No single person or entity quite personifies the swagger, arrogance and confidence of Manchester United as Sir Alex Ferguson does. In 1986, he inherited a struggling team languishing in the relegation zone and built a footballing empire unlike any other.
Winning a few Premier League titles is impressive, but this man won 13 in 26 years. Sir Alex’s reign in Manchester signalled a period of dominance in English football that will probably never be matched by any other team or coach.
Sir Alex has managed some very special players in his 26 years at Old Trafford. It’s hard to pick out only 10 players out of the hundreds that have played under him.
10. Rio Ferdinand – Defender
Manchester United signed their centre-back Rio Ferdinand for £30m from Leeds United, making him the most expensive defender in history.
Rio did his job well signifying his legendary partnership at the back with Nemanja Vidic.
Currently, the BT Sport pundit, was amazingly consistent in his 12 seasons at Old Trafford, amassing 455 appearances.
The ex-England international has cemented his place as one of the greatest defenders to have worn the famous red shirt.
He collected 13 trophies during his time at United, including 6 Premier League titles and the Champions League in 2008.
9. Peter Schmeichel – Goalkeeper
United have been blessed with some pretty incredible goalkeepers in the Premier League era. But it is a testament to Schmeichel’s incredible abilities that he’s considered the uncontested number 1 ahead of van der Saar and de Gea.
The Great Dane is probably one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, let alone of Manchester United.
When Sir Alex signed him from Brøndby in 1991 for £505,000, he described it as ‘bargain of the century’, and he wasn’t very far off. Good goalkeepers are worth a dime a dozen these days, and Schmeichel is much better than just ‘good’.
In the 1992-93 season, he kept 22 clean sheets en route to United’s first league title for 26 years.
For eight seasons between 1991 and 1999, he made 398 appearances for United in all competitions. He won 5 Premier League titles and the Champions League in 1999.
In the year 2001, Schmeichel was voted the best goalkeeper of all time in a poll conducted by Reuters, ahead of the likes of Gordon Banks and Lev Yashin.
8. Wayne Rooney – Striker
Manchester United and England’s all-time top goalscorer. United signed Wayne Rooney for £25.6 million from Everton in 2004. This made him the world’s most expensive teenager in the process.
He scored a hat-trick on his debut against Fenerbahce, and that was a sign of things to come. In the coming years, he would go on to forge formidable strike partnerships with Ronaldo, Tevez, Berbatov and van Persie.
His legendary status in the Theatre of Dreams is forever cemented thanks to his extensive contributions to United’s domination of the Premier League in the late 2000’s.
His decline in recent years, especially after the retirement of Sir Alex, was painful to watch. But his perseverance has seen him eclipse Sir Bobby Charlton to become United and England’s all-time top goalscorer.
7. David Beckham – Winger
A graduate of the glorious Class of ’92, Beckham was possibly the best dead ball specialist in the world in his playing days.
When he scored a goal directly from a corner kick as a 19-year-old on loan for Preston North End, Sir Alex knew the lad was special. After being recalled in 1995, he made four league appearances for United that season.
Since then, he was ever-present in the United squad, making at least 30 appearances each season before he left for Madrid in 2003.
He is the only player in the club’s history to have worn both the number 10 and the number 7 shirts.
6. Bryan Robson – Midfielder
Manchester United’s ‘Captain Marvel’ was already an established legend when Sir Alex arrived in ’86.
In October 1981, new manager Ron Atkinson made Robson one of his first signings at the club by breaking the British transfer record, shelling out £1.5 million for the then 24-year-old.
He led United to an FA Cup in 1990, beating Crystal Palace 1-0 in the final. In the process, he became the first United captain to lift the trophy three times.
His first major trophy came in the form of two successive league titles in 1993 and 1994; although by that time he was no longer first choice under Ferguson.
He was the last player before the Premier League era to wear the prestigious number 7.
After over 450 appearances and 99 goals, he signed for Middlesborough in 1994 in a player-manager role.
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