When it comes down to narrowing the best-ever players for any club, it becomes a task too monumental for ordinary humans! And when it comes down to Manchester United, you know how high the stakes are.
The red side of Manchester (and the most successful one, too) has a massive history and even better players. From the Munich disaster to becoming the most influential team not only in England but worldwide, Manchester United has had a roller-coaster ride that couldn't have been possible without the flair, passion, talent, and mentality of the players and the backroom staff.
Today, we will look at the top 10 greatest players to play for Manchester United. Before we proceed, a quick disclaimer: the opinions are based on statistics, off-pitch impact on Manchester United, the trophies won, and of course, a pinch of personal point of view as well, so reader discretion is necessary!
Here is the list of the Top 10 Greatest Players to ever grace Old Trafford:
10. Cristiano Ronaldo: One of the greatest ever, CR7 could only finish in tenth place, thanks to his 2007-08 season. He scored a whopping 42 goals that season, winning the Champions League, Premier League, and the Ballon d'Or in 2008. It was one of his best individual performances to date and set the precursor to the upcoming storm that tormented the defenses of opposition for more than a decade. (And the havoc hasn't stopped...)
9. Peter Schmeichel: When we talk about the greatest players of a club, we often time tend to focus on outfield players. But when the debate is raised on Manchester United, one can hardly leave Peter Schmeichel, aka "The Great Dane," out of the list. Given his size and stature, his athleticism and agility were never a concern for him or the team.
When he left Manchester United, he already bagged a mammoth 180 clean sheets, a record recently broken by another potential great of the game, David De Gea.
8. Duncan Edwards: If you are new to football, you might know this phenomenon named Duncan Edwards. His playing career, however, was cut short by the Munich Air Disaster. He died in a plane crash at the age of 21.
Nevertheless, he already scored 21 goals in 177 appearances for United, debuting as a teenager. I know that's not enough, so let's remember what Bobby Charlton, another legend of Manchester (whom you will find in the list), said about this young unfortunate lad, “The best player I have ever seen. The best player I played with, for United or England.” The quote must settle all your queries!
7. Paul Scholes: One of the best midfielders of his generation and widely termed the "Einstein" of Modern Football, Paul Scholes definitely earned his place among the top 10. Starting his career as a second striker, scoring tons of goals, and ultimately moving more deeper into the pitch as a holding midfielder, Scholes never disappointed amidst the transfer of roles. With 153 goals and 75 assists in his glittering career, Scholes is arguably one of the finest players the Premier League has ever seen.
6. Bryan Robson: Phew, it was a tough call! The no. 6 slot was up for grabs between two contenders, the ever-enigmatic Irishman Roy Keane and Captain Marvel. At last, it was the man with 4 lungs (maybe more) that won the race. Bryan Robson is one of the finest box-to-box midfielders England and the rest of the world witnessed.
The man was always there, no matter which part of the field you are looking at. He would run tirelessly, sprint forward to attack the holes hard and fall back harder. You might say he was fortunate enough to play in the era when 4-4-2 was one of the most followed formations in football, but nothing can beat the sheer talent and enormous versatility this man possessed. Sadly, they don't make players like him anymore!
5. Eric Cantona: Who else than the man himself? Given the impact he had on Manchester United, it will not be wrong to say he was born for the Red Devils. These aren't my but Sir Alex's words. He said that Cantona was "made for Manchester United," and it was justified in his short but impactful stay at the club.
"King Eric" made 182 appearances for Manchester United, scoring 82 times. With the quality he possessed, the vision for the goal, and the outstanding technicality, he could have been far above the list had he not retired at the age of 30.
Cantona is also considered the pioneer of the no. 7 jersey for United, a number that would go on and become an emotion.
4. George Best: "Pele good, Maradona better, Georgie Best." I started with the quote because nothing can justify the quality George Best produced on the field. No one can forget the Holy Trinity and no one can deny that George Best was a magician. His career was, however, overshadowed by his off-pitch incidents, mostly drinking. Even then, there is no shame in admitting that George Best is probably the "Best Talent" the world has ever produced!
3. Bobby Charlton: The records speak for themselves when we talk about Sir Bobby Charlton. Survivor of the Munich air disaster, Bobby Charlton, took the reigns in his hands (or should I say in his feet) and carried Manchester United to its glory days. He formed the partnership, famously known as the "Holy Trinity," with George Best and Denis Law. He went on to become the top scorer (249 goals) of the club, only to be beaten by another great of the game! A man with no weaker feet also delivered a World Cup to England and its people! (the only World Cup England ever won)
2. Ryan Giggs: If you are looking for a One-club man, your search is over. Ryan Giggs spent his entire playing career at Manchester United. A member of the class of '92, Giggs went on to make record appearances for the club as he featured 963 times. In his 24-year stay, he scored a lot of different kinds of goals, beat a lot many players with his dazzling run and sizzling pace, and formed vital partnerships with the attackers. He ended his career in 2014 with a tally of 168 goals.
The most decorated British player of all time, Giggs won 13 league titles, 2 Champions Leagues, 4 FA Cups, 4 League Cups, 1 Club World Cup, the Intercontinental Cup, and the UEFA Super Cup. And rightfully so, he deserves to be one of the top 2 players on the list.
1. Wayne Rooney: The disrespect Rooney faces, even after winning every trophy possible in his club career, is unfortunate and unacceptable. Bursting onto the scene as an Evertonian, Wayne Rooney signed for Manchester United in August of 2004, and the rest, as they say, is "History."
Rooney made his vision clear on his United debut, as he scored a sensational hattrick against Fenerbache in the Champions League. That was just the beginning of something special, and he didn't disappoint. He became the only player in the history of Manchester United to score 250 goals, surpassing Bobby Charlton's long-time standing record. If that isn't enough to convince you of his ability, he also has the third-highest assist in the Premier League, only behind his companion Ryan Giggs and Spanish maestro Cesc Fabregas.
The man had it all in him what it takes to become a world-class player. Be it his aggression, mindset, temperament, never give up attitude, selfless nature, or tangible assets such as creativity, poaching skills, and physicality, Rooney would tick all the boxes.
Nevertheless, people might say that Wayne Rooney underachieved given the enormous talent he possessed, but we must not forget the sacrifices this man made for the team, which is one of the reasons why he couldn't be on the top of the goalscoring chart at Premier League and other tournaments. Having said so, no one can take away the no. 1 spot on this list from him, not at the moment!
The list will be incomplete without some honorable mentions, though. Roy Keane, Dennis Law, David Beckham, Gary Neville, and Roger Byrne (the list will go on) were some top-notch talents that could change the game singlehandedly. Although they missed out on the list, one can't disassociate them from our hearts!