Manchester United: Ranking the Reds' Top 10 Wingers of All-Time

Jaideep Vaidya@@jaideepjournoAnalyst IAugust 25, 2011

Manchester United: Ranking the Reds' Top 10 Wingers of All-Time

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    Manchester United have had some of the best wingers in the world play for the club in its glorious history. But who are the cream of the crop?

    United have almost always employed a style of football in which the attack is taken forward via the wings. The club has thus produced and attracted a number of quality wingers since its inception in 1878.

    The current batch of wingers include Nani, Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young, who are fighting to put their name alongside some of the game's greats.

    Here's a list of 10 wingers who have set the benchmark at Old Trafford:

10. Charlie Mitten (1946-1950)

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    Appearances: 162 

    Goals: 61

    Charlie Mitten was an important member of Sir Matt Busby's post-World War II United side.

    Known as "Cheeky Charlie" among the United faithful, Mitten was an eccentric and exciting player. He was a showman who would bamboozle defenders with his fabulous runs down the wing. His magnificent left foot fed the strikers with pinpoint crosses. 

    Mitten was also a genius with dead-balls and specialized in penalty kicks.

    His ambitions could only allow him to remain at Old Trafford for five years, but he provided ample quality in that period to be considered a great.

9. Billy Meredith (1906-1921)

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    Appearances: 335 

    Goals: 36 

    Billy Meredith was Manchester United’s original "Welsh Wizard" and was one of the first footballing superstars.

    Nicknamed "Old Skinny" due to his wiry frame, Meredith was known for his meandering runs down the wing. He was also capable of producing pinpoint crosses and played with a toothpick stuck in the corner of his mouth, which he claimed helped him concentrate.

    In a remarkable career spanning almost 30 years, Meredith had stints with both Manchester clubs as a player and coach. He was just shy of 50 when he retired.

8. Johnny Berry (1951-1958)

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    Appearances: 246 

    Goals: 45

    Johnny Berry was one of the few lucky survivors of Munich and played an integral part in the formation of the "Busby Babes."

    Berry came to Busby’s attention while he was playing for Birmingham and single-handedly destroyed United on one occasion.

    He was a two-footed winger and became a fan favorite at Old Trafford after signing for the Reds in 1951. 

    He helped the Reds lift three league titles during his seven-year career at Old Trafford. His career was cut short by injuries sustained in Munich, but it was a miracle that he had even survived, having suffered a fractured skull, broken jaw and broken pelvis.

7. Steve Coppell (1975-1983)

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    Appearances: 396 

    Goals: 70

    Once a Scouser, always a Manc.

    Steve Coppell was a nippy right winger who was born in Liverpool and even attended Liverpool University while playing for the Reds.

    He won over the Old Trafford faithful with his skillful play and doubtless commitment to the club. His heroics with Manchester United also won him several England caps.

    Sadly, Coppell was at the receiving end of a horrific challenge during the qualifiers for the 1982 World Cup which shattered his knee. He was never the same player again.

    However, Coppell amassed 396 appearances for the Reds and goes down as one of the club's finest players.

6. George Wall (1905-1915)

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    Appearances: 319 

    Goals: 100

    George Wall was the Ryan Giggs of Manchester United a century ago.

    He was a prolific goalscorer who terrorized defenses with his speed and finishing. 

    The Geordie used to patrol the left wing in the first few years of the 20th century and amassed four medals in a 10-year career with United before World War I disrupted his career.

    After breaking through in the 1906-07 season, Wall helped United win their first ever league title a year later. He scored 19 goals in that season and missed only two games. 

5. Joe Spence (1919-1933)

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    Appearances: 510 

    Goals: 168

    Joe Spence was an integral part of the United squad between the two wars. In fact, he was known as "Mr. Soccer" during his time.

    Spence was an influential player in United's midfield and the team's play generally used to revolve around him. A popular chant heard at Old Trafford when he played was "Give it to Joe."

    Spence's name is featured in the elite list of players who have made more than 500 appearances for United, and he scored a whopping 168 goals in his 14-year career at with the club.

    Unfortunately for him, United did not win any trophies during his time there as it was in a transitional phase.

4. David Beckham (1992-2003)

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    Appearances: 394 

    Goals: 85

    David Robert Joseph Beckham signed on with Manchester United from the Tottenham youth setup in 1991 and immediately helped the young Red Devils win the Youth Cup the following year.

    A member of Fergie's Fledglings, Beckham soon took over the No. 7 jersey left behind by Eric Cantona and carried forward the legacy of the jersey to grandeur.

    Beckham played on the right flank for United and chipped in with numerous assists and sublime goals. He was a dead-ball specialist and one of the most feared ones of his time.

    He immortalized the phrase "Bend it like Beckham" with his elegant and shockingly accurate benders. Coupled with his dashing good looks, he became a runaway celebrity. Girls wanted to be with him, whereas guys wanted to be like him!

    Even though Beckham's United career ended on a sour note, he still remains a darling among United fans who fondly sing about their favorite son, "There's only one Beckham!"

3. Cristiano Ronaldo (2003-2009)

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    Appearances: 292 

    Goals: 118

    The same summer David Beckham left for Real Madrid, Sir Alex Ferguson signed an 18 year-old winger from Sporting Lisbon for £12 million.

    Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro was given Beckham's No. 7 jersey, also worn previously by greats such as Bobby Charlton, Bryan Robson and Eric Cantona. The youngster had some big shoes to fill.

    In November that year, young Ronaldo stepped up to take a free kick against Portsmouth. United fans, who had lost their beloved Beckham, watched with bated breath as the new guy attempted to fill Beckham's shoes.

    Ronaldo calmly took his wide-legged stance behind the ball, observed the goal, calculated the angle and the distance and then shot.

    The rest, as they say, is history!

2. George Best (1963-1974)

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    Appearances: 470

    Goals: 179

    George Best was spotted by a United scout playing for a local club in Belfast. The scout immediately knew that he had discovered a genius and asked Sir Matt Busby to sign up the skinny youngster immediately.

    After turning professional on his 17th birthday, Best broke into the first team in September, 1963. He scored in just his second appearance for United.

    Best, along with Bobby Charlton and Denis Law, helped United win their first league title since Munich in the 1964-65 season. The trio would later go on to be known as the United Trinity.

    Best was the perfect mixture of speed, vision, control, balance, creativity and finishing. He was the complete footballer, and whenever he stepped on to the field it was evident that he was thoroughly enjoying himself.

    His 470 appearances for the Reds brought 179 goals and he holds the post-war record for the most goals by a United player in a single match — six -- against Northampton Town.

    It is rightly said, "Maradona good; Pelé better; George Best."

1. Ryan Giggs (1991-Present)

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    Appearances: 877 

    Goals: 159

    Ryan Giggs, age 14, was snapped up from the Manchester City youth system in 1987, and thank God for that!

    The young Giggs then honed his skills along with the rest of Fergie's Fledglings and was soon vehemently knocking on the first team's door. 

    Giggs eventually broke through and scored his first professional goal for United in the 1991 Manchester Derby.

    The Welshman soon shoved Lee Sharpe out of the role of first-choice left winger and went on to make the position his own personal property.

    Like good wine, Giggs just got better with age. He became one of the most reliable members of Sir Alex's red army and tormented the opposition with consummate ease.

    The Old Trafford faithful were soon heard warning the opposition that "Giggs will tear you apart!"

    Giggs was one of the proud owners of the first ever Premier League winners medal in 1992-93 and went on to win 11 more titles, the last of which came this May. He also has the distinction of being the only player to have scored in each and every Premier League season since its inception in 1992-93.

    At 37, Giggs still delivers what's asked of him. He may have lost the raw pace that he had in his younger days, but he can still rip you a new one if you take him too lightly.

    After a glorious career spanning over 20 years (and counting) at Old Trafford, Giggs is the most decorated British footballer ever.

    Other than his record 12 league titles, he has won two Champions League trophies, four FA Cups and three League Cups.

    And he hasn't had enough yet!

    As the Welsh Wizard completes two decades in the Manchester United first team, a popular banner in the Stretford End reads, "Giggs—tearing you apart since 1991."