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5 former Manchester United players who have won the World Cup

Spain's defender Gerard Pique sprays cha
Former Manchester United defender Gerard Pique
Kaustubh Pandey

It would be fair to say that Manchester United have produced numerous world class players over the last few decades. Not just that, but the club from Greater Manchester has also seen renowned players grace the famed Red and they have succeeded in capturing the imaginations of millions across the world.

Be it Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham, Wayne Rooney or Zlatan Ibrahimovic, all of them have played for the Old Trafford based side and their following matched that of the club inch perfectly throughout their stays. And although one can’t deny their greatness, none of these players could ever lay their hands on the World Cup.

Rather, there are only a handful of players who have played for United and have also won the World Cup. It doesn’t mean that United have not had top-class players, but it just goes to show that the gilded World Cup crown only be won by a selected few; a lucky few, in fact.

Here we are, running down the names of five best Manchester United players to have won the FIFA World Cup.


#5 Gerard Pique

Many tend to forget that Gerard Pique was a Manchester United player before his terrific stint at Barcelona and after his initial youth days at the Nou Camp. While that is largely because it hardly saw anything prominent happen in the Spaniard’s career, Pique did win the World Cup with Spain two years after his Old Trafford departure.

While he wasn’t selected in the 2006 World Cup side, Pique became a vital part of the side in 2010, two years after leaving United in 2008 for a €5 million fee. The move back to the Nou Camp came after he made only 23 appearances for United and the move away saw his career move forward with much-needed purpose.

Less than a season after his move to Barcelona, Pique made his Spain debut in 2009, starring in a 2-0 win over England. Not just that, but he played every single game of the World Cup alongside the great Carles Puyol.

#4 Nobby Stiles

Stiles is one of the most lesser known Manchester United legends
Stiles is one of the most lesser known Manchester United legends

Someone who was a successor to the sort of a player that Roy Keane was, Nobby Stiles is one of those lesser-known Manchester United players who probably deserves more attention and credit than they get. And rightly so, Stiles is one of two United players to have won the World Cup as a Red Devils player.

A product of United’s famed youth academy, Stiles began his career in 1957 as a youngster when he was a short player and scary to look at because of a significant gap between his teeth. He had balding problems at a very young age and also suffered from severe short-sightedness. He was a fierce holding midfielder and was handed a debut in 1960.

Stiles made about 395 appearances for United throughout his stay till 1971 and won the European Cup in 1968, where he starred in the final. Two years before that, Stiles also became a very important part of Alf Ramsey’s side that won the FIFA World Cup in 1966 and it was because of his dominating presence in midfield that allowed the likes of Bobby Charlton to sparkle.

One big highlight of Stiles’ career is when he pocketed the great Eusebio in the European Cup final of 1968.

#3 Laurent Blanc

Everton v Manchester United
Blanc with the Premier League title

Laurent Blanc is hardly known for his two-year-long Manchester United stint. But what he is known for more than that is that the Frenchman was the first player in history to score and win the game for Les Blues in Golden Goal in 1998 against Paraguay. That was three years before Blanc’s move to Old Trafford in 2001.

In the same tournament that Blanc scored football history’s first ever golden-goal, France did something they had never done before and haven’t done since then too- Win the gilded World Cup crown of 1998.

While he was excellent throughout the tournament that year, Blanc sadly missed the final because he had famously slapped Slaven Bilic in the semi-finals against Croatia. And that coincidentally was Blanc’s first and only red card of his international career.

Despite that, France did beat Brazil 3-0 in the final on a day that witnessed the great Ronaldo suffer a fit before the final. While there are numerous conspiracy theories behind it, if not for Blanc, France would not have won the World Cup of 1998.

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#2 Fabian Barthez

Brazil v France - Final WC 1998
Barthez was one of the best goalkeepers in the world upon his United arrival in 2000

Fabian Barthez has never been treated equal to the likes of Edwin van der Sar and Peter Schmeichel in Manchester United’s history. But he was liked by many during his four-year-long stay at Old Trafford. For him compactness, abilities and experience. And the World Cup triumph helped that.

Barthez’s would-be United teammate Laurent Blanc would kiss the goalkeeper’s bald head before every game for good luck and it worked out very well indeed. As previously mentioned, Blanc didn’t feature in the final, but Barthez played in every single game. Surprisingly, he conceded only two goals- once against Denmark in the group stages and once against Croatia in the semi-finals.

Barthez also won the Yashin Award for the best goalkeeper of the World Cup and thus became one of the most popular sportsmen in his country. Two years later, a move from Monaco to United for a fee of about £7.8 million followed.

It didn’t take long for him to win over Old Trafford faithful as well.

#1 Sir Bobby Charlton

FIFA World Cup Final - England v West Germany
If not for Charlton, United and England may not have been as successful

Wayne Rooney may have stolen some shine off Sir Bobby’s list of achievements, but Bobby Charlton is one of the greatest players ever to have donned the United red and arguably the greatest to have worn the white of the Three Lions. And he’s someone who has made United and England equally proud. And that has been pretty much unmatched over the years.

Charlton took United over after the fatal Munich air Disaster and with support from players such as Denis Law, George Best and Nobby Stiles himself, made United a force to be reckoned with. And while progress with the Red Devils was going smooth, Charlton’s impressive performances for England came at the same time. He played a more than a pivotal role in handing England their maiden World Cup in 1966, scoring twice in the final against Portugal at Wembley.

Sir Bobby played just a pivotal role in helping United win the European Cup of 1968 and he deservedly has been handed one of the most exalted spots in footballing history.

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Edited by Amit Mishra

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