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Manchester United’s Top Five Midfielders Of All Time

Joe Nuttall

| Last updated 

Manchester United’s Top Five Midfielders Of All Time

Over the years, Manchester United have had some world-class players.

From Peter Schmeichel to Wayne Rooney, some of the all-time greats have represented the Red Devils.

United have been blessed with some legendary midfielders. Here is a look at the top five midfielders to ever play for the club, which was not an easy list to come up with.  

#5 David Beckham

Class of 92 member David Beckham takes fifth place on the list. Throughout his Red Devils career, he scored 85 times in 386 appearances. He also assisted his teammates an incredible 109 times.

Beckham left United for Real Madrid in the summer of 2003. During his United career, he won a remarkable number of trophies, including six Premier League titles, two FA Cup titles and the Champions League once as part of the incredible treble-winning side of 1999.

Beckham is widely considered one of the best crossers of a ball of all time. Countless times, Beckham would put in a lethal cross from either open play, a corner, or a freekick. These exceptional crosses played right into the hands of some incredibly talented strikers and strong aerial presences.

David Beckham is an unquestionable legend of football. (Alamy)
David Beckham is an unquestionable legend of football. (Alamy)

In the 1999 Champions League final, both of United’s goals came from Beckham corners. Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s match-winner only landed at his feet after Teddy Sherringham could flick one on. Often, the Englishman’s contribution to United’s two goals at the Nou Camp can go under the radar slightly. He played a massive part in both.

Beckham himself was not shy of a wonder goal or two either. In United colours, and one of his most famous goals is for certain the strike against Wimbledon. Beckham scored from just inside United’s half, demonstrating his extraordinary ability to spray long balls; except this time, it was not a pass, but a shot, and one of the most famous goals in Premier League history.

Beckham is unquestionably one of the great players to wear the number seven shirt for United. After inheriting it from Eric Cantona, he had big shoes to fill. With his vital contributions to United over the years, there is no doubt that the former England captain left an eternal legacy at Old Trafford.

#4 Roy Keane

Former United captain Roy Keane ranks fourth on the list. United signed Keane from Nottingham Forest in July of 1993. Keane spent over a decade at United and won the biggest trophies possible at the club level.

The former Ireland international represented United on 480 occasions. Keane certainly was not a stranger to scoring a goal when needed and got his name on the scoresheet a total of 51 times for the Red Devils across his career.

During his time at the club, Keane won the Premier League seven times, including three in a row between 1998/99 and 2000/01. He also won the FA Cup four times, and the Champions League once, as part of United’s legendary treble-winning side.

Unfortunately, Keane did miss the Champions League final in 1999 due to suspension, but played an integral part in helping United reach the final, including a vital goal in the second leg of the semi-final away to Juventus.

As a captain, Keane embodied United. Every time he stepped onto the pitch, he played with his heart on his sleeve, and his passion for the club shone through. He really was an exceptional leader.

Roy Keane scored some important goals for Manchester United.
Roy Keane scored some important goals for Manchester United.

As a player, Keane developed a reputation as one of the toughest midfielders in the world. He was incredibly strong in his tackles and worked relentlessly hard to win the ball. He would run tirelessly every 90 minutes. His battle over the years with former Arsenal midfielder Patrick Viera has become one of legend, and shows just how tough Keane was.

Although his time at United ended on a slightly sour note, Keane will go down as one of the greatest midfielders in the club’s history, and his United legacy will live on forever.

#3 Bryan Robson

Placing third on the list is arguably United’s greatest ever captain, Bryan Robson. After signing for United from West Brom in 1981, he went on to make 461 appearances for the club, scoring 99 times.

Robson won several titles during his time at United. When he left the Red Devils to join Middlesbrough in 1994, Robson had won two Premier League titles, one European Cup Winners Cup, three FA Cups, four Community Shields and one League Cup; all of these won under his captaincy.

Another former number seven at United, Robson was another player who embodied the club. There is a reason he earned the nickname ‘Captain Marvel’ off the United faithful. He led the club for 12 years, and never once left anything out on the pitch. The fact Robson took over as United captain after just one season at the club says it all.

Bryan Robson as a Manchester United player in 1991
Bryan Robson as a Manchester United player in 1991

An energetic footballer, Robson contributed to all aspects of the game. He was a tough tackler, an excellent passer and had an eye for goal. Robson was more than happy to get up and down the pitch all day, and not afraid of getting stuck in. He was a genuinely complete midfielder.

‘Captain Marvel’ has left a legacy at United that has been, or will be, matched by very few players. He will go down as one of the club’s greatest players of all time. 

#2 Paul Scholes

Ranking at number two on the list is Paul Scholes. Another member of the Class of 92, Scholes is the third highest appearance maker in United’s history, having played 718 games in all competitions for the Red Devils.

Throughout his years at United Scholes won 11 Premier League titles, two Champions League titles, four FA Cups and two League Cups.

Scholes is renowned as one of the best passers of a ball of all time. Over the years, United fans became accustomed to seeing a trademark long pass from Scholes, which almost always found its intended target.

His passes over the top and switches of play often unleashed one of the many phenomenal players Scholes played with. There is a reason he was regarded as one of the best passers in world football.

The Englishman is also in the Premier League hundred club, having scored 107 league goals. Scholes scored some iconic long-ranged efforts for United, either along the floor or one that flew into the top corner.

Paul Scholes in the Champions League
Paul Scholes in the Champions League

Scholes’ most significant goal for United came against Barcelona in 2008, during the second leg of the Champions League semi-final. In the 14th minute, with the game and aggregate score still at 0-0, United’s No.18 picked up a loose ball on the edge of the Barcelona area, took a touch and fired a shot into the top right corner.

The phenomenal strike was enough to see United through to the Champions League final, which, of course, the Red Devils won on penalties. That was Scholes’ second Champions League trophy and his first final. Like Keane, he had to miss the final in 1999 due to suspension.

A class act all over the pitch, Paul Scholes was a player who could do it all and is unquestionably of United’s greatest ever players. He only just misses out on first on this list.

#1 Sir Bobby Charlton

Taking the top spot is one of the greatest English footballers of all time, Sir Bobby Charlton. Charlton is United’s second highest goal-scorer and appearance maker of all time, having scored 249 goals and played 758 times for the Red Devils. He is also part of The Holy Trinity, alongside Dennis Law and George Best.

At the age of just 20, Charlton was involved in the Munich Air Disaster, which tragically took the lives of 23 people. Following his recovery, Charlton was integral to United. Under legendary manager Sir Matt Busby, Charlton helped the club to win league titles in 1964/65 and 1966/67, to go with his first title in 1956/57. Charlton also won the FA Cup in 1963.

Charlton also helped United to win the club’s first-ever European Cup, in the 1967/68 season. In the final, which was held at Wembley Stadium, United beat Portuguese side Benfica 4-1. In arguably his finest moment for United, Charlton scored United’s first and fourth goals, either side of goals from Best and Brian Kidd.

Sir Bobby Charlton. (Alamy)
Sir Bobby Charlton. (Alamy)

His tally of 249 goals was a club record until January 2017, when Wayne Rooney’s freekick against Stoke City overtook it. Charlton was there to witness Rooney break his long-standing record. The fact that it lasted several decades shows just how impressive of a record it was, especially for someone who did not play as a forward. 

In 1966, the same year England won the World Cup, Charlton won the Ballon d’Or. He became the second United player to win it, after Law, who won in 1964. He also placed second in the following two years and lost out to Best in 1968. The only United player to win it since the 1960s was Cristiano Ronaldo, who won the legendary award in 2008.

Sir Bobby Charlton does not have a statue outside Old Trafford for nothing. He has an incredible story and is one of the most legendary figures in the club’s history. Unquestionably, he deserves to rank first place on this list.

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: Manchester United, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Roy Keane, Premier League, Football

Joe Nuttall
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