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Ultimate Red Devils - The 10 Best Manchester United Players of All Time

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Not many clubs can boast of a history rivalling Manchester United's. The Red Devils, who are the most successful club in England and the best-supported club in the world, have had many teams over the decades that have done well to accumulate accolades and awards for the club. They have also had a plethora of talent across the globe plying their trade for the team, but some players have stood out, looking a cut above the rest and becoming part of Manchester United folklore. Here is our list of the ten best players to grace the red of Manchester United, in chronological order of the beginning of their United careers :

Bobby Charlton (1956-1973) - 73 years old now, Bobby Charlton is still a director of Manchester United, with 58 years passing by since he began his association with the club. A man who famously survived the Munich disaster, Charlton's record of 249 goals has still not been surpassed by any other player donning the red of Manchester United in their history. Success followed him throughout his career, as he won three league titles, a European Cup and even the World Cup with England, winning the Golden Boot for the tournament as well. An attacking midfielder, Charlton was known to have the most humble attitude towards others and a fighting, never-say-die spirit on the field, eventually earning a much deserved knighthood in 1994. Even after the end of his playing career, Charlton had a huge role to play in the legacy of the club, as he was the one pushing for Sir Alex Ferguson's appointment after Ron Atkinson's departure. His requests were listened to, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Denis Law (1962-1973) - Part of Manchester United's 'Holy Trinity', Denis Law had a better goals-to-games record than George Best and Bobby Charlton, and was a key feature in the Red Devils' golden era under Sir Matt Busby following the Munich disaster. Law signed for Manchester United in 1962 for a then record £115,000 at the peak of the club's inconsistency, but settled into the side almost immediately, scoring goals at a consistent rate and leading the club to two league titles, a European Cup and an FA Cup in the 1960s. It wasn't all smooth sailing for Law though, as in his time at United, he had to miss the European Cup final win in 1968 with a knee injury, and also had a falling out of sorts with manager Matt Busby after threatening to leave the club if not given a pay rise. He scored a crucial goal the following season in the semis against AC Milan only for it to be disallowed, and walked off the pitch with his head down during his second spell with rival club Manchester City after scoring a goal against Manchester United that he thought was going to relegate the Red Devils. However, Denis Law was a great servant for the club, with the potent striker scoring 237 goals, and was rewarded for his efforts in 2002 when he saw a statue of himself at Old Trafford alongside his contemporaries Best and Charlton.

George Best (1963-1974) - The Northern Irish striker, who was a huge part of United's success in the 1960s, formed a key attacking partnership with Bobby Charlton and Denis Law to win two league titles and a European Cup, along with it earning personal honours like the European Footballer of the Year in 1968. Best's career with United started early, as United scout Bob Bishop sent then manager Matt Busby a telegram saying : "I think I've found you a genius." Best made his debut for the club when he was 17, going on to receive great acclaim from all over the world for his football talent. It was a pity that his career ended much before it should have, with the striker quitting Manchester United aged 27 after a series of gambling and alcoholism-related problems. The remainder of his career went downhill, as Best travelled the world playing for many different clubs, getting more success off the field than on it, but in the hearts of the United faithful, he was quite literally, the 'Best'. Fans in his native Ireland summed it up well with a line that is still associated with him in the modern day : "Maradona good; Pele better; George Best."

ryan_giggsRyan Giggs (1990- ) - In this day and age, with the wear and tear of modern football, it seems a super-human feat that Ryan Giggs, 37 years of age, is still going strong. The highest number of appearances for any Manchester United player in history, and the most number of successes for any footballer in English history, Giggs has achieved all there is to achieve in the realms of club football. A model professional and loyal Manchester United servant, Giggs was brought to the club in 1987 when he was 14. The Welshman burst onto the scene as a winger with breathtaking pace and a great ability to maze his way past defenders at will, and soon after his debut started commanding a regular first team place. The Premier League's poster boy in the 90's, Giggs scored a number of memorable goals, none more so than his winner against Arsenal in the 1999 FA Cup semifinal when he ran past the whole Gunners backline in a solo run from the halfway-line before finishing past David Seaman. 12 Premier Leagues titles, two Champions League winner's medals, four FA Cup triumphs, and three League Cups later, Giggs has lost some of his pace, but still quite incredibly holds a first-team place in either the center of midfield or his preferred left wing. It may not be long before Giggs calls time on his glittering career, but even when he does, memories of his career spanning three decades will live on.

Peter Schmeichel (1991-1999) - The Great Dane, who was bought for £530,000 from FC Brondby, and after his departure in 2000 was called by Sir Alex Ferguson as the 'bargain of the century', spent eight great years at Old Trafford, where he won five league titles, three FA Cups, and a Champions League winners medal among other honours, apart from boosting his image as the best goalkeeper in the world. His huge 6'4" frame was tough to get past, and the Danish custodian made his goal tougher to breach with his amazing ability to arrange his defence and take control of the penalty box. His starfish save was almost impossible to get past, leading to Schmeichel still holding the record for the best clean sheets-to-games ratio in Premier League history, keeping his opponents out an incredible 42% of the times he lined up in between the sticks. Self-assured, strong and athletic, Schmeichel won the UEFA Goalkeeper of the Year on four occasions with United, and was the bedrock of the Red Devils' success in their golden era. His confidence knew no bounds, with Schmeichel regularly sprinting down the attacking end for corners when his team was down, scoring famously in a UEFA Cup fixture against Rotor Volgograd. Regarded as by far the best goalkeeper for the club, Ferguson, who earlier had had a falling out with Schmeichel, accepted that it was tough, if not impossible to find a successor for Schmeichel, ample reason to show his worth in United's history.

Eric Cantona (1992-1997) - The fiery Frenchman, adoringly called 'King Eric' in the red side of Manchester, had to contend with his share of criticism in his time at Old Trafford, but shone through his problems, with manager Sir Alex Ferguson saying :"If there was ever one player, anywhere in the world, who was made for Manchester United, it was Cantona." After winning the league with Leeds United in 1992, Cantona left for Manchester United for £1.2 million. Manchester United had not won a league title since 1967 and were struggling for goals, but the Frenchman fit in perfectly, creating and scoring chances, more importantly bagging the crucial goals when his team needed them the most. Manchester United went on to win the inaugral Premier League that season, and continued dominating the following seasons with Cantona at the helm of their attacking line. However, one never knew what to expect from Cantona, as he showed that there was no love lost between him and his former employers, spitting on a Leeds fan on his return to Elland Road, and hitting a Crystal Palace fan with a Kung-Fu kick which lead to Cantona getting a prison sentence which was later revoked. He retired from football at a relatively early age of 30, but the cavalier striker proved to be the catalyst for United's initial success in the 1990's, a winner who did things the way he felt right.

Roy Keane (1993-2005) - Never controversy-shy, the aggresive midfielder was everything a manager needed in a central midfielder. Never backing down from a confrontation, Keane tried to dominate proceedings every time he set foot on the field, covering more ground than any other player on the pitch, passing well and scoring the occasional goal. Keane was brought to Manchester United amidst much fanfare, breaking the British transfer record in a move from Nottingham Forest. After Cantona's sudden retirement in 1997, Keane made sure that one ill-tempered midfielder succeded another as the skipper of Manchester United. His performance in the second leg of United's Champions League semifinal against Juventus in 1999 is regarded by many as one of the best individual performances ever seen, as he lead his team to a comeback 3-2 win, after which Ferguson said :"It was the most emphatic display of selflessness I have seen on a football field. Pounding over every blade of grass, competing if he would rather die of exhaustion than lose, he inspired all around him. I felt it was an honour to be associated with such a player." Even the eleven red cards in his Manchester United career and countless fines that Keane received in his time were not enough to take the gloss of the great 12 years he had at the club, where he won seven league titles, four FA Cups and a European Cup. To add to all that, Keane was listed in Pele's list of the 100 greatest living footballers in 2004. Enough said.

Paul Scholes (1994-2011) - "Scholes was my toughest opponent, the complete midfielder and undoubtedly the greatest midfielder of his generation. One of my regrets is that the opportunity to play alongside him never presented itself during my career." The words of the great Zinedine Zidane, while talking about the man he faced at club and international level. A quiet demeanour, ever-accurate passing, cannon of a shot, and horribly wreckless tackling. These are the qualities that exemplified Paul Scholes' 17-year professional career with Manchester United. A fierce and tenacious competitor, and probably the most-technically gifted English player in decades, Scholes has been through most of United's purple patch since Sir Alex Ferguson joined as manager, and has been a key element in their successes. In the earlier stages of his career, Scholes was a complete box-to-box midfielder, but even when his legs and his eyesight started to give way, the Ginger Ninja showed that he could still be an integral part of the Manchester United team. With him retiring this summer, United will have big boots to fill, but Scholes will still be part of the club's coaching staff come next fall, and will always be regarded as one of United's own.

Jaap Stam (1998-2001) - If looks could kill. Jaap Stam was pretty much the toughest a defender could look, matching his big 6'3" frame with his death glare. The former Dutch international became the most expensive defender in the world when he was brought to Old Trafford in 1998 for hefty £10.6 million, but soon provided enough reason to believe he was worth the sizeable fee, winning the Premier League in each of his three seasons with Manchester United, along with FA Cup and Champions League success in the famous treble winning season of 1999. Brilliant positioning skills, an impeccable ability to sense danger, great physical strength and aerial ability, Stam was at times impossible to get past and was at the peak of his powers at United. Things rapidly started going downhill for the Dutchman after he accused Sir Alex Ferguson of back-handed tactics while trying to lure him from PSV in his autobiography. An irate Ferguson soon put Stam up for transfer, and grabbed at the massive £16.5 million that Lazio offered Manchester United for the defender. However, Ferguson later showed his regret over Stam's sale, saying : "At the time he had just come back from an Achilles injury and we thought he had just lost a little bit. We got the offer from Lazio, £16.5m for a centre-back who was 29. It was an offer I couldn't refuse. But in playing terms it was a mistake. He is still playing for Ajax at a really good level." His time at Old Trafford was too short, but in his three years, Jaap Stam quickly established himself as one of the best defenders to grace the side in its decorated history.

cris_ronaldo.jpgCristiano Ronaldo (2003-2009) - Many would raise an eyebrow over the Portuguese international's addition to the list, citing Ronaldo's constant attempts to put his interests over those of his club throughout his career. However, his histrionics and permanent desire to move to his dream club (Real Madrid) aside, Ronaldo was a key element in Sir Alex Ferguson's second Champions League winning team, and was probably the most skillful player that Manchester United have had in the last few decades, if not in their history. Ronaldo came to Old Trafford in the summer of 2003 for over £12 million, but in the beginning of his time in England looked like a flash in the pan, who had a large bag of party tricks which did not count for much during games. However, with time, the Portuguese winger, who wore the legendary number seven jersey at Manchester United, started finding his feet, and more importantly a balance between showmanship and substance. He won three consecutive Premier League titles from 2006 to 2009, and scored in the Champions League final against Chelsea in 2008 before missing from the penalty spot in a nerve-wracking game that United won. Ronaldo was only the fourth Manchester United player to be awarded the Ballon d'Or and the first Premier League footballer to win the FIFA World Player of the Year in 2009 for his extraordinary 42-goal season, and even though he is gone now, Ronaldo still remains an Old Trafford favourite.

File Photograph CopyrightEmer & Sam (Giggs) / Ray Boosen (Ronaldo)