It’s a subject that all Reds have an opinion on and some are very different to others. What is the Greatest United XI of all time? I have had the fortune of being born at a time when United were asserting their dominance as THE English footballing powerhouse. I was born in 1995 so in the interest of fairness I am only going to select players that have played during my lifetime and I have seen play.
Goalkeeeper -Peter Schmeichel
Had to be really, the Great Dane is a candidate for best goalkeeper of all time and is by far our greatest ever keeper. His height, reflexes,positioning and shot stopping made him almost unbeatable. He was also a great leader on the pitch and was not afraid to tell his teammates what he thought of them. An incredible one of a kind keeper.
Honourable Mentions: Edwin Van Der Sar
Right Back – Gary Neville
Gary Nev has been one of the ever present members of the United team since I was born until his retirement in 2011 and doesnt get the praise I think he deserves. He was a fantastic defender and could read players like a book, he was also not afraid of getting forward and was a great crosser of the ball. The fact he tied down the United and England right back spot for over 10 years is a massive testament to his ability.
Honourable Mentions: Paul Parker
Centre Backs – Rio Ferdinand and Gary Pallister
Rio Ferdinand was the most expensive defender in the world when he moved to United from Leeds in 2002. People called the £30m fee ludicrous, how wrong they were. Rio spent 12 years at United and made his own reputation as one of the best defenders in the world for a number of years. He was quick,strong and an expert reader of the game. Gary Pallister was a more traditional English centre back, physically strong but not as skilled with the ball as centre backs are nowadays. Like Ferdinand he was able to read the game extremely well and was cool under pressure. He was a great passer of the ball too.
Honourable Mentions: Nemanja Vidic,Wes Brown,Mikael Silvestre,Jaap Stam,Ronny Johnsen,Steve Bruce
Left Back – Dennis Irwin
This one was a close call but Irwin’s 12 years of almost faultless service won him my vote. He was reasonably quick, an expert tackler and passer of the ball, he got forward and helped with attacks and was as good a defender as I have ever seen. Irwin was also used as a free kick and penalty taker and had a good record from the spot. Irwin was signed in 1990 for £600,000. That must have been the best £600,000 Fergie ever spent.
Honourable Mentions: Patrice Evra
Right Midfield – Cristiano Ronaldo
This one was the toughest decision I had to make. Beckham was a superb footballer and a fantastic servant to the club but Ronaldo’s match winning ability means he makes my team. Ronaldo was Beckham’s replacement when he signed from Sporting Lisbon for £12.24m in 2003. He instantly became a hit but it wasnt until 2006-2007 when we really saw just how good he was. He became a United legend scoring some of the best goals ever seen at Old Trafford including a special free kick at home to Portsmouth. He scored in the Champions League final in 2008 before missing in the penalty shoot-out later on. Ronaldo has only had kind things to say about United and I along with the rest of you are hoping that the rumours of an Old Trafford return are true.
Honourable Mentions: David Beckham,Andrei Kanchelskis
Central Midfield – Paul Scholes and Roy Keane
Paul Scholes is THE best footballer I have ever seen. He controlled the game so well and was a spectacular goalscorer. He had pace,agility,quick feet and was a fantastic passer of the ball. Roy Keane was seen as a hardman of football but was a suprisingly elegant player and like Scholes came up with some extremely important goals for United, non more so than the first United goal of the 3-2 win in Turin in the 1998-99 Champions League Semi Final. Whilst they both had reputations for poor discipline, they could tackle well and were very good at regaining and retaining posession.
Honourable Mentions: Nicky Butt,Michael Carrick,Paul Ince
Left Midfield – Ryan Giggs
Only one choice. Giggsy is our greatest ever player and a true legend of the game. His United career spanned 23 years and had been playing regularly in the United team for 3 years before Adnan Januzaj was born. Giggs’ pace,agility and quick feet made him a nightmare for defenders even into his 30’s and he scored some tremendous goals for United, including the famous solo goal against Arsenal in 1999.
Honourable Mentions: Lee Sharpe
Strikers – Wayne Rooney and Ruud Van Nistelrooy
I went for these two as they complement each other extremely well. Rooney is one of the most talented players in United’s history and will surely break the club’s scoring record held by Sr Bobby Charlton. His influence to United cannot be underestimated and I rate him as possibly the best all-round player in the world. Ruud Van Nistelrooy is the best finisher I have seen at United and he was almost extremely skillful with the ball. He could dribble past player, he held the ball up very well and was a deadly poacher, only one of his 150 United goals coming outside the penalty area.
Honourable Mentions: Andy Cole,Dwight Yorke,Teddy Sheringham,Ole Gunnar Solskjaer,Dimitar Berbatov,Robin Van Persie,Mark Hughes,Brian McClair.,
So, this is my Ultimate United XI.
Ruud Van Nistelrooy