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The 5 most influential players in Manchester United history

Manchester United v Nottingham Forest April 1996
Eric Cantona is one of United's all-time greats
Scott Newman
Modified 12 Feb 2018, 18:23 IST
Top 5 / Top 10

As one of the biggest and the most successful football clubs in the world, it’s no surprise that Manchester United has been home to some of the greatest players that the game has ever seen too. Winners of three European Cups/Champions Leagues as well as 20 domestic league titles and countless numbers of other trophies, United’s list of players reads like a who’s who of football.

But who are the most influential players to ever pull on the famous red shirt? With a crazy amount to choose from, it’s almost impossible to say, but here’s an attempt anyway – the five most influential players in Manchester United history, along with a handful of honourable mentions.


Denis Law

The Scottish striker scored 237 goals in 404 appearances for United and was the first player to be nicknamed ‘The King’ by the United fans for his amazing finishing skills.

He won the Ballon d’Or in 1964 while playing for the Red Devils and helped them to league wins in 1965 and 1967, but missed the 1968 European Cup win through injury and was somewhat overshadowed by a pair of even better players who starred in the same era.

Duncan Edwards

Described by Bobby Charlton as the best player he’d ever seen, Edwards signed for United as a teenager and went on to help the club win two league titles and reach the semi-finals of the European Cup over a period of five seasons.

He was so good that he was supposedly able to play in any outfield position on the field, but his career was cruelly cut short by his death in the Munich air crash of 1958, and he never had the chance to reach his full potential.

Ryan Giggs


The Welsh winger played in 24 seasons for the Red Devils and became the most decorated player in football history during his time at Old Trafford, winning a ridiculous 13 Premier League titles, 4 FA Cups, 3 League Cups, 2 Champions Leagues, and 12 other minor honours.

But he also blew hot and cold at times and despite his longevity was never the absolute key player in any of the United sides he featured in.

Robin Van Persie

Signed from rivals Arsenal in 2012 for a fee of £22.5m, the Dutch hitman immediately proved to be worth the money as he hit a crazy 26 goals in 38 Premier League appearances and practically won United the 2012/13 league title single-handedly.

But after that great season, his form waned and he only lasted two more at Old Trafford. Even so, he earns a spot here due to that one great season – United’s last title win in fact.

Wayne Rooney

United’s all-time top goalscorer with 253 goals, Rooney joined the Red Devils in the summer of 2004 as perhaps the most hyped teenage prospect in English football history.

For the most part he lived up to the hype as he helped United to 5 Premier League titles and the 2007/08 Champions League, but he was often overshadowed and he ended his United career with a whimper rather than a bang as his powers waned rather suddenly.

#5 Cristiano Ronaldo


When Ronaldo arrived at Old Trafford in the summer of 2003, he was fresh-faced and massively inexperienced and requested the #28 shirt. Showing massive faith in the youngster, boss Alex Ferguson instead gave him United’s famous #7, previously worn by George Best, Eric Cantona and David Beckham.

When he left six seasons later, he’d earned a place in United’s history books to stand alongside those three greats. During his time at United Ronaldo developed from a winger who was often labelled as more flash than substance to the complete player, capable of scoring goals from anywhere on the pitch.

He scored a total of 118 goals in 292 appearances for United and won the 2008 Ballon d’Or after helping the Red Devils capture the Champions League.

The focal point of an attack that also starred the likes of Wayne Rooney, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, Ronaldo’s best years came at the tail end of his United career. He hit 42 goals in the Champions League winning 2007/08 season and was the key player in the 2008/09 side that won the Premier League title.

Ronaldo’s legacy was a simple one – he was the catalyst that allowed United to regain their spot as the top club in England following a handful of lean years that saw the power shift towards Chelsea and Arsenal. Fans of the Red Devils are still waiting for someone as good as him to arrive again.

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Published 12 Feb 2018, 18:23 IST
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