Manchester United – five of their best

MANCHESTER UNITED may have won the first major prize of 2022-23 when they beat Newcastle United 2-0 to win the EFL Cup, but they have a trophy-laden history. Some of the game’s greats have played for United, including Duncan Edwards, Billy Meredith, Bobby Charlton, George Best, David Beckham and Roy Keane. Here’s five of the best united teams – but there are others that can claim a place in the pantheon of the world’s most popular pastime!


Harry Moger, Hugh Edmonds, Vince Hayes, George Stacey, Alex Bell, Alex Downie, Dick Duckworth, Charlie Roberts, Jimmy Bannister, Harold Halse, Billy Meredith, Jack Picken, Jimmy Turnbull, George Wall, Enoch West, Herbert Burgess, Thomas Homer, Anthony Donnelly, George Livingstone.

Manager: Ernest Magnall

Achievements: Football League champions 1907-08 and 1910-11; FA Cup winners 1908-09.
Five-year record (1907-08-1911-12): 1 – 13 – 5 – 1 – 13

Key men

Billy Meredith
, Welsh international winger, controversial figure who played with a toothpick in his mouth. Played 300 games for each of the Manchester clubs; Sandy Turnbull, bustling forward who died during WW1. Involved in scandals that led to him being banned from football; Charlie Roberts, strong and skilful centre half who was capped by England. Both he and Meredith were instrumental in establishing the players’ union.


Ray Wood, Harry Gregg, Roger Byrne, Bill Foulkes, Jackie Blanchflower, Eddie Colman, Duncan Edwards, Mark Jones, Johnny Berry, David Pegg, Tommy Taylor, Dennis Viollet, Colin Webster, Billy Whelan, Bobby Charlton, John Doherty.

Manager: Matt Busby

Achievement: Football League Champions 1955-56 and 1956-57; FA Cup finalists 1956-57 and 1957-58. Five-year record (1953-54 – 1957-58): 4 – 5 – 1 – 1 – 9

Key men

Duncan Edwards, strong, physical, versatile and high on stamina. A defensive midfielder who could dominate games. Tragically died after the Munich air crash, aged just 21; Roger Byrne, captain of the United team, a defender who became one of the first attacking full backs. Won 33 caps for England but also died in Munich in 1958; Eddie Colman, the youngest of the “Busby Babes” to die in the Munich disaster, his trademark was his body swerve, which earned him the nickname, “Snakehips”; Tommy Taylor, strong centre forward signed from Barnsley for £ 29,999 who scored 137 goals in 237 games for United. Won 19 caps for England, scoring 16 goals. Another player who died in Munich.


Alex Stepney, Tony Dunne, Bobby Noble, David Sadler, Pat Crerard, John Aston, David Herd, Denis Law, Bobby Charlton, Shay Brennan, Nobby Stiles, George Best, Brian Kidd, Francis Burns, Bill Foulkes.

Manager: Matt Busby

Achievement: Football League champions 1966-67, European Cup winners 1967-68. Five-year record (1964-65 to 1968-69): 1 – 4 – 1 – 2 – 11

Key men

George Best,
 Northern Ireland international winger, 37 caps, who was one of the great players from the late 1960s and early 1970s. A wonderful, flawed genius of a performer, his off-pitch life brought an end to his relatively unfulfilled career. A great dribbler, improviser and goalscorer, he died sadly young at 59. Bobby Charlton, one of England’s greatest players who lived through the Munich air disaster of 1958 and eight years later, won the World Cup with England, for whom he won 106 caps and scored 49 goals.  Gave his name to fierce, long-range shooting, the “Bobby Charlton thunderbolt”.  Denis Law, won 55 caps for Scotland, scoring 30 goals, and in his club career, scored 303 times in just over 600 games. A legendary figure, acrobatic, competitive and tenacious. He had a short spell with Torino from whom he joined United in 1962. Ended his international career in the 1974 World Cup.


Peter Schmeichel, Denis Irwin, Paul Parker, Steve Bruce, Gary Pallister, Lee Sharpe, Andrei Kanchelskis, Ryan Giggs, Paul Ince, Roy Keane, Brian McClair, Eric Cantona, Mark Hughes.

Manager: Alex Ferguson

Achievement: Premier League champions 1993-94, FA Cup winners 1993-94, Football League Cup finalists 1993-94. Five-year record (1991-92 to 1995-96): 2 – 1 – 1 – 2 – 1

Key men

Peter Schmeichel, 
Danish goalkeeper who joined United in 1991 from Brøndby for £ 500,000. Won 129 caps for Denmark, including the successful 1992 European Championship. An imposing and very physical keeper, an all-time great. Eric Cantona, French forward, an iconic figure who was as controversial as he was skilful. Joined United in 1992 from Leeds for a bargain £ 1 million. Won 45 caps for France. Retired at 31 in 1997 after scoring 82 goals in 185 games for the club. Ryan Giggs, one of United’s great clubmen, playing 963 games in a career that saw him become one of the most decorated players in English football. Welsh international, he won 64 caps.


Peter Schmeichel, Gary Neville, Philip Neville, Denis Irwin, Ronnie Johnsen, Japp Stam, Nicky Butt, Roy Keane, Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Andy Cole, Teddy Sheringham, Dwight Yorke, Jesper Blomquist, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Ryan Giggs. 

Manager: Sir Alex Ferguson

Achievement: Premier League champions 1998-99 (and 1999-00 and 2000-01); FA Cup winners 1998-99; UEFA Champions League winners 1998-99. Five-year record (1996-97to 2000-01): 1 – 2 – 1 – 1 – 1

Key men

Dwight Yorke,
 Trinidad & Tobago-born striker who joined United from Aston Villa for £ 12.6 million. A fast and tricky player, he scored 29 goals in 1998-99.   Jaap Stam, Dutch central defender who won 67 caps for his country. Joined United from PSV Eindhoven in 1998, he combined strength and spped with an ability to read the game well. Gary Neville, one of England’s great full backs, a tenacious, hard-tackling defender. Born in Bury, he won 85 caps for England. Roy Keane, captain of the treble winning team, a hard man who was very, and occasionally too, competitive. Joined from Nottingham Forest for £ 3.75 million, he won 67 caps for the Republic of Ireland.

Does LVG feel the hot breath of the “Class of ‘92”?

Class of 92
Coming to a dugout near you…

PAUL SCHOLES’ latest criticism of Louis van Gaal’s team merely voices what many people are thinking about Manchester United – hard to beat and hard to watch. But it also adds to the pressure building around the United manager and suggests that the inner sanctum at Old Trafford are at one on the future of the increasingly uncomfortable Van Gaal.

Scholes, of course, may have his own agenda – his pal Ryan Giggs, another member of the Class of ’92 alumni, is sitting alongside Van Gaal in the dugout. While most assistants become guilty by association, Giggs has not been tainted by United’s tepid performances this season, although the cynics might argue that if Giggs has no part in team displays, what value is he adding?.

Van Gaal, as awkward as he is, can probably do without sniping from the sidelines from past players. Scholes is not the only ex-player to speak out against the Dutchman’s regime. Gary Neville has done likewise, which must make life a little fraught for Giggs. To make the former Wales international even more awkward, his brother Rhodri has hit-out at Van Gaal and his tactics.

United fans won’t mind too much. There’s no great affection for LVG and you sense he is seen as an outsider, especially as the Class of ’92, as a brand, is gathering momentum and the next time there’s a management change at Old Trafford, many of the faithful will hope that Giggs, Scholes and the Nevs will come riding in like some sacred order of white-horsed knights.

But are they really qualified to be considered as management material? Gary Neville, who is an excellent TV pundit, is now manager at Valencia, a brave move by the former England defender. The Class of 92’s foray into non-league football has been successful and Salford City are riding high in the Northern Premier League Premier and won praise for their FA Cup run. But this is non-league.

United would be foolish to trust the Class of ’92 with such a high profile club. Doubtless they have the experience and understanding of the club to be easily accepted and know what is required of them, but a club of United’s stature needs a top-line manager who knows how to navigate European club football. The club knows only too well that great players don’t make great managers – not one of the Best – Charlton – Law triumvirate fitted comfortably in a track suit.

Neville is, so far, the only member of the Class to manage a top club – and these are early days for him in Spain. With the exception of Phil Neville, they are all over 40. Surely, if they were genuine managerial candidates, they would be dipping their toes by now – or are Bury, Rotherham and Oldham unattractive to former players that have known nothing but success, glamour and fawning on a grand scale?

Former players may not always work out as managers, but they make very good sideline critics. Bayern Munich has long been influenced by the club’s old guard, something which has worked well. But the club still go outside for their chief coaches – Heynkes, Guardiola and now Ancelotti. And at Ajax, Johan Cruyff has been a thorn in the side of the club’s administration for years – some might say, rightly so.

Cruyff, of course, is one of the people that have been critical of Van Gaal’s style of play. United, traditionally, do not like sideways football, although the stats will show that Arsenal and City are almost as crab-like in their approach. Old Trafford has a heritage of attacking football – the last manager who opted for safety-first was Dave Sexton, who was not exactly a failure, but was still shown the door.

It does seem as though LVG will not last too long at United, but it will leave the club with a tough decision.  Should they give it to Giggs? If they do not, will there be a public outcry? But should they put their faith in an untried manager? Giggs may have a future in the United hot-seat, but he needs to learn the trade outside of a club where he has been all his professional life. The club should also resist the temptation to try and rekindle something that has gone. Jobs for the boys?…no, jobs for the right boys – that’s what United need.

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