In Sir Alex Ferguson’s 26 years as manager of Manchester United he has nurtured and acquired some of the best players to ever grace the Premier League.
On the news of his retirement, MM has put together a list of who we think should make it into the starting 11 of the Fergie era.
Goalkeeper – Peter Schmeichel 1991-1999
It has to the Great Dane. Not only Sir Alex Ferguson’s best keeper, but perhaps the greatest number one in Premier League history.
Fergie has famously struggled to replace the man who held the number one spot during the treble-winning campaign, but United fans are unlikely to see another goalkeeper who will match Schmeichel’s consistently outstanding performances.
Right-back – Gary Neville 1992-2011
The player you love to hate, and now, it seems, the pundit that we love to love, G Nev captained United for five years and always showed his passion for the club.
Whether he vented his steam in the right way or not, his loyalty, aggression in the tackle, and knack of putting in the right cross at just the right time means England’s most-capped right-back deserves a place in the side.
Centre-back – Steve Bruce 1987-1996
With an impressive 36 goals in 311 league games for United, Bruce could be effective at both ends of the pitch. One of Fergie’s early signings, he formed a formidable partnership with Gary Pallister and, despite being a Newcastle United fan, he always put everything on the line for the Reds.
Bruce and Pallister helped United become a dominant force in the old First Division and they were part of the team which won the 1990 FA Cup Final.
Centre-back – Rio Ferdinand 2002-present
The world’s most expensive defender seemed to be getting pushed out of Manchester United. Consistently outstanding performances this season saw him reinstate himself as a driving force behind his side as he made the PFA Team of the Year.
Just as comfortable running out of defence and making decisive passes as putting his head on the line, Ferdinand justifies his place ahead of stiff competition.
Left-back – Denis Irwin 1990-2002
Forging one of the best left-sided partnerships in the club’s history with Ryan Giggs, Irwin wasn’t a player who had to be at the centre of attention, but he always got the job done. Fantastic at free-kicks and penalties, the Irishman was another vital component of the treble-winning side of 1999.
Midfield – Cristiano Ronaldo 2003-2009
Sure to go down as one of the best players in history, not just United, Cristiano Ronaldo is a global superstar. A shrewd Fergie purchase when signed for £12.28million from Sporting Lisbon at the age of just 18, Ronaldo grew and grew in every sense of the word.
His flair, pace, skill and finishing will forever be remembered at United, although his goal-scoring exploits at Real Madrid mean he is as much a legend at the Bernabéu as he was at Old Trafford. What more could you expect from the world’s most expensive player?
Midfield – David Beckham 1993-2003
The man who Ronaldo replaced as United’s number seven, David Beckham has become known more for his global brand than his footballing ability, but he has to make Fergie’s best 11.
Who can forget that 60-yard strike against Wimbledon? Throughout his career, Beckham has evolved and made the most of his attributes. His delivery from the right-hand side has never been bettered and in his time at United he was without a doubt the best crosser of a ball in the modern game.
Midfield – Ryan Giggs 1990-present
The only player to be a part of every single one of Sir Alex’s 13 Premier League triumphs, Giggs has been a Manchester United regular since 1991. Although he could make this side simply because of his loyalty and longevity, Giggs has provided so much more.
Once the young, explosive star of English football with his bullish runs and silky dribbles along the left, the Welshman now inspires games from a more central position with his eye for a pass and skill from set-pieces.
Midfield – Paul Scholes 1994-present
Another player who has spent his entire career at United, which is another testament to Ferguson’s achievements, is Paul Scholes. Arguably one of the most naturally gifted footballers that England has ever produced, Scholes was integral to Manchester United’s strongest sides.
To the disappointment of many neutrals, Scholes retired from international duty in 2004 to concentrate on club football and went on to score crucial goals from the centre of midfield – leading Spanish superstar Xavi to name him the best player in his position. Just watch out for a Scholesy tackle…
Striker – Eric Cantona 1992-1997
This goal says it all. English football has had its fair share of characters, but no-one matches up to Cantona for sheer brilliance and unpredictability. Well, there is Ronaldo, but he’s already in the team.
Striker – Wayne Rooney 2004-present
To pick a Fergie forward is a tough call, as in more than 25 years of success United have always managed to pick up a striker capable of scoring at will. But Wayne Rooney, nabbed form Everton as an 18-year-old wonderkid with the weight of the world on his shoulders, has produced those moments of brilliance that only some players are capable of.
Rumours abound that he will leave this summer with his influence waning and his position becoming more and more withdrawn, but a debut Champions League hat-trick sealed his name in the history books. If he stays at United, it’s more and more likely he will become their highest-ever goal-scorer, sealing his place.
Check back on MM tomorrow for our pick of Fergie’s worst XI from his time as boss.
Picture courtesy of BBC, via YouTube, with thanks.