Manchester United: Best Eleven Of The Premiership Years

They seem to have been mentioned on here quite a lot recently but since the inception of the Premiership in 1992, the dominant force in English football has undisputedly been Manchester United. Over the years they have had a number of fantastic footballers on their books but who have been the best? Below I have attempted to put together a best eleven of the Premiership Years (also stating the season that I believe each player was at the height of their powers). There are going to be one or two notable absentees but here goes:

Goalkeeper: Peter Schmeichel (1995/96).
This was the easiest choice of all eleven as Schmeichel is probably the best goalkeeper of all time. United haven’t exactly been blessed with an abundance of talent in this area since The Great Dane left the club in 1999. Edwin Van Der Sar has become the closest thing to a replacement that Sir Alex has found for Schmeichel but without a doubt, he would be my choice of keeper for any fantasy team.

Right Back: Gary Neville (2000/01).
The most difficult part of this selection was pinpointing the exact season as to when Neville was at his best. I have gone for the early 2000s as to when I think he was at his peak but for the best part of a decade, Gary Neville was the best right back in the league. Still an important figure at Old Trafford as the club captain, his determination and desire to play for United has seen him rewarded with a contract extension. Neville deserves this for his service to the club and has been an integral part of United’s unrivalled success.

Left Back: Denis Irwin (1993/94).
Patrice Evra was a close contender for this position but I have gone in favour of the former Ireland international purely on the basis of longevity. In his twelve years at the club, he won seven titles, three F.A Cups and a Champions’ League. Albeit right footed, Irwin was arguably better at left back where he played the majority of games for United. Irwin was not only a dependable full back but also had a knack for scoring penalties and free kicks too.

Centre Back: Jaap Stam (1998/99).
In his first season at the club, he won the treble. Intimidating, powerful and no nonsense, Jaap Stam was a centre forward’s worst nightmare. When he signed for the club he was exactly what they were missing and when he was sold (something Ferguson has since admitted his regret at doing), he was sorely missed as United leaked goals in a way they had never really done so before. Although he only spent three years at the club, Jaap Stam made a huge impression on Man United fans and I feel definitely warrants a place in this team.

Centre Back: Rio Ferdinand (2007/08).
I feel that Ferdinand has been the best centre back in the world for the last couple of years now. It took him a while to mature but seems to have been worth the wait. At the time, thirty million pounds seemed to be a very steep price tag for a centre back but Rio looks to have justified that investment and has gotten better with age and experience. Ferguson ought to think about awarding Rio with the permanent job of captain (I’m pretty sure he has).

Right Midfield: David Beckham (1998/99).
While at Man United, David Beckham twice came runner up in the FIFA World Footballer of the Year award. Although he was probably a more accomplished player and talismanic figure for both club and country in 2001, the way that Beckham bounced back from being outcast as a public hate figure after the 1998 World Cup is what most impressed me.

Left Midfield: Ryan Giggs (1992/93).
Giggs has the unique record of being the only player to have scored in every Premiership season. For as long as I can remember, Ryan Giggs has been annihilating full backs. He is the personification of loyalty and is Mr Manchester United. Over the years he has adapted his game to ensure that he can still compete at the top level and doesn’t get any less remarkable. However, it is the Giggs of the inaugural Premiership season that I would want marauding down the left wing as he was simply unstoppable.

Centre Midfield: Roy Keane (1999/00).
The PFA and Football Writers’ Player of the Year in 2000, Roy Keane was the engine room, the heart and soul of Manchester United for many a year. He demanded perfection and usually got it. The way his United career ended sours the fact that he was an immense talent and a fantastic captain. Not only is he an automatic selection but would definitely get the armband too.

Centre Midfield: Paul Scholes (1999/00).
Paul Scholes has never sought attention like many professional footballers do, but somehow I don’t feel he (or his talent) can ever receive enough praise. A truly remarkable exploiter of a football, he can dictate games with his eyes closed and has been doing so for what seems an eternity. It’s tricky to nail down the specific season that Scholes most shone for me as he has been superb for so many of them. I have gone with 1999/00 because of two special goals that live long in the memory, versus Bradford and then Middlesbrough (look them up on YouTube, both occasions United wore the less fondly remembered purple strip).

Striker: Cristiano Ronaldo (2007/08).
Well he had to be in here somewhere. You could play Ronaldo anywhere you like really and he’d still be sensational. Many would say that he is a midfielder but I would probably just tell him to play where he likes. Anyone who can score 42 goals in a season earns that privilege. His aerial ability married with David Beckham’s delivery would be an exciting prospect and I’d be intrigued to find out whether or not Ronaldo would score as many goals up front as he does from the wings. Either way, he’s in. You can’t not have the world’s best player in the team.

Striker: Ruud Van Nistelrooy (2002/03).
This was an unbelievably tough call, one that I didn’t anticipate (somewhat naively) when I began this article. Cantona or Van Nistelrooy? I only went for the Dutchmen because it’s who I’d pick to compliment the team if this were real. A born predator, he scores goals like you and I breathe. 44 goals in a season isn’t easy to ignore. Whereas Cantona was perhaps United’s most influential figure of the nineties and they wouldn’t be where they are today without him, I have to go for Van Nistelrooy just on the basis that goal scorers win a team trophies.

There is my team; some agree with me, most won’t so feel free to add your own suggestions and/or best elevens as well.

29 thoughts on “Manchester United: Best Eleven Of The Premiership Years”

  1. I would be hard pressed to try and come up with a better 11, fair play. I agree with everything you said there. that team would be simply unstopable and i think they would gel as well.

  2. Good rationales and points, but a team without Cantona? When Alan Hansen said “You can’t win anything with kids” it was his failure to remember the Frenchman that made him look the fool. Considering many of the fledglings, including 4 of your best XI directly credit Cantona with his “model pro” attitude and extra training, leaving him out seems criminal. Alas, there are simply too many dominant midfielders in United’s history. Quite the dilemma!

    The only other bone of contention I’d have is Stam over Vidic. The only reason I say this is because by the time he left United, he had lost a yard of pace and was getting caught out. If I remember correctly, Tomasz Radzinzski torched him for pace in the 2000-01 (ish) champs league. I think he also looked pretty bad in the 2001-02 (? I’m working from memory here) season opener, when United scraped past Fulham 3-2 and a young, fit Louis Saha gave him headaches. We all now why Fergie really got rid of Stam, but at the time he talked up the achilles problem, and Stam’s play for a little while before the move made the argument plausible.

    The similarities between the two, honours-wise, after 3 years will be strikingly similar. Both have coincided with a glorious vein of form.

    Vidic might still have a fall from grace, especially considering his aggressive style and habit of getting hurt around SF time in the Champs league but it hasn’t happened yet.

    Once again, with such of wealth of riches in most positions, something’s gotta give.

  3. The fact that players like Cantona and Vidic are left out shows how deep the talent pool has been at Man U over the years. Can’t really argue with the starting eleven.

    Probably a bit harder if you had to play Ronaldo at Right Mid rather than strker.

  4. I’d probably move Ronaldo to the right and drop Beckham in favour of Cantona up front. The balance would be far better with Cantona dropping in front of the midfield. He never played with a centre forward at United who didn’t become a better goal scorer as a result, Mark Hughes being the ultimate example. I can’t remember any other centre forward clicking with Hughsey, which merely outlines the brilliance of Cantona.

  5. Great effort, hard to really argue with most of it.

    But, and a big “but” — Cantona has to be there. I’ll grant you that Ronaldo as a roaming striker solves a lot of problems. And the rest of the midfield — Keano, Giggsy and the Ginger Prince — is inarguable.

    But that still leaves Ruud v Cantona. And in my opinion, it’s not even close — it’s Cantona by a country mile. Ruud is one of my favorite Man United players of all-time, and his goalscoring record is unrivaled. But Cantona just meant so damn much to Manchester United FC. He was the leader, the heart and soul of the side that broke down so many barriers. I firmly believe that without Cantona, MUFC and Sir Alex would not be where they are now. The same can’t be said for RVN.

    I’d even go so far as to say that the battle for the armband — between the Great Dane, Keano and Cantona — is closer than the Ruud v Cantona battle up front.

  6. Schmeichel

    G Neville J. Stam G.Pallister D.Irwin

    C.Ronaldo P.Scholes R.Keane R.Giggs

    E. Cantona M. Hughes

    SUBS: Van Der Sar, D. Beckham, R.Van Nistleroy, R.Ferdinand, S.Bruce

  7. RVN out, sorry but Rooney is much more of what a United Player was meant to be than RVN could ever have been. And you absolutely need to have Cantona in the team. Becks would just edge it over Ronaldo, and Stam Vidic would push Rio to the bench, just barely

  8. player like patrice Evra work like a donkey and are less me he is the engine of Man u.look at how he plays week in week out. Rate him against other players and u never go wrong.

  9. United’s Premier League Best XI:


    Irwin, Stam, Vidic, Evra

    Ronaldo, Keane, Scholes, Giggs

    Cantona, Rooney

    Subs: Van der Sar, G Neville, Ferdinand, Beckham, Van Nistelrooy

  10. Schmeichel

    Irwin Stam Ferdinand Evra

    Ronaldo keane Scholes Giggs

    Cantona Rooney

    Subs : VDS, Neville, Van Nistelrooy, Hargreaves, Vidic

    1. hargreaves on bench? are you on drugs,what as he done apart from being injured! what bout likes of ince,mcclair etc…

  11. Almost the same line-up as the writer, with small modifications and considering 7 subs:
    Neville Vidic Ferdinand Irwin
    Ronaldo Keane Scholes Giggs

    Subs : EVDS, Stam, Evra, Bruce, Beckham, Hargreaves, Rooney

  12. I’m sorry, but hasn’t anybody even comtemplated about Cole? Solksjaer? Sheringham? Yorke?

    Two of them were the ones who helped put the icing on the cake to complete the treble!

    Anyway, rant over…
    Here’s one for people to mull over though:
    Worst MUFC Premiership starting 11!

    Anyone got any ideas (Or shall we just shove all keepers between Van the Man and the great Dane outfield?!)

  13. I think this team is amost spot on. The only change I would consider being Evra over Irwin although it is a close call. Full marks on picking RVN over Cantona, a look at both of their european records shows the difference between them. Cantona was class domestically in an era where the Premiership was of a far lower standard, but RVN was guaranteed goals against any level opposition.

  14. I’m sorry, but hasn’t anybody even comtemplated about Cole? Solksjaer? Sheringham? Yorke?

    Two of them were the ones who helped put the icing on the cake to complete the treble!

    I think its because, as great as those guys were when they played at United, it was largely part of an outrageous midfield, all 4 of which the blogger put in his XI.

    On an individual level, I don’t think any of those 4 have the talent that RVN, Rooney & Cantona have on offer.

  15. You’re forced to put Ronaldo as a forward, weren’t you Michael? LOL

    Fair play to your XI and the reasons behind them, but imo, Cantona HAD TO be in there.

    United best XI without Cantona is Mad, imo.

    I don’t know, maybe drop Beckham, put Ronaldo as a rightwinger & Cantona as striker??


  16. Schmeichel
    Neville Ferdinand Bruce Irwin

    Ronaldo Keano Scholes Giggs

    Ole Cantona

    Subs: Beckham, RVN, Silvestre, Vidic, Cole, VDS

  17. Schmeichel

    G.Neville S.Bruce G.Pallister D.Irwin

    D.Beckham R.Keane P.Scholes R.Giggs

    E.Cantona O.Solskjaer

    Subs: Van Der Sar, Stam, Ince, Ronaldo, Hughes, Rooney

  18. arsenal:
    david seaman
    lee dixon……..tony adams …….. sol campbell………nigel winterburn
    ………………..cesc fabregas….patrick vieira
    freddie ljungberg ………………………………..robert pires
    ……… thierry henry…………….dennis bergkamp

    subs: robin van persie, ian wright, martin keown, steve bould, kanu, sylvain wiltord, kolo toure, jens lehman

  19. my squad would be as follows;

    schmeichel ,
    GarryN ferdinand ,vidic,irwin

    ronaldo,kean, scholes, giggs

    cantona, vansterooy

  20. Don’t forget Bryan Robson played in the premier league he get’s my nod just ahead of Keane (who is also brilliant) but I believe the first team should be


    G.Neville Ferdinand Stam Evra

    Ronaldo Scholes Robson Giggs

    Cantona Van Nistlerooy

    and the Second X1 (rest of squad would be)

    Van De Sar





  21. 1st Eleven:

    Subs: Van Der Sar/Stam/Beckham/Robson/Solksjaer

    2nd Eleven:

    Subs:Van Der Gouw/P.Neville/Berg or Johnsen/Ince/Cole

    Worst Players:

    Taibi/Blanc/Silvestre/Veron/Kleberson/Djemba-Djemba/Forlan (when at UTD)/Cruyff

  22. Schmeichel

    G.Neville R.Ferdinand Vidic P.Evra

    Ronaldo Keane Scholes Giggs

    Cantona RVN

    Van der sar

    Brown Pallister Stam Irwin

    Beckham Carrick Robson Sharpe

    Rooney Ole

    Notables: Barthez Neville Cole Bruce Sheringham Hughes

  23. Schmeichel – gkp

    subs & reserves VDS, Pallister, Ferdinand, RVN, Cantona, Ole, Bruce, Best, Robson, Mcclair, Yorke, Cole, Flecther, Irwin, Ince, Tevez, NButt- flops Veron, DJemba, Kleberson, Forlan, Barthez, Blnac, PNeville, JBlomqvist, DBerbatov, GHeinze, WBrown heheehehe

  24. its hard for a team like Manchester United they have had so much quality because you can’t forget the players like Lee sharpe, silvestre (Hargreaves would proberly be on here if he wasnt so injury prone) steve bruce, ince, phil neville might not have been the best around but he played a key part when they needed him, jesper olsen, clayton blackmore, Dennis law etc.

  25. Ideal united XI


    G nev stam vidic evra

    Sharp keane scholes konchescis

    Yorke cole

    Subs: van der Saar. Palister. Oshea. Ole gunner. Giggs

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