“He was the only player who made me feel inferior"
In addition to being a footballing giant in England, Manchester United has earned a reputation as one of the world’s top teams.
There is nothing that the team hasn’t accomplished, from their legendary trophy run under the guidance of legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson to producing stars like Cristiano Ronaldo.
The club has had some of the greatest in the business don the revered red shirt, including Ballon d’Or winners, European Cup winners, and league champions.
DESIblitz has identified 15 footballers who best represent what it means to be one of the greatest Manchester United legends.
Cristiano Ronaldo joined United in 2003 at the age of 18 and left in 2009 for £80 million, which was the most expensive transfer at the time.
Between 2007 and 2009, Ronaldo’s rapid ascension at United helped the team win three straight Premier League titles, with a Champions League in between.
Ronaldo also won the famous Ballon d’Or trophy at that time, making him the third United player to accomplish so.
In 2021, the prodigal son made a second visit to Old Trafford and signed a two-year contract with the team.
Despite the sour end to the relationship with Manchester United after an explosive interview with Piers Morgan, the footballer will always be remembered as a Manchester United legend.
There has never been a finer performance from a United player than a hat-trick and an assist in the Champions League.
When he joined the team in 2004, he was 18 years old.
By the time he left the team in 2017, he had won five Premier League championships as well as a Champions League triumph.
Yet it was when he eclipsed Sir Bobby Charlton as the club’s all-time leading scorer with 253 goals that solidified his reputation as one of the greatest United players of all time.
Few midfielders in the history of the game “got the job done” as well as Roy Keane did, even though he may not have possessed the flair of Zinedine Zidane or the vision of Xavi.
Keane, a traditional box-to-box midfielder who doesn’t mess about, helped United rule English football in the 1990s and 2000s.
Keane, an excellent captain and leader, led Old Trafford to seven Premier League championships.
One of the greatest captain performances in recent memory is largely recognised as his effort in the 1998–1999 Champions League semifinal match against Juventus in Turin.
Although it did not turn out well, it was fantastic for however long Keane was at Old Trafford.
With 13 Premier League championships, Ryan Giggs holds the record for most titles won.
However, he is not ranked so highly as a Manchester United legend based only on one reason.
With an astounding 963 appearances, he also holds the record for most appearances for the red devils.
A graduate of the United academy, Giggs spent a significant amount of his career as one of the best wingers in the world.
His goal against Arsenal in the 1998–1999 FA Cup semifinal is still regarded as one of the best goals ever scored in England.
At the latter end of his career, Giggs changed his style to play a more middle position rather than a pure winger.
Eric Cantona, who cost only £1.2 million, significantly altered the club’s dynamics.
He is regarded as the crucial piece Ferguson was searching for to create a football dynasty.
The transfer of Cantona from Leeds, a rival team, will undoubtedly go down as one of Ferguson’s best moves.
At Old Trafford, the Frenchman played a key role in the club’s four Premier League and two FA Cup victories.
The unformidable defender cost Manchester United £7 million, and the deal soon became one of legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s most successful ones.
Vidic won five Premier League championships during his eight and a half years with the team, along with three league cups, the Champions League, and the Club World Cup.
He and Rio Ferdinand made up a strong defence duo.
Edwin van der Sar, who served as United’s goalkeeper from 2005 to 2011, included both players in his all-time best starting eleven team.
There have been few players in Manchester United’s history who have been as passionate about the club as Gary Neville.
A United academy graduate from the famed ‘Class of 92’, Neville was United’s undisputed right-back throughout his career.
Neville won a staggering eight Premier League titles at United and is one of three Reds to have won two Champions League titles.
Often cited as the ‘least talented’ among his peers, Neville’s longevity is proof of what an underrated player he was.
Blessed with an analytical mind, Neville currently is one of the most respected football pundits in the world.
When Sir Alex Ferguson signed Rio Ferdinand from Leeds United to Old Trafford in 2002, he cost £30 million, making him the most expensive defender in the history of that time.
Nonetheless, the former England centre-back provided United with more value than they paid for.
Ferdinand had been a rock-solid presence in the defence for United, as evidenced by the club’s six Premier League championships and Champions League gold.
In 1991, Ferguson purchased Peter Schmeichel from Brøndby for £505,000.
In a later statement, Ferguson called the sum the “deal of the century.”
In the 1990s, perhaps the club’s most prosperous period in its 143-year history, Schmeichel was a fixture in goal for United.
Five league titles were won at Old Trafford by the legendary Danish footballer.
In the 1998–1999 season, he was also a member of the storied team that captured the unprecedented triple crown.
Ferguson’s first outstanding captain was Bryan Robson.
Robson was the main impetus behind Ferguson’s early success as United manager at Old Trafford, nearly carrying the team by himself in the 1980s.
Robson, or “Captain Marvel” as he was known to fans during his playing days, spent a considerable portion of his United career as the first name on the squad sheet, demonstrating the manager’s confidence in him.
Duncan Edwards had over 150 appearances for Manchester United by the time he was 21 years old, which speaks much about his skill.
Edwards tragically lost his life in the 1958 Munich Air Tragedy. He was expected to lead England and Manchester United in the future by that point.
Sir Bobby Charlton remarked of Edwards:
“He was the only player who made me feel inferior.
“Duncan was, without doubt, the best player to ever come out of this place, and there’s been some competition down the years.
“He was colossal, and I wouldn’t use that word to describe anyone else.”
“He had a such presence – he dominated every game all over the pitch.
“Had he lived, he would have been the best player in the world. He was sensational, and it is difficult to convey that.
“It is sad there isn’t enough film to show today’s youngsters just how good he was.”
Paul Scholes was so talented that he retired, and then came out of it to capture yet another Premier League championship.
Scholes, a member of the “Class of 92,” never played for any other team except United.
Together with three FA Cups, two League Cups, and two Champions Leagues, he won 11 Premier League championships.
Denis Law, one-third of United’s Holy Trinity, was the team’s all-time leading scorer for a while with 237 goals.
Law, who was acquired from the Italian team Torino, spent 11 years at Old Trafford.
In 1968 the team won its first-ever European Cup championship.
Together with Sir Bobby Charlton and George Best, his brilliance and legacy were honoured with statues in front of Old Trafford.
George Best, the club’s greatest No. 7, is gifted with lightning-quick speed, creative flair, and an eye for goal.
Best rounded off an outstanding year by winning the prestigious Ballon d’Or trophy.
George Best scored in extra time in the 1968 European Cup final against Benfica.
Sir Bobby Charlton
Few United supporters would disagree that Sir Bobby Charlton is unquestionably the best player to have ever worn the revered red jersey at Old Trafford.
He is a captain, a leader, and a legend.
The United team led by 1966 Ballon d’Or winner Charlton won the 1968 European Cup by defeating Eusebio’s Benfica in the final.
One of the best goal-scoring midfielders in football history, Sir Bobby is the second-highest goal scorer for United with 249 goals.
Ballon d’Or winners, European Cup winners, and league champions are just a few of the legendary footballers Manchester United has produced throughout the years.
Other honourable mentions include the current goalkeeper with the most appearances in his position for the club, David De Gea.
Whilst there have been many legends in Manchester United’s history, current players are rising through the ranks and solidifying their respect within the sport at the club.
Former Real Madrid veterans, Raphael Varane and Casemiro are well respected for their achievements in the Spanish La Liga.
Will their hard work and talent shine bright enough to claim a spot as Manchester United legends?
Young and home-grown talent, Marcus Rashford has also found his stride under Erik Ten Hag’s Manchester United – should we consider the winger as a potential Manchester United legend?