Keane
Rio Ferdinand
Eric Cantona
Manchester United
Nemanja Vidic

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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