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20 Star Players for Manchester United's 20 Title-Winning Seasons

Max TowleAnalyst INovember 24, 2016

20 Star Players for Manchester United's 20 Title-Winning Seasons

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    As I write, the euphoria from Manchester United claiming their 20th league title is yet to die down.

    The 2012/13 season has been rife with drama, disappointing lows and tremendous highs.

    Though he finished a baffling third in the voting for the PFA's Player of the Season award, Robin van Persie has been the club's undisputed standout player—the MVP, if you like.

    This article will seek to pick the Red Devils' most influential player from each of their 20 title-winning campaigns, stretching back to the first in 1908.

    This is history, baby.

1907/08: Sandy Turnbull

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    I'll admit, I wasn't around to watch Manchester United claim their first league title in 1908, nor do I have any contacts who were, either.

    But by all accounts, Sandy Turnbull was a star of the side that played its home games at the Bank Street ground.

    The Independent describes the forward as an "Edwardian version of Wayne Rooney...one of the great stars of the first successful United team."

    In the 1907/08 season, Turnbull led the team with 25 league goals, as they pipped rivals Manchester City and Aston Villa to the title.

1910/11: Billy Meredith

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    Ernest Mangnall's team won the league again three years later, but this time it was Billy Meredith who was United's star player.

    A footballer with excellent balance and skill, the winger made over 300 appearances for the club between 1906 and 1921.

    At 46, Meredith retired from the game, his legacy as one of the Red Devils' greatest-ever players secure.

    In the final game of the 1910/11 campaign, a fixture against Sunderland that United needed to win, Meredith was instrumental, boosting his team to a 5-1 win.

1951/52: Jack Rowley

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    Jack Rowley, a burly English centre-forward, made over 400 total appearances for Manchester United during his 17-year spell at the club.

    During the triumphant 1951/52 season, Rowley scored an impressive 30 league goals, leading the line in front of the likes of Roger Byrne, Johnny Carey and Jackie Blanchflower.

    He struck four hat-tricks that season, as the Red Devils pipped London sides Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal to the title.

    Equally adept in the air and on the ground, Rowley possessed a powerful left boot that was feared throughout the country.

1955/56: Roger Byrne

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    An unbeaten run of 14 games to close the 1955/56 season saw Manchester United claim their fourth First Division title.

    The side's captain was Roger Byrne, a local Manchester lad who played at full-back.

    In the 42-game season, Byrne made 39 appearances, leading the team with his brand of inspired authority.

    He sadly perished in the Munich Air Disaster in 1958 at age 28. He made 280 appearances for United and was considered a father figure for the Busby Babes.

1956/57: Duncan Edwards

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    Phil Jones is the latest Manchester United player to draw comparisons with Duncan Edwards, and in truth, he could receive no higher praise.

    Edwards was considered the jewel of the famed Busby Babes—a versatile, physical footballer who could play just about any position.

    In the 1956/57 season, Edwards was a standout player alongside the emerging Bobby Charlton, Dennis Viollet, Bill Foulkes and Tommy Taylor.

    Like Byrne, he too died in Munich, aged only 21. The club lost what could have been its greatest-ever player.

1964/65: Denis Law

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    Denis Law is one of Manchester United's undisputed greats, despite his final eventful season at Manchester City.

    With the club rebuilding from the Munich Air Disaster the previous decade under Matt Busby, the Red Devils claimed First Division glory quicker than most had expected.

    Denis Law was the side's most prolific forward when they won the title in 1965, scoring an incredible 39 goals in all competitions.

    The campaign also saw the emergence of George Best and the continued excellence of Bobby Charlton, Paddy Crerand and Nobby Stiles.

1966/67: Bobby Charlton

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    The season before United won the European Cup for the first time in the club's history, First Division glory was theirs.

    Stalwart Bobby Charlton was a key member of this side, controlling the middle of the park with his exceptional technique and unceasing drive.

    Nottingham Forest and Tottenham Hotspur pushed the Red Devils to the end, but a resounding 6-1 thrashing of West Ham United in May, with Charlton on the scoresheet, proved decisive.

    The title was to be United's last for 26 years.

1992/93: Steve Bruce

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    Alex Ferguson and then-assistant boss Brian Kidd's manic celebration of Steve Bruce's late double against Sheffield Wednesday in 1993 is one of the defining images in club history.

    The 2-1 win kept United on top in the inaugural Premier League title chase and was the second in a seven-game win streak to close out the campaign.

    Bruce was the side's co-captain, along with Bryan Robson, and started all 42 league games.

    He was a rock in the middle of a defence that was the league's best, conceding only 31 goals.

1993/94: Eric Cantona

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    Although he arrived the previous season, playing a major role in inspiring the side to glory, the 1993/94 campaign was when Eric Cantona really took off.

    This was a double-winning team stacked with talent, but it was the Frenchman who stood proudly above the rest.

    He scored a team-high 25 goals in all competitions, as United finished a resounding eight points above nearest contenders Blackburn Rovers.

    Cantona's genius was unquestioned—his penchant for the extraordinary was a given by the time Steve Bruce and Bryan Robson held the trophy aloft.

1995/96: Eric Cantona

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    Sir Alex Ferguson responded to a disappointing 1994/95 season by selling the likes of Paul Ince, Mark Hughes and Andrei Kanchelskis—established, integral players at the club.

    Youngsters such as Nicky Butt, David Beckham and Paul Scholes were introduced, proving doubters wrong by helping a young team claim Premier League glory.

    But it was Eric Cantona, returning in October from a nine-month suspension for attacking a fan, who proved the difference, scoring 14 goals in 30 league appearances.

    It was he who also scored one the club's most defining goals—a late winner in the FA Cup final against rivals Liverpool.

1996/97: David Beckham

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    The following season was to be Cantona's last at Old Trafford, but he finished it in style, winning his fourth Premier League winners' medal.

    But it was David Beckham who took a significant share of the plaudits for his inspired performances, winning the club's Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award and the PFA Young Player of the Year award.

    The 21-year-old Beckham struck 12 times in all competitions, most notably scoring from the halfway line against Wimbledon on the opening day of the season.

    It was new signing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who finished as United's top scorer, though, hitting 18 in the league.

1998/99: Roy Keane

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    Manchester United's treble-winning campaign of 1998/99 may well be the greatest season in any football club's history.

    The drama of the season—most notably the late double in the Champions League final—turned hundreds of thousands of neutrals into United supporters overnight.

    Roy Keane was an inspirational figure in the heart of the side's midfield, constantly driving them on when all seemed lost.

    Forwards Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Teddy Sheringham were also key, combining for 76 goals in all competitions.

1999/00: Paul Scholes

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    Manchester United's midfield maestro and ginger wizard, Paul Scholes, came into his own in the 1999/00 season.

    The diminutive attacking midfielder scored nine goals in the Premier League as the Red Devils romped home, topping the table by an incredible 18 points.

    United closed out the season winning 11 games in a row, scoring at least three goals in nine of those wins.

    In the Champions League, it was Real Madrid who eliminated Sir Alex's side in the first knockout phase. It was a season that bears great similarities to the current one.

2000/01: David Beckham

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    Another season, another league title for the Red Devils, as nearest rivals Arsenal and Liverpool were blown out of the water.

    Winger David Beckham was again key, scoring nine Premier League goals and setting up numerous others.

    He was named in UEFA's team of the season as a result, as well as claiming the BBC's prestigious Sports Personality of the Year award.

    One could point to this season as being the end of an era for the United side that had dominated British football during the previous three years.

2002/03: Ruud Van Nistelrooy

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    The 2002/03 season started horribly for the Red Devils, as they won only two of their opening six league games.

    But the team's form quickly picked up, with clinical striker Ruud van Nistelrooy scoring goals for fun.

    The Dutchman struck 44 times in all competitions, as United had to fight to overcome an Arsenal side that sat atop the Premier League table by eight points in March.

    For the next three years, however, it was Arsenal's Invincibles and Jose Mourinho's Chelsea who kept Sir Alex from claiming his eighth league title.

2006/07: Wayne Rooney

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    The rise and rise of Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo saw Manchester United finally win their Premier League trophy back in the 2006/07 season.

    The attacking duo scored 23 goals each in all competitions, 10 more than Louis Saha, the third-most prolific Red Devil.

    With a few exceptions, Sir Alex's side had a far different look from the class of 2003. The likes of Edwin van der Sar, Patrice Evra and Michael Carrick played key roles.

    Rooney's spectacular lob against Portsmouth in the FA Cup won the Goal of the Season award.

2007/08: Cristiano Ronaldo

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    The 2007/08 team may well go down as Manchester United's most talented.

    It was Cristiano Ronaldo's sensational 42 goals in all competitions that proved the difference, as the Red Devils were triumphant in both the Premier League and Champions League.

    For his efforts, the Portuguese attacking midfielder was named the PFA Players' Player of the Year, UEFA Club Footballer of the Year and scooped the Ballon d'Or.

    The team's defence, with Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand at its heart, must also be praised for conceding only 22 goals in 38 league games.

2008/09: Cristiano Ronaldo

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    In 2009, Cristiano Ronaldo finished second in the Ballon d'Or voting behind Barcelona's burgeoning superstar, Lionel Messi.

    Manchester United won the 2008/09 Premier League off the back of his 18 goals, including key strikes against Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City late in the season.

    Ronaldo left Old Trafford at the end of the campaign and headed to Real Madrid to battle Messi directly.

    Sir Alex's side kept ahead of the chasing Liverpool and Chelsea by winning 19 of its last 22 games.

2010/11: Nani

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    With Wayne Rooney injured for a significant portion of the 2010/11 season, the burden fell on Dimitar Berbatov and Nani to deliver the goods.

    The Bulgarian scored a league-high 20 goals, including five in one game, but the Portuguese winger's contributions saw him deservedly named the club's Player of the Season.

    After three campaigns of mixed form, it was this one that saw him emerge as a consistent, reliable threat on the flanks.

    New signing Javier Hernandez's 20 goals in all competitions also saw him make an unlikely difference for the team.

2012/13: Robin van Persie

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    Manchester United may have been able to win the Premier League title without him, but Robin van Persie's arrival at Old Trafford this past summer was certainly a massive factor.

    The Dutchman has scored 25 goals to date, while playing in every Premier League game of the season.

    The Red Devils' desire to reclaim the title that had shifted to the blue half of the city has been remarkable, as they head towards a points total above 90.

    With Sir Alex showing no signs of wanting to retire, and young talents such as David de Gea, Rafael and Phil Jones in the ranks, this 20th title will certainly not be the last.

     

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