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5 greatest Manchester United defenders of all time

Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand
Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand
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Shambhu Ajith

It was the legendary Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson who said the golden words, "Attack wins you matches, defence wins you titles." It would seem Manchester United have always lived by that dictum since they are one of the most decorated football clubs in the world.

They have been going through a lean patch in recent times but it wasn't too long ago that the Red Devils were one of the most exciting and ruthless outfits in Europe. The never-say-die spirit is embedded in the club's DNA and they have spawned many footballing superstars over the course of history.

They say that some of the players in the current crop lack the warrior-like mentality that Manchester United players of yesteryear used to possess. Some of those footballers looked determined to bleed and torture themselves on the pitch for the team.

Manchester United have housed some of the greatest defenders in English football history

A formidable backline is essential for any side that harbors title aspirations and Manchester United are one of the most successful clubs in the history of the game. Suffice to say, the club has been home to some of the best defenders of all time.

Without further ado, let's take a look at five of the greatest defenders to have donned the storied red and white kit of Manchester United.


#5 Rio Ferdinand

Manchester City v Manchester United - Premier League
Manchester City v Manchester United - Premier League

Rio Ferdinand is one of the most decorated English footballers of all time. He is undoubtedly one of the best centre-backs of his generation. After starting out at West Ham United, Ferdinand made the switch to Leeds United in 2000 and became their captain in 2001.

He then moved to Leeds' arch-rivals Manchester United in 2002 on a deal worth Β£30 million. Ferdinand spent a large portion of his academy days as a centre-forward. As a result, when he made the transition to centre-back, he became a defender with excellent technical qualities.

He was phenomenal with the ball at his feet and was given the freedom to gallop forward and play progressive passes to his midfielders and forwards. Ferdinand was also formidable in the air and had electric pace in his prime years.

He provided the silk to Nemanja Vidic's steel and the duo are still regarded as the greatest centre-back pairing in the history of the Premier League. Ferdinand played 455 games across all competitions for Manchester United.

He won six Premier League titles, one Champions League, two League Cups and one FIFA Club World Cup with the Red Devils.

πŸ—£οΈ "I wanted it to go down as the best partnership the club had ever had. "πŸ”΄ Rio Ferdinand & Nemanja VidiΔ‡ were a formidable duo πŸ’ͺ @rioferdy5 | @ManUtd | #UCL https://t.co/TSqE5AXbrf

#4 Gary Pallister

Gary Pallister in action against Wimbledon, in a Premier League match at Selhurst Park, 7th March 1995
Gary Pallister in action against Wimbledon, in a Premier League match at Selhurst Park, 7th March 1995

Gary Pallister is considered to be one of the best centre-backs to have played for Manchester United. He was a strong, athletic presence at the back and alongside Steve Bruce, he formed one of the best centre-back partnerships of all time in English football.

Pallister joined Manchester United in 1989 for Β£2.3 million and went on to make 437 appearances for the Red Devils. Pallister was chosen as the PFA Player of the Year three years later in 1992.

The Englishman spent nine years at Manchester United, winning four Premier League titles, three FA Cups, one English League Cup, one UEFA Cup winners' cup and one UEFA Super Cup.

Gary Pallister was the hero 20 years ago today, scoring twice in a 3-1 win at Anfield! https://t.co/eOsMwWMq9E

#3 Nemanja Vidic

Manchester United v Hull City - Premier League
Manchester United v Hull City - Premier League

Nemanja Vidic is a modern-day legend of the game. The Serbian international was as fearless as they come and was always fully prepared to put his body on the line to help his side. Widely regarded as one of the best ever winter transfer window signings in the Premier League, Vidic joined Manchester United in January 2006.

He is arguably the greatest centre-back to have played for the Red Devils. Vidic was a thoroughly old-school bully of a defender who was the embodiment of destruction and dominance on a football pitch.

As mentioned earlier, Vidic struck up the greatest centre-back partnership in Premier League history alongside Rio Ferdinand. The duo once went nearly 1,311 minutes without conceding a goal in the league for Manchester United.

Vidic became Manchester United captain at the start of the 2010-11 season. He left the club after he was well past his prime in 2014. By then, he had won five Premier League titles, one Champions League, three League Cups and one FIFA Club World Cup.

#2 Denis Irwin

Denis Irwin of Manchester United
Denis Irwin of Manchester United

Denis Irwin is one of the greatest full-backs in the history of the English top-flight. Like Rio Ferdinand, the Irishman had also played for Manchester United's arch-rivals Leeds United in the early days of his career. He subsequently moved to Oldham Athletic before copping a move to Old Trafford in 1990.

Irwin donned the Manchester United colors for 12 years and was a fan-favorite thanks to his versatility and consistency. He was also a humble individual who always put the team ahead of himself. Irwin, who had a keen eye for goal, was also deployed at right-back quite extensively.

In 456 appearances for the Red Devils, Irwin scored 33 goals and provided 23 assists. He was an influential senior figure in the side as Sir Alex Ferguson rebuilt the Manchester United squad in the 90s and won the continental treble with a young team in 1998-99.

In his 12 year career at Manchester United, he won seven Premier League titles, one Champions League, two FA Cups, one English League Cup, one Intercontinental Cup, one European Cup winners' cup and one European Super Cup.

#π†π¨πšπ₯πŽπŸπ“π‘πžπƒπšπ² 𝐀-𝐙: 𝐈🧬 Mr Consistency: there wasn't much Denis Irwin couldn't do on the pitch ⚽#MUFC https://t.co/D84tzhPULV

#1 Steve Bruce

Steve Bruce of Manchester United
Steve Bruce of Manchester United

Former Newcastle United manager Steve Bruce was always well received on his visits to Old Trafford. Why wouldn't he be? He is a Manchester United legend and arguably their greatest full-back of all time. It was impossible not to love Bruce.

A fearless customer, Bruce joined Manchester United in 1987 for just €825,000. The Englishman had excellent ball-retention skills and was an excellent passer. He also had an eye for goal and would enter the area to produce some thumping headed goals.

Bruce epitomized the winning mentality that Sir Alex Ferguson always looked to instill in his players. He would push through pain and play through injuries and was a role model for the young players who were emerging from Manchester United's academy at the time.

Despite being one of the best players in the Premier League in the 90s, Bruce was never capped for England. He won three Premier League titles, three FA Cups, one English League Cup, one European Cup Winners' Cup and one European Super Cup in his illustrious Manchester United career.

πŸ’₯ ππˆπ† header from Steve Bruce!Our former centre-back signed for the Reds #OnThisDay in 1987 βœοΈπŸ”΄#MUFC | #GoalOfTheDay https://t.co/zpCWgH43q8
Edited by Shambhu Ajith
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