Manchester United's Top 20 Goals of the Last 10 Years

William Gish@wgishAnalyst IJune 30, 2011

Manchester United's Top 20 Goals of the Last 10 Years

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    The Red Devils are the indisputably dominant EPL side of the last decade.

    Starting in 2001, Alex Ferguson’s men have won six EPL titles, eight cup titles, one Champions League title and two doubles.

    The road has been one filled with fantastic football. The explosive attacking panache showed by Fergie’s teams led to myriad tremendous goals, only a portion of which are represented by this list.

    Here is your subjective, slightly skewed and surely somewhat biased guide to the top 20 goals of United’s heroic decade.

    Be forewarned: you will encounter some arbitrary and surely questionable ordering of the goals.

20. Carlos Tevez vs Liverpool

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    When: Dec. 16, 2007

    Where: Anfield

    The Skinny: Carlos Tevez scored the only goal in United’s 1-0 defeat of Liverpool at Anfield.

    The goal isn’t incredible in and of itself, but it's an incredible act of teamwork that speaks volumes of United’s superior interplay in the 2007-08 campaign. 

    Giggs slashed an expert corner kick to the top of area, which Rooney took and slotted perfectly in to the center of the box. Tevez, standing directly in front of the goal, sliced the ball up with the side of his foot on the first touch.

    United scored before Liverpool had a chance to realize what had happened.

    The goal in question starts at five minutes into the video.

19. Chicharito vs Chelsea

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    When: May 5, 2011

    Where: Old Trafford

    The Skinny: Despite the long-standing rivalries with Arsenal and Liverpool, the real thorn in United’s side over the past three or four seasons has been Chelsea.

    The Blues secured the league title on the last day in 2010 and threatened to do so again in 2011 with a great run of form in the spring. Chicharito put these dreams to bed when he scored the fastest goal of the 2010-11 season.

    After merely 36 seconds of play, Javier Hernandez performed an astounding feat of speed and athleticism. Little Pea dusted new Chelsea hero David Luis and ripped the ball past a befuddled Petr Cech.

    With Chicharito’s goal, United proved its supremacy over Chelsea during the 2010-11 campaign. The strike asserted Hernandez as a hero for the future.

18. Paul Scholes vs Barcelona

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    When: April 30, 2008

    Where: Old Trafford

    The Skinny: Playing in their horrible away uniforms must have jinxed Barcelona.

    In the 2008 Champions League semifinal clash between the world’s two biggest teams, Barcelona made a rudimentary defensive blunder that led to one of the great Red Devils goals the past decade.

    For some reason, Barca’s defense saw fit to simply bat the ball into a blind spot rather than properly clearing it. This error in judgment led directly to Scholes’ possession.

    With a measured precision gained from his umpteen years experience, the ginger midget launched the ball from outside the box. It cleared the outstretched hands of Victor Valdes and nestled perfectly in the upper corner of the goal.

17. Wayne Rooney vs Bolton

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    When: March 17, 2007

    Where: Old Trafford

    The Skinny: More than anything else, Rooney’s great goal against Bolton displays the brilliance of Sir Male Pattern Baldness’ partnership with Cristiano Ronaldo.

    In a matter of seconds, the pair created a counter attack that saw them eclipse everyone on the field save two Bolton defenders and the opposition keeper.

    Ronaldo waited with the patience of a much more seasoned player, passing the ball to Rooney at the optimal moment, only a few yards from the goal.

    With a finishing acumen typical of his golden years, Rooney chipped the ball over the sliding Jussi Jaaskelainen and into Bolton’s goal. A brilliant piece of teamwork.

16. Dimitar Berbatov vs Liverpool

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    When: Sept. 19, 2010

    Where: Old Trafford

    The Skinny: It was an exciting match between two great rivals of post-war football. Bulgarian bomber Dimitar Berbatov won the day for United with his hat trick.

    One of the goals Berbatov scored on that day looked nearly identical to Rooney’s bicycle kick that came five months later: a cross from Nani followed by an overhead kick that sent the ball into the cross bar and over the goal line.

    Berbatov handled the ball expertly on his first touch to set up the goal. Given the occasion—a victory over rivals—and the technical skill involved, it surely ranks as a top United strike from the last decade.

15. David Beckham vs West Ham

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    When: March 16, 2002

    Where: Upton Park

    The Skinny: It’s hard to tell what’s more mind blowing in the replays of David Beckham’s phenomenal strike, the goal itself or West Ham keeper David James’ unrelentingly awful hair, which looks like a misshapen golden net.

    We’ll go with the goal. Beckham takes a well-placed pass from Red Devils stalwart Paul Scholes and moves quickly toward the goal.

    As James comes forward at him and the West Ham defense approaches from an angle, Beckham does what few would have the wherewithal to: chips the ball in a perfect parabola over the heads of the defense and into the far corner of the net.


14. Wayne Rooney vs Newcastle

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    When: April 24, 2005

    Where: Old Trafford

    The Skinny: You’ll be amazed to see 20-year-old Wayne Rooney score this scorcher with a full head of hair.

    The then boy wonder more than lived up to his heroic moniker when he blasted this ball into the back of the net on his first touch.

    Newcastle’s defense attempted to clear the ball during a United offensive and accidentally looped right to Ronney. Without breaking stride on his headlong run, the forward hurled his right foot forward.

    From a distance of some 20 yards, he curled the ball around the keeper and into the back of the net. It was a brilliant piece of footwork and a great moment in 21st Century history of Red Devils.

    Apologies for the video quality—all the good ones for this strike have disabled embedding.

13. Cristiano Ronaldo vs Arsenal

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    When: May 5, 2009

    Where: Emirates

    The Skinny: Ten minutes into the second leg of the Red Devils v Gunners Champions League semifinal clash of 2009, Portuguese ace Cristiano Ronaldo deflated the hopes of Gooners worldwide with an absolutely absurd free kick.

    Taken from great distance, the strike flew over Arsenal’s paltry wall and past a dumbstruck Almunia with the velocity of a missile.

    The look on Wenger’s face immediately after the strike says more than I ever could about the brilliance of Ronaldo’s strike.

    We’ll take the liberty of transcribing Wenger’s thoughts: Putain de merde!

    The goal in question starts three minutes into the video and you'll have to endure a horrible Evanescence song (aren't they all, though?), so apologies in advance. Head over to YouTube for an HD video without the music.

12. Cristiano Ronaldo vs Porto

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    When: April 15, 2009

    Where: Estádio do Dragão

    The Skinny: Ronaldo’s 40-yard cracker against Porto in the Champions League quarterfinal won the Portuguese prodigy the FIFA Goal of the Year award and the fan vote for Top Man United Goal of the Decade.

    The goal itself happens so fast that its reputation certainly outstrips any impression you get from watching it, at least upon first glance. There’s some running, a kick—it’s over before you know that’s happened.

    Then the inevitable, “What a minute, what the hell?” sounds in your head once you’ve digested what actually happened.

    Cristiano Ronaldo, at a distance of more than 120 feet, has turned abruptly and, with essentially no build up, rocketed the ball past the goalkeeper and into the net.

    It’s not the most visually stunning piece of work, but it’s a conceptual masterpiece. The now legendary strike is also the proud owner of myriad YouTube videos, each with an infinitely worse techno soundtrack than the last.

11. Nani vs Middlesbrough

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    When: Oct. 27, 2007

    Where: Old Trafford

    The Skinny: Nani’s goal against Middlesbrough looks a lot like Ronaldo’s goal against Porto but is even more impressive.

    Let’s enumerate the reasons why.

    It’s not quite from the same distance, and Nani had a more difficult angle than Ronaldo. Furthermore, Nani completely crossed the pitch with his strike, so his ball probably traveled an equal distance to Ronaldo’s, if not further.

    Nani had the chore of evading more defenders than did Ronaldo, though admittedly playing Porto is probably more difficult than playing Middlesbrough.

    All in all, it was a great strike from the Portuguese winger and one worth celebrating.

10. Carlos Tevez vs Wigan

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    When: Oct. 6, 2007

    Where: Old Trafford

    The Skinny: On a day that Cristiano Ronaldo scored a brace and Wayne Rooney also found the back of the net, Carlos Tevez distinguished himself with a fantastic strike.

    Let’s pause momentarily to acknowledge that all three of these players scored for the same team on the same day.

    Now then. Tevez completely confounded the first two defenders he came up against by quickly reversing the direction of his run.

    He then darted to the side to avoid two more defenders and Wigan’s goalkeeper before drilling the ball in the back of the net. All of this transpired in the course of about three seconds, without Tevez once breaking stride.

    It’s a fantastic goal that displays all the best qualities of the Argentine dynamo who now plies his trade with cross town rivals Man City.

    The goal in question can be found in the video starting at 1:02.

9. Wayne Rooney vs Portsmouth

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    When: Jan. 27, 2007

    Where: Old Trafford

    The Skinny: United strikers love making a fool of keeper David James.

    Wayne Rooney scored one of United’s top 20 goals of the past decade in an FA Cup match against Portsmouth. In the 82nd minute of the game, Rooney chipped a looping shot over defenders from just outside the box.

    The ball curved perfectly over the head of David James, who stood by watching as the shot fell into the back of the net and secured United’s advancement in the tournament.

8. Federico Macheda vs Aston Villa

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    When: April 5, 2009

    Where: Old Trafford

    The Skinny: It was a great moment.

    Villa put up a hell of a fight. Despite a brace from Cristiano Ronaldo, the match remained tied after 90 minutes. Injury time came and nearly went.

    As injury time wound down and United found itself facing a potential draw, 17-year-old Italian striker Federico Macheda performed some incredibly deft footwork, spinning on the ball and sending it into the far corner as he lost his balance and fell.

    It was his debut game and a strike that entered the annals of United history.

7. Ruud Van Nistelrooy vs Fulham

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    When: March 22, 2003

    Where: Old Trafford

    The Skinny: Ruud van Nistelrooy gave United fans quite a treat when he scored a hat trick against a besought Fulham in the Red Devils 3-0 home victory.

    One of these three strikes was good enough to land RVN on this list. The goal looks something like Diego Maradona’s famed run against England at the ’86 World Cup.

    Like Maradona, RVN took the ball near the half and ran it all the way through the opposition and to the goal. Van Nistelrooy finished perfectly, slotting the ball into the far corner as the keeper came out to meet him.

6. Wayne Rooney vs Manchester City

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    When: Feb. 12, 2011

    Where: Old Trafford

    The Skinny: The goal was legendary before the game even ended.

    Rooney’s bicycle kick heralded the return of a Manchester United hero whose goal scoring prowess lay dormant for many months before this fantastic strike.

    The athleticism and tenacity of Rooney’s goal is evident immediately. The fact that the strike drove a nail in the heart of cross-town rivals Manchester City makes the moment that much sweeter.

    Pundits and fans alike furiously debated whether the goal was truly that great in the grand scheme of things, yet these concerns are trivial. The moment has already entered the canon of great United strikes.

5. David Beckham vs Everton

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    When: May 11, 2003

    Where: Goodison Park

    The Skinny: Thanks to that movie with Keira Knightly and the alcoholic guy from The Tudors, David Beckham’s free-kick ability is something of a global legend that has eclipsed the kicks themselves.
    Yet in 2003, Beckham stunned the Premiership with this unbelievable strike against a stunned Everton side. The strike wasn’t from great distance, but it was executed as well as any free kick you’re likely to see.

    The movement on the ball defies physics. In a space tighter than 20 yards, Beckham manages to put enough spin on the ball that it loops over the wall on the left-hand side of the box and into the back right corner of the night. 

    It’s a classic Beckham strike and one of the top United goals of the past decade.

4. Cristiano Ronaldo vs Portsmouth

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    When: Jan.30, 2008

    Where: Old Trafford

    The Skinny: Ronaldo’s free kick against Portsmouth is the model of precision. Once more a United ace made mince meat of David James.

    In an extremely condensed space, Ronaldo managed to boot the ball over the Portsmouth wall and directly into the corner of James’ goal.

    By not curving the ball and attempting to hit the opposite side of the net, Ronaldo limited the space he had to make the strike and thereby dramatically increased the possibility that the goal might go horribly wrong.

    But it didn’t, and there in lies the mastery of the goal. Ronaldo had the mental fortitude to make a difficult decision and the technical skill and tenacity to pull it off.

3. Cristiano Ronaldo vs Roma

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    When: April 1, 2008

    Where: Stadio Olimpico

    The Skinny: It looked like Paul Scholes was kicking into empty space in front of Roma’s goal. But Scholes doesn’t make mistakes like that.

    Suddenly, Ronaldo appeared as if from nowhere, tearing into the box from a few yards out, destroying the ball with his head.

    Ronaldo’s header scorched into the back of the net. It was a highlight of the 2007-08 Champions League campaign and one of the best United goals of the past decade.

    The goal in question starts 17 seconds into the video.

2. Paul Scholes vs Aston Villa

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    When: Dec. 23, 2006

    Where: Villa Park

    The Skinny: The ginger midget is always on hand when something phenomenal happens for the Red Devils. He assisted a handful of strikes on this list and contributed some brilliant blasts of his own.

    Paul Scholes gifted United fans an early Christmas present in 2006 with his goal against Villa, which rivals Beckham’s strike against West Ham for the winner of the, “How the Hell Did That Happen?” trophy.

    And how exactly did it happen? Ryan Giggs sent a corner kick into the general melee, which Villa defenders cleared to a distance of some 25 yards from the goal.

    Somehow, Scholes found himself in perfect position as the ball landed, launching a calm, confident volley that laced through the cross bars with perfect precision.

1. Ruud Van Nistelrooy vs Charlton

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    When: Nov. 19, 2005

    Where: The Valley

    The Skinny: Few goals the past decade are as impressive as Ruud van Nistelrooy’s strike against Charlton.

    Wayne Rooney did a fanatastic job in assisting the goal. He maneuvered deftly passed everything the Charlton defense had to offer before sending a sideways volley to van Nistelrooy, who positioned himself directly before the goal.

    Van Nistelrooy’s spin needs to be seen to be believed. Taking the ball on his chest, he whips his body 180 degrees on a stationary pivot and slaps the ball into the opposite corner.

    Watch closely after the goal, and you’ll see the Charlton defender who was guarding van Nistelrooy clawing his hair in dismay.