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Manchester United: Top 15 Red Devils Defenders of All Time

Nedu ObiAnalyst IIJanuary 8, 2017

Manchester United: Top 15 Red Devils Defenders of All Time

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    Manchester United have amassed an array of trophies over the years, but that success wouldn’t have been realized without some of their great Red defenders shoring up the defense.

    Much of Man United’s triumphs since the days of Sir Matt Busby and up to their present manger Sir Alex Ferguson, has been put down to Man United’s strike force and midfield assemblage.

    Man United, however, owe their accomplishments in no small part to the defensive Red Devils who have made that feat a possibility.

    Let’s take a look at the top 15 defenders who have donned the Red Devil’s jersey.

15. Patrice Evra

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    Position: Left-back

    Club Honors: Premier League 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, Football League Cup 2006, 2009, 2010, FA Community Shield Cup 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, FIFA Club World Cup 2008 and UEFA Champions League 2008

    Man United career: 2006-present

    Man United Appearances: 259

    France Appearances: 39

    The French International is recognized as one of the best left-backs in the world and is only rivalled by Chelsea and England’s Ashley Cole.

    A defensively sound and reliable left-back, Patrice Evra has a penchant for going forward—overlapping the midfield while providing crosses and contributing assists to the team.

14. Nemanja Vidic

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    Position: Centre-back

    Club Honors: Premier League 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, Football League Cup 2006, 2009, 2010, FA Community Shield Cup 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, FIFA Club World Cup 2008 and UEFA Champions League 2008

    Man United career: 2006-present

    Man United Appearances: 239

    Serbia Appearances: 56

    Nemanja Vidic garnered United’s interest after his defensive displays for his national side Serbia during the FIFA World Cup qualifying stages, where they conceded only one goal throughout the campaign.

    Vidic brought his rugged style and defensive qualities to United, and soon he was to form a cohesive partnership with Rio Ferdinand that produced a formidable defense for the Red Devils.

    Because of Gary Neville’s long absence from the team due to injuries, Vidic assumed the role of captain in 2010 and has been at the helm ever since.

13. Arthur Albiston

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    Position: Left-back

    Club Honors: Second Division Championship 1975, FA Cup 1977, 1983, 1985 and Charity Shield Cup 1977, 1973 

    Man United career: 1974-1988

    Man United Appearances: 485

    Scotland Appearances: 14

    Arthur Albiston first plied his trade as a trainee for United in 1972.

    Two years later, he was a member of the famous Red Devils team.

    Because of his dependability and his consistency, for almost a decade the name Albiston would appear on United’s first-team sheet.

12. Paul McGrath

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    Position: Centre-back

    Club Honors: FA Cup 1985  

    Man United career: 1982-1989

    Man United Appearances: 163

    Republic of Ireland Appearances: 83

    Paul McGrath was as tough as old boots, and his tackling was near enough the same.

    Throughout his career, he was blighted by injuries, especially his knees, but that never stopped him from going in for the most death-defying tackles.

    McGrath is one of Ireland’s greatest exports, and if it hadn’t been for his nagging injuries and his off-the-field antics, McGrath would be higher up the list.

    Nevertheless, he was one of a kind.

11. Kevin Moran

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    Position: Centre-back

    Club Honors: FA Cup 1983, 1985 and Charity Shield Cup 1983

    Man United career: 1978-1988

    Man United Appearances: 231

    Republic of Ireland Appearances: 71

    The Republic of Ireland International has the ignominy of being the first player to have ever been sent off in a FA Cup final after an alleged lunge on Everton’s Peter Reid.

    Apart from his rough-house tackling, Kevin Moran did have an eye for goal—scoring 21 in his time with the Red Devils.

10. Tony Dunne

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    Position: Full-back

    Club Honors: First Division champions 1965, 1967, FA Cup 1963 and European Cup 1968

    Man United career: 1960-1973

    Man United Appearances: 530

    Republic of Ireland Appearances: 33

    Signed from Shelbourne as a backup defender in 1960, Tony Dunne finally got to make his mark in the 1963 FA Cup, where United went on to defeat Leicester City.

    The Irish full-back was steadfast in defense and also had speed in abundance.

    Part of Sir Matt Busby’s dominant side of the 1960s, Dunne is regarded as one of the greatest full-backs to have ever played for the club.

9. Gary Neville

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    Position: Right-back

    Club Honors: Premier League 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2007, 2009, FA Cup 1996, 1999, 2004, Football League Cup 2006, 2010, F.A Community Shield Cup 1996, 1997, 2008, FIFA Club World Cup 2008, Intercontinental Cup 1999 and UEFA Champions League 1999

    Man United career: 1992-2011

    Man United Appearances: 602

    England Appearances: 85

    Gary Neville is the most capped right back in English football history—he also has the accolade of best English right-back bestowed upon him as well.

    It was during the period of Paul Parker’s injuries in 1994-95 season that Neville really came to the fore—assuming the sole role of right-back unless he had to switch positions to accommodate Dennis Irwin.

    After the departure of Roy Keane in 2005, he was appointed United’s captain and would lead them to a succession of trophies.

    Neville is and always will be a favourite to the Old Trafford faithful, mostly due to his commitment to the United cause.

8. Rio Ferdinand

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    Position: Centre-back

    Club Honors: Premier League 2003, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, Football League Cup 2006, 2009, FA Community Shield Cup 2003, 2007, 2008, 2011, FIFA Club World Cup 2008 and UEFA Champions League 2008

    Man United career: 2002-present

    Man United Appearances: 370

    England Appearances: 81

    Rio Ferdinand was a product of the West Ham Youth Academy, from where he would later join the senior team. It wasn’t too long until he caught the eye of Leeds United, who coughed up a record sum at the time of £18 million for his services.

    After two seasons at Leeds, Man United came calling, and the rest is history.

    Barring injuries, since his time at United he has been a defensive stalwart, and alongside Nemanja Vidic, he has formed a formidable partnership.

    He was also deputized as captain in Gary Neville’s absence.

7. Dennis Irwin

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    Position: Left-back

    Club Honors: Premier League 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001 FA Cup 1994, 1996, 1999, Football League Cup 1992, Charity Shield Cup 1990 (shared), 1993, 1996, 1997, European Cup Winners’ Cup 1991 and European Super Cup 1991 and Intercontinental Cup 1999

    Man United career: 1990-2002

    Man United Appearances: 368

    Republic of Ireland Appearances: 59

    The Republic of Ireland left-back was one of the most consistent defenders and performers for United.

    When Irwin first joined United, he played as a right-back, but he was later switched to the left-back position.

    Irwin was a reliable and hard-working defender who was always on hand to shore up the United defense if need be.

6. Billy Foulkes

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    Position: Centre-back

    Club Honors: First Division champions 1956, 1957, 1965, 1967, FA Cup 1963, Charity Shield Cup 1956, 1957, 1965, 1967 and European Cup 1968

    Man United career: 1951-1970

    Man United Appearances: 679

    England Appearances: 1

    Bill Foulkes was one of the seven Busby Babes to survive the Munich air disaster in 1958.

    He started every single game for the Red Devils during the 1957-58, 1959-60, 1963-64 and 1965 seasons.

    Foulkes is also third in all-time appearances for United behind Ryan Giggs and Sir Bobby Charlton.

5. Gary Pallister

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    Position: Centre-back

    Club Honors: Premier League 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, FA Cup 1990, 1994, 1996, Football League Cup 1992, Charity Shield Cup 1990 (shared), 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, European Cup Winners’ Cup 1991 and European Super Cup 1991

    Man United career: 1989-1998

    Man United Appearances: 317

    England Appearances: 22

    Gary Pallister was in some respects the spitting image of Steve Bruce—he was brave, got stuck in and would give as good as he got.

    Pallister and Bruce always worked in tandem to the shore of the United defense, and they did it with great efficacy.

4. Steve Bruce

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    Position: Centre-back

    Club Honors: Premier League 1993, 1994, 1996, FA Cup 1990, 1994, 1996, Football League Cup 1992, Charity Shield Cup 1990 (shared), 1993, 1994, European Cup Winners’ Cup 1991 and European Super Cup 1991

    Man United career: 1987-1996

    Man United Appearances: 414

    England B Appearances: 1

    Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister formed a defensive partnership that would see them go on to win a host of trophies.

    As centre-backs go, Bruce wore his heart on his sleeve and would never shirk a challenge, which sometimes did result in him coming off far worse than his opponents.

    Nevertheless, he was a Trojan defender.

    Also, Bruce was one of those defenders that had a knack for finding the net—his 51 goals for United are testament.

    He was also the first English player in the 20th century to captain a double-winning side.

3. Jaap Stam

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    Position: Centre-back

    Club Honors: Premier League 1999, 2000, 2001, FA Cup 1999, Intercontinental Cup 1999 and UEFA Champion’s League Cup 1999

    Man United career: 1998-2001

    Man United Appearances: 120

    Netherlands Appearances: 224

    Jaap Stam only spent three seasons at Old Trafford, but it was enough for him leave his mark on the club.

    The no-nonsense Dutch defender didn’t take any prisoners—Stam was literally the rock and last line of the United defense.

    His tenure at United came to an abrupt halt following his published autobiography “Head to Head,” which divulged some sensitive information about Alex Ferguson and the club.

    Stam was sold to Lazio in early 2001.

2. Martin Buchan

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    Position: Centre-back

    Club Honors: Second Division champions 1975 and FA Cup winners 1977,

    Man United career: 1972-1983

    Man United Appearances: 456

    Scotland Appearances: 34

    The Scottish International took over the captaincy following the retirement of Bobby Charlton in 1974—the same season United were relegated to the second division.

    At the time, Martin Buchan was the heart of United’s defense.

    He was also instrumental in United winning the 1977 FA Cup.

1. Roger Byrne

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    Position: Full-back

    Club Honors: First Division champions 1952, 1956 and 1957

    Man United career: 1951-1958

    Man United Appearances: 245

    England Appearances: 33

    Originally, the right-footed Roger Byrne played as a wing-back and an outside left, but due to his versatility he could play in almost any position.

    He was also a born leader on the pitch with a sense of fortitude that soon elevated him to the rank of captain of the Red Devils.

    Byrne's inspirational leadership places him amongst United’s greatest-ever captains.

    Unfortunately, Byrne never realized his full potential, as he died in the 1958 Munich air disaster at the young age of just 28.

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