Sir Alex Ferguson is number 1 in 90min's Top 50 Great Managers of All Time series.
The Scot saw countless world class players come and go, some home grown, some bought for peanuts and some arriving as record transfers.
It would have been possible to create two incredible teams from players Ferguson has managed, and the likes of David Beckham, Peter Schmeichel, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Jaap Stam, Andrew Cole, Mark Hughes, Steve Bruce, Patrice Evra and plenty of other legends miss out.
Here’s a look at his all-time best XI…
Goalkeeper & Defenders
Edwin van der Sar (GK) – Ferguson was responsible for signing the three best goalkeepers in United’s history. Peter Schmeichel was capable of the spectacular and helped redefine the position, while David de Gea is among the best in the world right now. But Van der Sar combined the best of both and kept goal during Ferguson’s most prolific trophy winning period.
Gary Neville – A determined winner who made up for his lack of technical grace with superb football intelligence and out and out grit, Neville served United as a professional for 19 years, 16 years of them as a regular starter. In all, he played 602 games under Ferguson, won 17 major trophies and served as club captain from 2006 until his retirement in 2011.
Rio Ferdinand – At Ferguson’s insistence, United paid a British record £30m fee to land Ferdinand in the summer of 2002, a deal which proved to be worth every penny. United’s number five was among the very best centre-backs in the world between 2005 and 2009, with only injury limiting him in later years. He left Old Trafford with 10 major honours to his name.
Nemanja Vidic – The signing of Vidic in January 2006 goes down as one of the best ever Premier League buys, with United paying just £7m for the Serbian’s signature. He quickly went on to form one of the all-time great defensive partnerships with Ferdinand and was chosen by Ferguson as only United’s second ever non-British or Irish club captain in 2011.
Denis Irwin – This place could have gone to five-time Premier League champion Patrice Evra, but Irwin’s achievements at Old Trafford outweigh even the Frenchman’s. Irwin was bought for a little over £600,000 in 1990 and played 529 games for United in the 12 years that followed, successfully bridging Ferguson’s first two great teams.
Roy Keane – Once a British record buy for £3.75m, Keane famously settled for nothing less than 100% from himself and his teammates and was the driving force behind United’s success in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Keane won everything there was to win under Ferguson, but it was his unforgiving winner’s mentality that led to his acrimonious exit in 2005.
Paul Scholes – The home grown midfielder is often referred to as the most naturally talented English footballer of his generation and was admired by global legends such as Zinedine Zidane and Xavi. He was an 11-time Premier League and two-time Champions League winner. Scholes even came out of retirement in 2012 to extend his career by another 18 months.
Ryan Giggs – Handed a professional debut by Ferguson aged 17 in 1991, Giggs went on to play more games for United than anyone else in the club’s history, a record of 963 that is unlikely ever to be broken. Giggs was the only player present for all 13 of Ferguson’s Premier League title wins and scored in each of the first 21 Premier League seasons.
Cristiano Ronaldo – Ferguson landed Ronaldo as a raw 18-year-old in 2003 and oversaw his development into one of the greatest players of all time. The Portuguese winger was inconsistent at first, but he was crucial as United won three back-to-back Premier League titles between 2006 and 2009 and got a Ballon d’Or in 2008 following Champions League glory.
Eric Cantona – The Frenchman’s impact at United under Ferguson is two-fold. Cantona was virtually unplayable for large parts of his Old Trafford career and during the 1995/96 title run-in in particular scored five winning goals in crucial 1-0 victories. He was also credited as a great mentor to the emerging ‘Class of ‘92’ to prolong success for well over a decade after he retired.
Wayne Rooney – Ferguson saw what Rooney could go on to become in 2004 and made the 18-year-old prodigy the most expensive teenager in the world. It wasn’t always plain sailing between manager and player, with Rooney infamously asking to leave in 2010, but he was both a great goalscorer and a scorer of great goals, and won nine major trophies under Ferguson.
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