During the enforced break from John’s regular column, English Premier League Predictions For Saturday, it is with great pleasure that we publish his Manchester United All-Time Premier League Best Eleven! There will be plenty more to come from John, as the hiatus continues, so check back regularly.
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Also, may sure to check out this popular Barnsley FC podcast, Halftimepie, where John was recently interviewed.
1. Peter Schmeichel
Between the sticks for United, there is only one name that can be put in an all-time Manchester United Premier League team.
The Big Dane signed for Manchester United in August 1991.
What most will not remember is although United went on to dominate the Premier League for over 2-decades and Sir Alex Ferguson was rightly knighted for his tremendous service to the British game, back in 1991, it wasn’t certain that Alex Ferguson, as he was simply known back then, would even continue as the Manchester United supremo.
In 1991, United had gone 24-years without a League Title victory and Alex was assembling a team to try and win a top-flight title.
At the time Denmark had a club called Brondby that produced some great players.
This year the footballing world was supposed to see the Euro 2020’s with 24-European Countries competing in the coveted Competition.
In a first for the Euros, the competition was going to be held in 12-host countries with the Semi-Final and Final taking place at Wembley in England.
Unfortunately due to the current Coronavirus Pandemic, the competition has been cancelled at least until the summer of 2021.
In 1992, the Euros were just an 8-team event that had Sweden, as the host nation, France, England, Netherlands, Germany, Scotland and 2-countries that are no longer in existence, CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) which was essentially a Russian side that was assembled from the old Soviet Union.
The other team that was supposed to go to Sweden was Yugoslavia.
Unfortunately, the Balkan country had descended into chaos with a war ensuing which eventually split the country up and would no longer exist in the form of Yugoslavia.
UEFA couldn’t allow Yugoslavia to play in Euro‘92, so the team that Yugoslavia had pipped in the Qualifying stages, Denmark were invited to take part in Sweden.
Peter Schmeichel, now at Manchester United, joined up with some of his ex-Brondby teammates and sensationally upset all the odds to win the Euro’92 competition.
What’s even more astounding about the Euro’92 victory, is Denmark only won 1 of their 3 Group Games, losing initially 1-0 to the hosts Sweden, drawing 0-0 against England, then defeating France 2-1 in the final group game.
That victory against France gave Denmark a 2nd-place slot in Group 1, that meant a Semi-Final game against Group 2 winner’s Netherlands, who, like Sweden in Group 1, were unbeaten.
The Semi-Final against the Netherlands finished in a 2-2 scoreline with Denmark progressing to the Final following a penalty shootout.
The Danes took on Germany in the Euro’92 Final, following Germany’s Semi-Final victory against host nation Sweden.
The Germans were overwhelming favourites to win the competition but with Peter Schmeichel between the sticks, Germany couldn’t score and goals from Danes John Jenssen and Kim Vilfort meant that Denmark had upset the odds and were the surprise winners of the competition.
A lot of the football faithful assume United signed Peter after his ‘92 exploits but actually Mr Ferguson had the foresight to sign the Big Dane a year earlier and Pete had already spent a year in the rain of Manchester.
Peter’s 1st-season at United saw the Red Devil’s miss out on their 1st-Top Flight title since the 1966/67 season, finishing 2nd to Leeds United.
In the inaugural 1992/93 Premier League season and following Peter’s Euro’92 victory, Manchester United finally won their 1st-title in 26-emotional years, due largely to the exploits of Peter Schmeichel.
Peter went on to win 5-Premier League titles in the ‘90s culminating in the historic Treble winning season in 1998/99, where the Great Dane captained the Red Devil’s to not only the Premier League title but the UEFA Champions League and the FA Cup.
Peter also won 3-FA Cups and 1-League Cup.
The Champions League victory bookended Peters 1st-trophy won at United, following United’s victory in the UEFA Super Cup in November 1991.
As the then-current champions of the European Cup Winners Cup in 1991, Manchester United, took on the then-current UEFA Champions League winners, Red Star Belgrade.
A single Brian McClair goal gave Peter his 1st of many trophies gained at Old Trafford in the ‘90s.
Soon after the Treble winning celebrations were over, Peter left Manchester United and moved to Portugal to play for Sporting Lisbon.
As well as preventing goals going into the net, Big Pete also had the knack of scoring the odd goal in games.
Manchester United have had some great goalkeeper’s in the Premier League era, including Fabian Barthez signed after the Frenchman’s 1998 World Cup and Euro’2000 victories.
Fabian was sought after specifically as a replacement for Big Pete, as Peter’s immediate replacement, Mark Bosnich was not considered as a long term stopper by Sir Alex.
Massimo Taibi may be waiting a long time to get invited to a Manchester United Top Goalkeeper reunion party.
Edwin Van Der Sar and David De Gea are up there with Peter Schmeichel but the Great Dane gets the nod in the United all-time Premier League Eleven.
2. Gary Neville
Another player straight into the Manchester United starting eleven without much of an argument is Gary Neville.
For a long period, Gary was the best Right-Back in the Premier League and for England.
However, his sister Tracey says Gary wasn’t even the best Right-Back in the Neville household, putting her twin brother Phil ahead of the older sibling.
Gary made his debut for Manchester United in a UEFA Cup game in 1992 but had to wait until the 1994/95 Premier League season to establish himself in the side.
Big Nev had played 1-game in the 1993/94 Premier League season and then shared the Right-Back position with Denis Irwin who was often switched from his Left-Back role when Sir Alex chose Lee Sharpe as a tactical Left-Back in certain games in the 94/95 season.
Gary was part of the Class of ‘92 youngsters, that included Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt as well as David Beckham.
Also part of the Class was Robbie Savage, John O’Kane, Ben Thornley, Simon Davies and Keith Gillespie.
Although Phil Neville is a constant inclusion as one of the Class of ‘92 stars, Phil wasn’t an original member in 1992, as Phil is 2-years younger than Gary and the rest.
In August 1995 at the start of Manchester United’s Double-Winning season, Match of the Day pundit Alan Hansen made his now infamous,
‘you can’t win anything with kids’ statement after Fergie’s Fledgling’s had suffered a 3-1 defeat against Aston Villa in the opening game of the 1995/96 season.
Alan Hansen was a sublime footballer in his day, the FIFA ‘20 brigade who are not familiar with Alan, just have to substitute Mr Hansen for Virgil Van Dijk.
Alan then went on to be a great pundit on Match of the Day but it’s fair to say, his ‘kids’ statement wasn’t his finest moment.
Both Gary and Phil played against Villa in the opener with Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes in midfield, at the side of Roy Keane and Lee Sharpe.
David Beckham and another of the Class of ‘92 side John O’Kane were both substitutes with David coming on at half-time and John coming on later in proceedings.
United lost that game but Sir Alex stuck with the youth and with Eric Cantona and Ryan Giggs coming back into the starting eleven, the Red Devil’s went on to win the 1995/96 Premier League title and the 1996 FA Cup against Liverpool with a solitary Eric Cantona goal that separated United and the White Suited Spice Boys.
Although Gary didn’t start the final, with Phil taking his place at Right-Back (Tracey in the background shouting ‘I told you so!’), Gary was a substitute and came on in the final minutes to get a winners medal.
Paul Scholes was also a substitute that day in May 1996 and got half-hour longer game-time than Gary.
Eric’s goal did earn this EveryTip contributor a steady £40 as, at 4/1 to be First Goal Scorer, a tenner was punted.
Gary went on to establish himself, not only as the Manchester United Right-Back but also the England Right-Back for a good 10-years, gaining his debut in 1995 and taking part in the Euro’96 in England when the host nation got to the Semi-Final but were eventually beaten on penalties by Germany.
The defining memory taken from the tournament for Gary was when Paul ‘Gazza’ Gascoigne scored his wonder goal against the Jocks, Gary ran straight up to the legend and squirted water into Gazza’s mush recreating an infamous Dentist Chair sequence that the players got slated for prior to the Euro’s starting.
Another infamous moment from Gary’s International career came in a qualifying game against Croatia in 2006 when Big Nev harmlessly past the ball back to the England ‘keeper Paul Robinson, the ball bounced over Paul’s foot and ended up on the goal.
Although the ‘keeper received the most amount of criticism following the blunder, Gary was credited with the own-goal.
Gary won 8-Premier League titles, 2-European Champions Leagues, 3-FA Cups, 2-League Cups, a FIFA World Club Cup as well as 3-Community Shields and an Intercontinental Cup (whatever that is?) in his time at Manchester United.
Gary spent his entire career at Old Trafford, that spanned just short of 20-years, with over 600-appearances, which quite simply is brilliant, as well as 85-Caps for England.
After the playing career finished Gary Neville has established himself as an expert pundit for Sky Sports who’s views are forthright and at times controversial.
Legend Gary, Respect.
3. Denis Irwin
At Left-Back there were a couple of choices to dwell on but the inspirational Irishman gets the nod over the Frenchman Patrice Evra.
Although Denis had a trophy-laden career for Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson bought Denis from Oldham, where Den had already made a name for himself playing over 150-times for the Greater Manchester club.
Mr Irwin was an ever-present in the inaugural Premier League season of 1992/93 where United won the title.
The following season where Manchester United won the double, Denis again was an ever-present, the only player that Sir Alex picked constantly that season.
In 1996, when United repeated the Double, Denis got his hands on his 2nd-FA Cup Winner’s medal.
If you google Denis Irwin and read his Wiki-page it says that the Irishman won the FA Cup 3-times in 93, 96 and 99.
Even though Denis was an integral part of the 1999, Manchester United Treble winning side, Irwin was unable to play in the FA Cup Final against Newcastle, after being sent off against Liverpool a couple of weeks earlier, so never actually got a FA Cup medal that season.
Having missed the Wembley showpiece, Denis was thrown straight back into the starting eleven for the historic game at the Nou Camp that saw United beat Bayern Munich in the Champions League Final to cement their Treble-Winning season.
Although the quiet Irishman was less vocal than Bryan Robson, Peter Schmeichel or his International team-mate Roy Keane, Denis’ importance to Manchester United should not be forgotten.
There is a story cemented in folklore of when the then Leeds United chairman Bill Fotherby rang the Manchester United supremo Martin Edwards back in 1992, bearing in mind Leeds United were the then-current Division 1-champions and asked to sign Denis to take him back to Elland Rd where Irwin had started his career.
The response was swift, stating that Denis was staying at Old Trafford, however, during the conversation, Sir Alex asked Martin to enquire as to the availability of a certain Eric Cantona.
Bill must have known the so-called problems that supposedly Eric was causing in the Leeds dressing room and the rest, as they say, is history.
Instead of selling Denis Irwin to Leeds United, Sir Alex knew the importance of the Irishman and simply called him, his greatest pound-for-pound signing at just £625,000.
In fact, when asked on many occasions as who would make his all-time Manchester United team, Sir Alex often responded that there were far too many great players to give an eleven but one that was a certainty was Denis Irwin.
Denis Irwin will always be remembered as a legend at Old Trafford and is up there with the best of them.
4. Rio Ferdinand
One that has to be included in a Manchester United Best is this Rolls-Royce of a player, Rio Ferdinand.
Rio, similar to the Famous Trotter Family, ‘all right Del Boy’, originates from Peckham in South London and started his career at West Ham.
Whilst at West Ham, as an 18-year old, Rio played against Barnsley FC in the Reds first ever game in the Premier League back in August 1997.
In the same team as Frank Lampard.
Rio also made his England debut in the same season.
With a number of clubs after the young defenders signature, it may, at the time, been a surprise that Rio signed for Leeds United in 2000 and not initially Manchester United, for a then British Record Transfer fee of £18 Million.
Following a superb 2002 World Cup display in Japan and South Korea, Rio joined Manchester United from the West Yorkshire club for a fee in the region of £30 Million which, again was another British Transfer Record.
At the age of 23, Rio Ferdinand had finally joined the top club in the Premier League where he immediately won the title in his 1st-season.
Winning the Premier League 6-times in 2002/03, 2006/07, 2007/08, 2008/09, 2010/11 and 2012/13, along with the coveted European Champions League in 2008, plus the World Club Cup a few months after the Champions League victory over Chelsea.
Strangely for a player of Rio’s exceptional talent and the number of trophies that United won over the years, Ferdinand never won the FA Cup in his time at Old Trafford.
Rio spent just short of 11-seasons at United, appearing just 14-times in David Moyes’ ill-fated season in 2013-14 when Rio’s contract came to an end and he left Old Trafford.
Whilst in Manchester it wasn’t all plain sailing as early into his career for the Red Devil’s, Rio inexplicably failed to turn up for a routine Drugs Test and although was never charged with taking drugs, Ferdinand was banned for 8-months for not giving a sample.
The ban prevented Rio from taking part in Euro 2004 in Portugal for England.
Whilst playing for England over a period of some 14-years and being selected in 4-World Cup Squads, Rio never actually appeared at a Euro Championship, due to the ban in 2004 and the fact England didn’t qualify in 2008.
Liverpool fans rave about Virgil Van Dijk, yet United had Rio Ferdinand for 11-season’s who can match Virgil on every level.
That’s not a slur on Virgil, far from it, that is the utmost respect for both players, in a generation when forwards are receiving all the plaudits.
Rio Ferdinand rarely went to ground when defending and knew exactly where to be on the pitch using his footballing brain and pace to quash any impending danger.
Just a shame Harry Redknapp chose Rio to start for the Hammers back in August 1997 at Oakwell.
5. Steve Bruce
To partner Rio at the heart of the United defence in a Best Of, there are quite a few candidates that could wear the famous Red shirt, such as Nemanja Vidic, Jaap Stam, David May, Ronny Johnsen, Gary Pallister, Laurent Blanc, even the Barcelona legend Gerard Pique.
Maybe William Prunier is one that is a case of ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you Bill’
However, the player given the nod to partner Big Rio is Steve Bruce.
Steve was the first one of the Centre-Back brigade out of them all to lift the Premier League title.
The Geordie, who is now the manager of Newcastle United, was one of Sir Alex’s first signings for United, however, Steve had been at Old Trafford for over 5-years before the first of his title wins.
Whilst probably the greatest ever Premier League manager in the history (yes! greater than Pep and Jurgen!) consistently picked Steve in his starting eleven, no England manager ever did. From Ron Greenwood, who was England manager when Big Brucey began his career in 1979, through to Glenn Hoddle, in charge in 1999, when Steve called time on his illustrious career.
The England managers, who in that time included Sir Bobby Robson, Graham Taylor and Terry Venables, never had the decency to even call Steve up to a squad, never mind give him a game.
This would become another fault of the England managers, for another player in this Best of.
At his time at Old Trafford, Steve won 3-Premier League titles, 3-FA Cups (3-more than Rio) the 2nd of 2-League Cups in total in Steve’s career and a European Cup Winners Cup.
Strangely enough, Steve’s 1st-trophy wasn’t achieved at Manchester United.
Big Steve actually won the 1st of his 2-League Cups whilst playing for Norwich City.
As well as being a rock at the back for United, Steve played with, captained and brought through some of the best Manchester United players of all-time.
The legend that is Roy Keane, who it is fair to say wasn’t the most cohesive of team-mates, didn’t mess with Steve Bruce.
Towards the end of Steve’s Old Trafford career, Sir Alex Ferguson left Bruce out of the 1996 FA Cup final squad against Liverpool.
A lot has been thought about that decision that it was disrespectful on Sir Alex’s part, however, when looked at from a different perspective, Steve had been injured for the 3-weeks leading up to the final.
Now 35-years old, Steve was coming, not only to the end of his Manchester United career but also his playing career, so in the whole context of both Steve and Sir Alex’s time at Old Trafford, the omission from the 1996 FA Cup squad, shouldn’t be dwelled on too much.
No Manchester United fan will have a bad word to say about Steve Bruce and the Geordie lad is a worthy addition to any Best Of debate.
6. Roy Keane
It’s probably inconceivable to think that a Manchester United Premier League Best Of, doesn’t include Paul Scholes.
Unfortunately for little Paul, Roy gets in ahead of the Ginger King.
It was a tough decision but like any great manager, there are only eleven that can start and Roy just pips Paul for the midfield jersey.
If the faithful can remember prior to Roy’s arrival at Old Trafford in the summer of 1993, where United had just won the 1st-Premier League title and United’s 1st-Top Flight title in 26-years.
Sir Alex had Paul Ince and Bryan Robson as his midfield generals and it wasn’t sure Roy would get into the starting line-up.
Roy probably just had to play 15-minutes on the training pitch for Sir Alex to say,
‘Roy’s starting Saturday’
The other mitigating factor was Bryan was now 36-years old and although a true United legend, the years had taken their toll on Big Bryan so Sir Alex knew Roy would simply slip straight into Captain Marvels shirt.
Sometimes you would think that Sir Alex Ferguson just got lucky.
Like the legend just made it up as he went along.
Bryan Robson coming to an end, Roy Keane available.
Roy Keane ingratiated the United faithful early in his career by scoring the winning goal in the Manchester Derby against City, when Big Keano got on the end of a Denis Irwin cross to score the 3rd goal in a great comeback by United who were 2-0 down against their Noisy Neighbours and following Eric Cantona’s double, Keano became an instant legend for the Red Devil’s.
Roy was an enforcer in the United dressing room, famously refusing to call Paul Ince ‘the Governor’
Although a fierce figure in the United fraternity, Roy did have a soft spot for Ryan Giggs and couldn’t show any authority towards the Welshman who if taking a rollicking from Roy would simply smile.
Roy Keane was a fierce competitor that Sir Alex knew how to use to get the best from not only Roy but from Roy’s team-mates.
With 7-Premier League titles and 4-FA Cups for Manchester United, the Irishman is up there with the most decorated player of his nation.
It is stated that Roy won the European Champions League in United’s Treble Winning Season of 1998/99 yet Keano didn’t play in the final against Bayern Munich at the Nou Camp, after receiving 2-Yellow Cards in the 2-legged Semi-Final against Juventus.
Roy received the 2nd of his 2-Yellows early on in the 2nd-leg but instead of wallowing that he would now miss the final, Roy produced one of the greatest displays of his career to drag United into that final, even scoring a great header in the tie.
The irony in missing the final, is that Roy’s rival for this midfield slot in a Best Of, Paul Scholes, also missed that historic night in Barcelona for the same reason as Roy.
Sir Alex, at the time, had the luxury of choosing anyone of Roy Keane, Paul Scholes or Nicky Butt.
Paul Scholes was a one-club man and won 11-Premier League titles, spanning nearly 20-years, with his 1st in 1995, to his last in 2013.
3-FA Cups, 2-League Cups and finally a well-deserved European Champions League in 2008, following the hurt of missing the 1999 final.
Paul’s career at United far outshines Roy’s and most would include Paul ahead of the Irishman but football is built on opinions and with only one shirt up for grabs, Roy just, just gets the seat in the dressing room, however, Paul is a very credible stand-in, should Roy pull an injury in the warm-up.
7. Eric Cantona
Le Enfant Magnifique.
As mentioned earlier, the then-current Top Flight League Champions, Leeds United enquired about the possible purchase of Denis Irwin from Manchester United.
Given short-shrift by Martin Edwards, Sir Alex was in the background and curiously enquired about the availability of Eric Cantona.
Probably there were rumours abound that Eric wasn’t seeing eye-to-eye with the Leeds United manager Howard Wilkinson or some of his team-mates at Elland Rd, so Martin just asked ‘How much?’
Astoundingly, Bill Fotherby, the boss at Leeds United, offered the enigmatic Frenchman up at £1 Million.
The next day Martin rang Bill back and said that Manchester would take Eric off their hands as if United were doing Leeds a favour.
The fee was announced as £1.6 Million, which in reality, was just to appease the Leeds fans as although, £600,000 doesn’t seem that much in today’s big money laden Premier League accounts, back in 1992, £600,000 was a lot of money and Leeds United didn’t want to appear to have given Eric away.
Eric headed down the M62, to begin 5-trophy laden years in Manchester where Cantona won 4-Premier League titles and 2-FA Cups, the 2-FA Cups coinciding with 2-League and Cup Doubles, yet surprisingly, never had any European success.
Built like a Super-Middleweight boxer, with his collar famously turned up, back straight and chest out, whilst with the grace and balance of a ballerina, Eric would dictate games at his own pace and scored countless winning goals when United games looked to be petering out into draws.
Eric’s spatial awareness, technique and power made Cantona an amazing powerful player that simply took Manchester United to the next level.
The player the Old Trafford faithful had waited 2-decades for had arrived, 2-decades later, the faithful still sing Eric’s name,
Whilst most teams of the era had 2-Centre-Forwards, Eric was brought into the club to just drift in and out of the forward line, that helped the rest of Sir Alex’s team click into place.
What’s remarkable about Eric’s career, is as well as winning the 1992 Division 1-title with Leeds United in his first season in England, then the following season, the inaugural Premier League title with Manchester United, Eric also won the French Top Flight title in 1991, with Marseille, giving him 3-League Titles in a row.
Eric won the League title in his native France in 1989 and 1991, along with Leeds United in 1992 and Manchester United in 1993, 1994, 1996 and in his final season at Old Trafford in 1997, totalling 7-Title winning seasons from the last 8-of Eric’s sensational career.
In that particular 4-titles for Manchester United, the significant missing year is 1995, which became the most infamous season for Mr Cantona.
Back in January 1995, whilst Manchester United had travelled down to Selhurst Park to take on Crystal Palace, Eric initially got embroiled in a confrontation with the Palace defender Richard Shaw, subsequently Eric received his marching orders.
Whilst the confrontation with Richard was neither here nor there and was part of the game, what followed has gone down in Premier League history and is one of the most iconic moments of the era.
Whilst walking off the pitch, bearing in mind the Selhurst Park tunnel is in the corner, a Palace fan came running from his seat to hurl abuse at the controversial Frenchman.
Whilst most players would just continue to walk away, Eric jumped into the crowd at the Palace fan and punches were exchanged.
To the purest’s at the time, 25-years ago, this was seen as outrageous behaviour by a Professional Footballer and whilst restraint should have been shown by Eric, to be constantly abused by fans must sometimes throw a player over the edge.
Which Eric certainly was sent over that night in January 1995.
Eric was banned initially by Manchester United for the remainder of the season, who took the decision, to pre-empt the FA’s own punishment that would eventually see Eric receive an 8-month exile from the game.
In a famous interview given by Eric to reporters, Eric simply said,
‘If the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think that sardines will be thrown into the sea’ and then walked away.
Manchester United subsequently lost the 1994/95 Premier League to Blackburn and most will think,
It looked for all intent and purpose that Eric would not return to Old Trafford but following a pilgrimage to Paris from Sir Alex, Cantona was brought back into the fold and on his return from the 8-month ban, Eric set up the 1st and scored a penalty in a 2-2 draw against Liverpool in front of the faithful.
Eric was back and his goals in the 1995/1996 season helped United overhaul a big Newcastle United lead to again become the Premier League Champions and scored the winning goal in the 1996 FA Cup Final against Liverpool.
Manchester United retained the 1996/97 title and a couple of weeks after the season finished, Eric Cantona, aged just 31-years old, retired from the Beautiful Game, not only disappointing most of the Old Trafford faithful but also the Barnsley FC fans whom, following their club’s historic promotion to the Premier League, never got chance to see the Frenchman strut his stuff at Oakwell.
Eric Cantona has captained both Manchester United and France and was one of the main reasons why United won the Double of the Premier League and FA Cup in 2 out of the first 3-seasons of the new Premier League.
As a result of that, Eric was elected the Footballer of the Year by the Football Writer’s Association in 1995/96, the 1st-Manchester United player since George Best in 1968.
One of Eric’s many thoughts translated from his native French tongue into English is,
‘I want to be like a gambler in a casino who can feel that rush of adrenalin not when he’s on a roll but all the time.
He gambled because he needs that buzz, he wants to experience it every moment of his life.
That’s the way I want to play, that’s the way I want to live my life.
I need the excitement of a challenge to make me feel alive’
Eric Cantona attributes his phenomenal success at Old Trafford to both Sir Alex and Brian Kidd, stating both men were inspirational in the trophies achieved at United.
Steve Bruce brilliantly recalls a story that when the United squad enjoyed a day out at Chester Races, they were all instructed, by Sir Alex, to wear the club suit.
Eric walks into the Grandstand in Jeans and a Denim Jacket, to which Steve, as club Captain, asks Sir Alex, ‘How comes Eric can dress like that and we have to wear the club suit?’
Sir Alex simply replied,
‘When you can play as good as Eric, you can wear what you want son!’
The strange thing about the numbering of this Best Of is that Eric has to be at number 7 and not David Beckham who unfortunately for David, had to be given a different number.
Eric was given the historical Number 7-shirt early on in his days at Old Trafford after the regular wearer Bryan Robson was injured and the number stayed with Cantona throughout his United career.
Along with Bryan, George Best and David Beckham as well as Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United have had some great Number 7’s yet Eric is the one chosen to pull on this Best Of iconic shirt.
Bon Jour Monsieur Cantona.
8. David Beckham
Firstly, like the Roy Keane pick, it was 50/50 who to include, either David or Cristiano Ronaldo in the the United wide role.
The hammer came down on David purely due to the length of time David spent at Old Trafford and the number of trophies Becks won.
Cristiano could well come on as a 1st-half sub for David, with both legends matching each other.
David Beckham was part of the Class of ‘92 and stayed at United until 2003, ironically sold to Real Madrid just before Cristiano arrived at Old Trafford.
While Cristiano inherited the famous Red Devil’s Number 7, shirt from Becks, the Englishman still gets the nod in this column.
Along with his good mate Gary Neville, David became an integral part of the early United Premier League winning side.
On the opening day of the 1996/97 season, a year after the infamous Alan Hansen ‘kids will not win owt’ statement, where David had scored the United goal in the 3-1 defeat against Aston Villa, now aged 21, David scored one of the most iconic Premier League goals of all time, when, on the half-way line, shot straight into the Wimbledon goal past a helpless Neil Sullivan.
It’s regarded by many as the best opening-day goal of any Premier League season and by DB 7 himself as his favourite ever goal.
Despite winning a Premier League title and FA Cup winners medal a couple of months earlier, David had arrived with his stunning goal against the ‘Dons.
David Beckham went on to win 6-Premier League titles, 2-FA Cups and the famous 1999 European Champions League trophy, where his corners were instrumental in Manchester United scoring both the late goals, on top of the countless other individual awards and trophies with Real Madrid, LA Galaxy and subsequent loan spells at AC Milan and Paris St Germain, where David continued stocking up his trophy cabinet.
This EveryTip contributor along with his little mate H, ventured to the San Siro in May 2009, to see AC Milan take on Juventus.
Becks wore the famous Red and Black shirt that day.
David has gone on to become quite literally an icon of the game after leaving Old Trafford but has to be included in this Best Of, just for the memories he gave the United faithful.
DB’s relationship with Sir Alex was fraught at times, even with an infamous incident where Fergie kicked a boot straight at David’s head after a dressing room rant.
The funny thing about that incident was that afterwards, David, instead of hiding a cut forehead, put in, a now trademark Beckham Alice Band in his
hair to show off the Fergie attack.
Maybe it’s easy to see the demise of Beckham’s career at Old Trafford after that incident, as it’s not the best to take on Sir Alex, whether right or wrong.
Fergie also didn’t agree with David’s marriage to Victoria, which is ironic really, as Fergie wanted all of his young players to be married.
Despite what many of the Old Trafford faithful, football fans in general, or tabloids think about David Beckham, he has created a brand and is a great family man who has looked after his kids.
Also, DB is up there with the best United Number 7’ of all-time, despite Eric pulling rank for this Best Of Number 7 shirt.
9. Michael Carrick
As any regular reader of this EveryTip column will know, this contributor quite simply believes Michael Carrick is the best midfielder of a generation.
The Geordie and now current Manchester United First-Team Coach, is certainly the 1st-name on this Best Of team.
Although Michael started his career at West Ham, he is a native of Newcastle but never actually played for the Magpies.
After leaving the Hammers, Michael joined Tottenham in 2004 and spent 2-seasons at the Old Chas and Dave Memorial Stadium before Sir Alex went with a few quid and got the now 25-year old.
What’s probably forgotten about Michael, is West Ham were relegated from the Premier League in 2003 and although a number of the Hammers stars left, Michael chose to stay, to try and help the Bubbles back to the big time.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen so after a year in the Championship, Michael signed for Spurs.
Michael is blessed with a great Athletic Build and although many may now be screaming at their computer screens, tablets, iPads and phones, or whichever is their preferred choice of reading, it may even include nipping in to Curry’s/PC World and pretending to buy a specific model, it’s about opinions and this EveryTip contributor’s opinion is this.
Liverpool and Chelsea fans will argue their own favourites of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard are better than Michael Carrick and whilst these two won more England caps then Michael, that was down to the shortsightedness of a number of England Managers.
The Greatest Manager ever, Sir Alex Ferguson picked Carrick continuously and Gerrard and Lampard can’t match Michael’s domestic honours.
Michael has enjoyed phenomenal success, winning 5-Premier League titles, 1-FA Cup, 3-League Cups, 1-UEFA Champions League, 1-UEFA Europa League and 1-FIFA World Club Cup, as well as the standard Community Shield medals.
Along with numerous individual honours.
A true Legend at Old Trafford, it’s a shame the England Manager’s thought they knew better than Sir Alex.
Probably another forgotten fact which gets missed from United’s trophy laden Premier League era is, when Sir Alex signed Mr Carrick, prior to the start of the 2006/07 season, United had not won the title for, 4-seasons.
Michael hit the Old Trafford ground running and with his sublime skills and being one-step ahead of everyone around him, helped United regain the Premier League title in his first season in Manchester.
Following that initial success, Michael helped United win the next 2-titles meaning 3-in a row since Sir Alex signed the Geordie.
In between the 3-consecutive titles was the famous European Champions League victory against Chelsea in Moscow, scoring 1 of the 7 penalties to help secure the shootout against the Blues.
One of Michael’s best games in a United shirt was against Roma in the Champions League in 2007.
With the 2nd-leg being at Old Trafford, United had to try and overturn a 2-1 deficit from their trip to the Italian capital.
Sir Alex surprised everyone for the return leg and started forgotten man Alan Smith who’d had an indifferent time in Manchester after going along the M62 from Leeds United.
That night in April 2007, yes 13-years ago, is up there with the best European nights from any English team.
Sir Alex’s decision to start Smith as his Number-9, paid off immensely with Michael Carrick scoring the 1st of his 2 and United’s 7.
Smith, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo gave United a 4-0 half-time lead and a 5-2 aggregate lead against the Romans going into the break.
CR 7 added the 5th after the interval, with Michael getting his 2nd and the 6th.
Roma pulled a goal back before Patrice Evra finished off the rout with United’s 7th, giving them a great 7-1 victory and an aggregate 8-3 trouncing of the Italians.
A substitute that night, that Sir Alex threw on, was the current gaffer Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
It could be said that Italy gained revenge over England when AC Milan knocked United out in the Semi-Final to prevent an all-English final against Liverpool.
Still a great performance from Manchester United and in particular Michael Carrick.
There will be a majority that will simply not agree with Michael being better than Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard but for those, ask one question, how many trophies have England won in the 220-caps that Steven and Frank have between them than the mere 34-caps given to Michael over 14-years.
Michael won his 1st-England cap in 2001 as a substitute, the last in 2015.
Carrick had to wait a staggering 4-years to get a 1st-start for his National team.
Probably the biggest injustice in Michael’s International career was, whilst being named in the 2006 England World Cup squad in Germany by Sven-Goran Eriksson, Michael wasn’t included in any of the 3-Group games.
England did progress out of the group and Sven then decided to start Carrick in the Round-16 game against Ecuador which England won by a 1-0 scoreline.
Michael was dropped for the Quarter-Final defeat against Portugal and although named in the 2010 World Cup squad for the trip to South Africa, never actually saw game time.
Would Sir Alex have left Michael out of 8 of 9 World Cup games, which England only won 4-out of the 9-in total, with Michael playing in 1 of the 4-victories.
It simply doesn’t make sense as to why the English managers chose to ignore Carrick, when Sir Alex didn’t.
Carrick has been regularly overlooked by various England managers when it came to the central roles, with Steven and Frank being preferred.
Sir Alex knew the importance of Michael Carrick, it’s a shame the numerous England managers didn’t.
Michael is now well on the way of helping his old team-mate Ole, in getting Manchester United back to the Top Table.
Good luck for the future Michael.
10. Wayne Rooney
Included in a Best Of Manchester United team surely as to be the all-time leading goal-scorer, who just happens to be a certain Wayne Rooney.
After coming through the youth ranks of Everton including, as a 16-year old, reaching the 2001/02 FA Youth Cup, losing against Aston Villa in the final, the 16-year old Wayne was then thrust straight into the Toffees 1st-team by David Moyes and made an instant mark on the footballing world by scoring a superb last minute goal against Arsenal and the then England ‘keeper David Seaman.
That goal, just prior to Rooney’s 17th-birthday, made Wayne the youngest ever Premier League goal-scorer.
Sir Alex and Manchester United came calling a couple of years later after Wayne had 60-plus appearances for Everton.
What’s probably forgotten in Wayne’s early career at United is Sir Alex, persuaded the unsure hierarchy to shell out in excess of £25 Million for an 18-year old.
Wayne signed for Manchester United at the end of August 2004 and after taking a couple of weeks to get up to speed, made his debut in a Champions League encounter against Fenerbahce at Old Trafford.
The hierarchy were quickly re-assured when Wayne bagged a hat-trick on his debut for the Red Devil’s, in the 6-2 victory against the Turkish side.
As mentioned earlier in the Michael Carrick piece, United went 4-seasons from 2003-2007 without winning the Premier League title, which meant Wayne had to wait until his 3rd-season at Old Trafford to get his hands on the coveted title.
In Rooney’s initial couple of seasons at United, the only medal achieved he was in the League Cup, scoring twice in a 4-0 victory against Wigan in the showpiece Wembley final.
With the arrival of Mr Carrick for the start of the 2006/07 season along with Wayne’s goals, United and Rooney finally got the hands back on the Premier League trophy giving Wayne the 1st-of his 5-Top Flight titles.
Rooney was in the starting eleven for the 2007/08 European Champions League Final in Moscow against Chelsea, however, the striker didn’t take part in the penalty shootout after being substituted by Nani in extra-time of that epic-final.
Wayne actually played in 3-Champions League finals being beaten twice in the other two both by Barcelona.
As well as the 5-Premier League titles, Rooney has 1-FA Cup and 3-League Cups as well as the FIFA World Club Cup.
The final trophy achieved at Manchester United by Wayne was in his final game for the club in the 2016-17 Europa League Final against Ajax, coming on as a 2nd-half substitute in that particular final in Sweden.
Wayne Rooney scored 253 Goals in total from 559 appearances for the Red Devil’s becoming the only player in the clubs history to exceed the 250 mark.
The previous leading goal-scorer prior to Wayne, was Sir Bobby Charlton, who achieved 249 goals from 758 appearances, that in itself, immediately elevates Rooney’s achievement to legendary status which may take some years to surpass.
Sir Bobby was also England’s all-time leading goal-scorer until Wayne came along.
Having achieved 49-goals from 106 appearances for England, Sir Bobby had his international record equalled by Rooney, coincidentally in Wayne’s 106th appearance, when Wayne scored the 1st in a 6-0 rout in a Euro qualifier against San Marino, in September 2015.
Bobby’s record was surpassed by Wayne 3-days later, when Wayne achieved the holy grail of 50-England goals scoring a penalty in a 2-0 victory against Switzerland, in his 107th-appearance for the England International team.
Wayne played a further 8-games for his country, a total of 115, culminating in England’s final fixture of the Euro’ 2016, where Wayne actually scored the last of his 53-goals, a penalty, which at the time, did give Roy Hodgson’s men an early 1-0 lead before disaster struck and England limped out of that particular competition.
Wayne Rooney has had controversy throughout his career both with Manchester United and England but controversy is just another person’s opinion and the majority of football fans will certainly respect Wayne for his terrific career at Old Trafford and on the International stage, where his figures speak for themselves.
11. Ryan Giggs
Maybe the best Manchester United player of all time.
The phones will now be on overdrive following that statement ringing the talk radio stations, screaming down the line that ‘George Best was better?’
Maybe, maybe not, however, this exceptional player brought minds together.
On March 14th 2020, Malcolm Davies died aged 80.
Malc was the step-dad of a mad football, Barnsley FC and Manchester United fan who back in 1978 took this EveryTip contributor to his first experience at Oakwell.
Armed with an Apple and a Mars bar, the two walked the 2-odd miles from their home to the Theatre of Dreams to watch the sacred Reds.
Aged just 8-the young Reds fan, as a mad footballer and fan was eager to see his hometown club in the flesh and on a hot August day saw the first-half on the Kop End.
At half time the two, walked around to the Ponte End to see the Reds attack.
Back in the day, that’s what was allowed, now the Kop at Oakwell is the Away end where the visitors reside.
In 1978, the Reds team included Mick McCarthy, Leeds legend Allan Clarke, who was the Player-Manager and ex-Chelsea and Liverpool star David Speedie.
If you check David Speedie’s Wiki-site on Google, it states he never scored for Barnsley FC.
Wrong, John Newsome and Malc saw David score twice at Oakwell in a game against Rochdale that the Reds won 3-0 in 1978 (ish)
Agreed, there’s no concrete evidence of that and David left Oakwell shortly after, yet the young Reds fan did go home and onto the local field acting out his afternoon’s hero, shouting ‘Speedie, Speedie’
As an 8-year old, it was thought that ‘Speedie’ was a nickname and not the surname of the Scot David.
A couple of weeks back on the popular TalkSPORT radio station, Barnsley boy Darren Gough gave his favourite 4-players.
Amongst his 4-was a certain Ronnie Glavin.
Most after listening to TalkSPORT that afternoon would have thought ‘Ronnie who?’
In Barnsley, Ronnie is a legend.
There’s not much YouTube stuff showing Ronnie but just imagine these 3-players, merged together, Paul Gascoigne, Frank Lampard and Roy Keane.
That’s Ronnie Glavin.
Malc, Mark and John Newsome were fortunate enough to see Ronnie’s debut for the Reds at Sincil Bank against Lincoln City.
When growing up and Ryan Giggs came into the United eleven, Malc and John always gave a nod of appreciation to the young Welsh kids’ ability.
Getting Sky Sports into the household saw many a Sunday Afternoon, when United were in their pomp, seeing Malc and John both agreeing on the superb ability of this wing-wizard.
He’s a good player that ‘Giggs’
Rest in Peace Malc Davies.
Ryan is the most decorated Premier League player of all-time with 13-Premier League titles, 4-FA Cups, 3-League Cups and 2-Champions Leagues.
Ryan made his debut in 1991, aged just 17 and basically never looked back in the 23-years he spent at Old Trafford.
A true legend and a 1-club man, despite interest from abroad in the ‘90s and the naughties from the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Inter and AC Milan, Ryan stayed in Manchester for the whole of his career playing 632 times for United.
That was an appearance record up until the last couple of years when Gareth Barry overhauled Giggs achievement.
Without taking anything away from Gareth’s record, the only thing to mention is differing the style of play of the 2-players.
Whilst Gareth was a great midfielder who glided through games, Ryan’s style was a dynamic winger in his early days who had to deal with tough hardened experienced defenders, such as the likes of Stuart Pearce, Paul McGrath, Terry Phelan and any of the Leeds United, Sheffield United and Wimbledon backline.
Arguments have ensued over the years about just how good Ryan was, what most failed to comprehend is that when the so-called experts and pundits said Ryan was having a quiet game or fallow period.
Ryan often just drifted out wide and took 3-opponents with him as if his impending danger.
Even if he never actually touched the ball in periods of the game, the space he created from dragging 3-opponents out of position meant his United team-mates could fill their boots.
In the early days of his career, it was simply just a joy to watch Manchester United, whether a true Red Devil or just a football fan in Barnsley.
Watching Big Pete save many times, throw the ball to Denis, quickly on to Roy, who without thinking would spread the ball out wide to Giggsy who would either score himself, which he did in all but 1-of the 23-seasons he played, or pass to Eric to notch for United.
The one season Ryan didn’t score in the Premier League was the final one of an illustrious career in 2013-14, where at the ripe old age of 40, Giggs still made 12-Premier League appearances, most notably coming on as a substitute in his final appearance at Old Trafford in a 3-1 victory against Hull in May 2014, calling time on the best Manchester United player of all-time, Best, Charlton and Law included.
Adding to his United appearances Ryan also played 67-times for Wales, the country of his birth.
Ryan Giggs was born in Cardiff and although the lad moved to Manchester early in his life, playing for the English Schools team, Ryan didn’t choose Wales over England like a lot of the myth as been put over the years.
Ryan is Welsh.
The 67-appearances doesn’t sound that many but Sir Alex Ferguson reigned in Ryan’s International career and Ryan would rarely turn up for a friendly or meaningless game.
Whether that’s right or wrong is for others to worry about, not many folk argued with Sir Alex.
As well as the many team trophies Ryan won with United, the Welshman also had a few individual achievements even winning the 2009 BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
Although, after winning the PFA Young Player of the Year in 1992 and ‘93, it took 16-years for Big Ryno to win the PFA Player of the year.
Ryan is a true Manchester United legend.
– Edwin Van Der Sar, Patrice Evra, Nemanja Vidic, Jaap Stam, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, Bryan Robson, Paul Ince, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ruud Van Nistelrooy and of course Ole Gunnar Solksjaer.