3. Bobby Charlton
One of Manchester United’s most successful players, Bobby Charlton, made 758 appearances for the club between 1956 and 1973, a feat only surpassed by Ryan Giggs. Charlton remains United’s top scorer of all time with 249 goals.
Charlton impressed in his debut in 1956 against Charlton Athletic, scoring twice in the game despite his sprained ankle. As part of Matt Busby’s vision to create a Manchester United team of successful young players, Charlton scored 10 goals in the Busby Babes domination of the English League in the 1956/57 season. The following season saw the greatest tragedy in the history of the club, the Munich Air disaster.
Following their 3-3 draw with Red Star Belgrade, the Busby Babes had secured a place in the European Cup semi-finals for the second season in a row. After two aborted attempts, the captain tried a third time to take off, but because of the terrible weather conditions, the plane failed to enter the sky from the runway and ploughed through a fence into a house. 21 of those on the plane died at the scene, seven of whom had played for United the night before. Duncan Edwards died in hospital two weeks later.
After recovering in hospital, Charlton returned to the team during United’s darkest season in 1958-59 making 38 appearances and scoring 28 goals. Charlton played a vital part in helping to rebuild the club during the aftermath of Munich with a spirit that epitomised Charlton and Manchester United. The pinnacle of this was when Charlton captained the side when they won the 1968 European Cup 4-1 against Benfica at Wembley. He scored two goals in the game, leading his team to a historical victory as United became the first English side to win the European Cup.
Charlton captained United until he retired in 1973, before this he had formed part of the ‘holy trinity’ with Dennis Law and George Best.
2. Bryan Robson
Robson joined United in 1981 for £1.5 million, which was then the British transfer record. The investment turned into one of Atkinson’s best purchases whilst he was manager as Robson went onto make 461 appearances for the club and scored 99 goals.
Nicknamed ‘Captain Marvel’, Robson commanded the team from the centre of midfield and remains United’s longest serving captain, holding the position for a record 12 years.
He led United to three FA Cup victories in 1983, 1985 and 1990. Robson was known for being an all round footballer who was just as capable of scoring goals as he was defending. He also captained England on 65 occasions, playing for them 90 times in all and scoring 26 goals.
The 1992/93 season was a successful one for Manchester United, they secured the Premier League title after a 26 year wait. It was appropriate that United’s captain, Robson, scored the final goal of the season against Wimbledon, after he picked up the long awaited Premier League title with Steve Bruce days earlier. The league was something Robson had always wanted to win even during his time at West Brom, and after a season where United lost only six games, they won the title in style. Robson left United in 1994.
1. Roy Keane
After joining United in 1993, Keane took over as United captain from Cantona in the 1997/98 season and remained captain until he left the club in 2005. Keane led by example on the pitch as a box-to-box midfielder and played every game with maximum effort, commitment and determination. He made 480 appearances for United and scored 51 goals.
Keane captained United’s historic treble winning side of 1999 as they secured the League with a win against Tottenham on the last weekend of the season. Keane’s displays all season as a natural leader rallied United in all three competitions. The Irishman also played a crucial part in their FA Cup triumph, although he was sent off during the semi-final against Arsenal.
In arguably his best performance as a United player, the second leg of the Champions League Semi Final against Juventus, Keane inspired the side to a 3-2 win that took them into a historic final. After going two goals down against the Italian side, Keane scored the first goal for United in a comeback that saw them into the final. During this game, Keane was booked and as a result had to miss the final against Bayern Munich. United went onto win the final 2-1 after coming back in injury time to secure a historic treble.