Sir Alex Ferguson's Best Manchester United Team of All Time

Craig Hutchinson@@CragHutchinsonContributor IIIMay 14, 2013

Sir Alex Ferguson's Best Manchester United Team of All Time

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    The biggest news to hit the world of sport last week was the announcement that Sir Alex Ferguson would be bringing down the curtain on his 26-year managerial career at Manchester United and retire at the end of the season.

    His final season saw him raise his 13th Premier League title and his 38th trophy overall at the Old Trafford club.

    His unprecedented collection of trophies at Manchester United has been helped by some tremendously talented footballers.

    Here I put together the definitive all-time team of the Sir Alex Ferguson era at Manchester United (in my opinion, of course!).

    Some tough decisions had to be made, and some truly great players fail to make the cut as a result.

    Did your favorite player make the cut?

Goalkeeper: Peter Schmeichel

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    Peter Schmeichel is the best goalkeeper of the Sir Alex Ferguson era, the greatest goalkeeper of the Premier League era and possibly the greatest goalkeeper of all time.

    The 6'3" danish international arrived at Old Trafford as a relative unknown in 1991 for a bargain transfer fee of £505,000. 

    Over the course of his eight-year Manchester United career he made 398 appearances, which saw dominating goalkeeping, agile reactionary saves that defied his intimidating size, throws that travelled half the length of the field, a whole lot of shouting at his defenders and even a goal in the Champions League.

    His Manchester United career ended on the ultimate high, captaining the team to it's infamous Champions League victory over Bayern Munich in 1999 to complete a historic treble.

Right-Back: Gary Neville

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    England's most capped right-back, Gary Neville, rose through the United youth team and made his first-team debut as a 17-year-old in 1992.

    Over his 19-season career at Old Trafford he made the No. 2 shirt his own for club and country, amassing 602 club appearances and 85 England caps. He was also United's club captain for the final five years of his career before his retirement in 2011.

    Not a flamboyant or spectacular player: Neville was solid, dependable, smart and committed to the club where he spent his entire career.

Left-Back: Denis Irwin

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    Irish international Denis Irwin arrived at Manchester United prior to the Premier League era in 1990 and went on to make 529 appearances for Ferguson during his 12-year career.

    A solid and reliable defender, Irwin also liked to link up play in attack, and his sweet left foot helped him score 33 goals for United, including several free-kicks and penalties.

    For a fee of just £625,000, Irwin was one of Ferguson's shrewdest signings, which helped lay the foundations for their dominance of English football throughout the 1990s.

Center Half: Jaap Stam

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    "Yip Jaap Stam is a big Dutch man, get past him if you ------- can"

    The song's uncensored version was heard around Old Trafford throughout the three seasons Stam was a rock in the heart of Manchester United's defense.

    Bought for a fee of £10.6 million, which seemed high at the time for a relatively unknown defender, Stam was instrumental throughout his three full seasons that saw three Premier League titles, an FA cup, Intercontinental cup and the 1999 Champions League trophy won by the Red Devils.

    His time at Old Trafford ended somewhat suddenly and surprisingly at the start of the 2001-02 season—according to Goal.com, Ferguson later admitted that decision was a mistake.

    Yet the three years of dominance by Stam and Manchester United during his time there is enough to warrant a place on this team.

Center Half: Steve Bruce

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    Steve Bruce was one of Ferguson's first signings for Manchester United in 1987, and his partnership in the center of defense with Gary Pallister was invaluable to Manchester United's success in the 1990s.

    As injuries began to take their toll on club captain Bryan Robson, Bruce filled in the role and lifted United's first Premier League title alongside Robson in May 1993. Bruce had a strong influence on United's success that season, specifically his two injury-time goals against fellow title challengers Sheffield Wednesday late in the season.

    When Robson left Old Trafford, Bruce became club captain for his remaining seasons there, winning a total of 13 trophies.

    Astonishingly, Bruce never played internationally, and it could be argued he's the greatest English footballer never to be capped by his country.

Central Midfield: Roy Keane

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    Roy Keane, or "Keano," as he was affectionately known by Manchester United fans, learned his trade in England for another legendary manager in Brian Clough before Ferguson brought him to Old Trafford for a British record transfer fee (at the time) of £3.75 million.

    The hard-tackling and often controversial midfielder replaced Eric Cantona as captain of the club following the 1997 season and spent 13 seasons at Old Trafford, winning 17 titles including seven Premier League trophies.

Central Midfield: Paul Scholes

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    Paul Scholes. He scores goals.

    It rhymes, it's factually accurate and it was sung on the terraces of Old Trafford throughout the midfielder's 20 seasons with the club.

    It's almost tough to remember that when Scholes first broke into the team as one of "Fergies Fledglings" he was a striker. Ferguson converted him into a midfielder, and the rest is history. Manchester United and England had arguably its most technically gifted player of a generation.

    As the BBC reports, Scholes has just announced his retirement (for the second time) in a career at United that has some astounding statistics:

    Appearances: 717

    Goals: 155

    Trophies won: 25

    As phenomenal as these achievements are, the next player on the list manages to just about outdo it.

Left Wing: Ryan Giggs

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    Manchester United seasons: 23

    Appearances: 939

    Goals: 168

    Club trophies: 34

    And counting!

    There really is no need to give any more information here, we all know Ryan Giggs is a lock on this team, next...

Right Wing: Cristiano Ronaldo

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    Cristiano Ronaldo arrived at Old Trafford as a teenager under incredible pressure: Not only had Sir Alex just paid £12.24 million for the Portuguese winger, he was handed the historic No. 7 shirt, immediately following the iconic David Beckham, Eric Cantona and Bryan Robson.

    During six seasons at United, he developed from a supremely talented youngster into arguably the world's greatest player under the tutelage of Ferguson. 

    He greatest season at the club was undoubtedly the 2007-08 season, where he scored 42 goals in 49 games, won the Premier League and Champions League and was named Player of the Year by the PFA, PFA Fans, FWA and Barclays.

Striker: Eric Cantona

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    At £1.2 million, Cantona's transfer from Leeds to Manchester United is one of the greatest bargains in Premier League history.

    Charismatic, controversial, flamboyant and an undisputed footballing genius.

    Cantona was King of Old Trafford during his six seasons there before he surprisingly retired in 1997 after captaining the club to his fourth Premier League title.

    He also left Old Trafford with two FA Cups, two Charity Shields and PFA Player of the Year, FWA Player of the year and 79 goals in 175 games.

Striker: Ruud van Nistelrooy

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    There's been a long list of great goalscorers at Manchester United during Alex Ferguson's reign, so choosing one to partner Eric Cantona was a tough one.

    An astonishing strike rate of 150 goals in 219 games was enough to get Ruud van Nistelrooy into the final starting spot.

    The Dutchman's move to Old Trafford almost didn't happen, the original plan to sign him was scrapped due to a knee injury, but when he was singed a year later, Ruud did exactly what he was signed to do, score goals and win trophies.

Substitute: Edwin van der Saar

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    Ferguson had a tough time finding a replacement for Peter Schmeichel in United's goal, and after the largely unsuccessful or inconsistent legacies of Massimo Taibi, Mark Bosnich and Fabian Barthez; Sir Alex finally found the one he was looking for in Edwin van der Sar.

    The Dutchman spent six solid, dependable and often spectacular seasons at Old Trafford before his retirement in 2011.

Substitute: Nemanja Vidic

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    Having just finished his eighth season at Old Trafford and his third as captain, Nemanja Vidic has formed a solid partnership with defenders such as Rio Ferdinand during his time at United, winning 14 trophies so far.

    Very close to making the starting team, but I couldn't pick more than 11 starters!

Substitute: Paul Ince

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    Paul Ince, known as "The Guv'nor" by fans, spent six seasons at Old Trafford in the heart of United's midfield alongside Bryan Robson and later Roy Keane.

    He'd already helped Sir Alex pick up four cups before United's first Premier League title in 1992-93.

    He and Ryan Giggs were also part of one of the Premier Leagues earliest and most iconic goal celebrations!

Substitute: David Beckham

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    Incredibly overrated or underrated depending on your point of view.

    His goal from the half-way line against Wimbledon brought him to everyone's attention, his red card in the World Cup made him despised, his free-kick versus Greece made him redeemed and his marriage to a Spice Girl helped make him one of the biggest celebrity athletes on the planet.

    Despite all the off-the-field notoriety, on the field Becks had one of the sweetest right feet ever to grace the turf of Old Trafford as his crossing, passing and free-kicks helped United to 14 trophies during his nine seasons there.

Substitute: Mark Hughes

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    Mark "Sparky" Hughes had played four seasons at United before Ferguson arrived in 1986, but returned in 1988 to play seven more seasons for the Red Devils.

    Before the inaugural Premier League season, his timely goals had already help land United and FA Cup, League Cup, Cup Winners' Cup and Euro Cup and helped lay the foundation that would help the team build to be the most dominant team of the Premier League era.

Substitute: Wayne Rooney

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    Unlucky to miss out on a starting spot to Van Nistelrooy, especially when you consider the 197 goals in 477 games he has scored during his nine seasons at Old Trafford.

    Twelve of Fergie's trophies have come while Wayne was on the team, and his bicycle kick goal against Manchester City with rank among the greatest goals ever scored.

Substitute: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

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    There may be players with more talent or greater statistics than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who didn't make the list, but if there was one thing that "the Baby-faced Assassin" was famous for, it was for being a super sub.

    His worth for Man Utd was shown by the fact that Ferguson kept him at Old Trafford for 12 seasons, and he will always be a United legend for his injury-time match-winning goal against Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions League.

    A game in which he came off the bench.

Honourable Mentions

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    There are so many great players during the Sir Alex Ferguson era, there were many deserving players that couldn't quite crack the team. Here are those who just missed out.

    Bryan Robson

    A Man Utd legend who spent 13 seasons at the club, and five of those came before Ferguson arrived. Captained the team to their early trophies. 

    Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke

    Often seen as a package as the two of them formed a tremendous partnership up front together, especially during the treble season of 1999. Cole spent longer at United and scored more goals there; 121 of the duo's 186 for the club.

    Gary Pallister

    The England international formed a tremendous partnership with Steve Bruce in the heart of United's defense and served the club between 1989 and 1998 

    Rio Ferdinand

    Signed for a British club record at the time of £29.1 million, Rio's 11-season stay at the club has seen 14 trophies for Sir Alex.

    Patrice Evra

    The Frenchman's eight seasons at the club has yielded 14 trophies, as he has made the left-back spot his own and worn the captain's armband numerous times.

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