Which Reds fit into our Mancunian Way XI?
With our new home shirt for the 2021/22 season inspired by the 'Mancunian Way', we create an XI of players born outside of Manchester who have best adopted the city's character and United.
Goalkeeper: Harry Gregg
A fantastic keeper born in Magherafelt, Northern Ireland, Gregg spent nine years at United, in which time he displayed bravery and brilliance on and off the pitch. The inside neck of this year's shirt carries three words: youth, courage and success. Gregg certainly defined courage, not only for his brave actions in the Munich Air Disaster - in which he pulled team-mates and passengers from the burning debris of a plane - but also on the pitch. Tall, powerful and very vocal, Gregg was a brilliant goalkeeper and a leader. He played through injuries - including a fractured skull and an arm that could hardly bend - to give his all for United.
Tenacious, argumentative and always up for big games, the Brazilian full-back was the favourite of many a United fan during his time at the club. Screamers, followed by passionate celebrations, against QPR and Liverpool helped, and so does his continued love for the club since his departure.
Centre-back: Nemanja Vidic
He'd fly into tackles with his foot or his head, or whatever other part of his body he thought could help him win the ball. He loved attacking everything, those blue eyes narrowing, honing in on the target and pouncing. As former Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor said: "Vidic was the tough man, like running into a rock. He could block a striker with a single finger. He walks on you, he says sorry, he kicks you, he says sorry. He shouts at you and makes a little bit of spit come out. This guy was ready to kill."
He mastered the art of defending and after he'd dragged his opponent all afternoon, his pleasant, humble character could come out off the pitch. And don't forget the swinging arms, pounding knees celebration after his last-minute winner against Sunderland. The perfect United skipper.
Centre-back: Kevin Moran
Like Vidic, the name Kevin Moran brings to mind a bruised and battered defender, still ready to give everything. When Moran was stretchered off, blood seeping from his head, in the 1983 FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal, he still managed to turn to the travelling United fans and pump a fist in celebration as Ron Atkinson's side made it through to Wembley.
Left-back: Patrice Evra
Evra worked hard, played brilliantly and did it with a smile on his face, and that is how football should be played. His absolute adoration for Manchester United still comes across in his infamously zany videos on social media.
Right-midfielder: David Beckham
Before the worldwide fame, Beckham earned his reputation with brilliance on the pitch. That ability was not handed to him on a plate, but earned, with relentless a work ethic that eventually gave him the right foot of a demi-god. It came through effort, ambition and self-belief, but also humility. Even once he had become so famous he was a by-word for the entire game of football, Beckham said he simply hoped people saw him as a "hard-working footballer, passionate about the game."
Centre-midfielder: Roy Keane
It's Keane's mentality that made him such a perfect fit for United. Our writer Joe Ganley tried to define the 'Mancunian Way' this week, and these were his words:
"Don’t talk and shout about becoming the best. Show it. Do it. Prove it. Live it into reality."
Roy Keane was absolutely the perfect example of that.
Centre-midfielder: Paddy Crerand
Relentlessly hard working, Crerand would never shirk a tackle nor a fight, protecting the oft-targeted George Best on plenty of occasions. Forged on the streets of Glasgow, Paddy could play with grace but also with grit. And he loved the club so much he's still here today!
Left-midfielder: George Best
The most talented player in the side, George Best had his own gravitational pull. He dragged defenders close before chucking them aside with a feint of the body or wonderful control of the ball. Off the pitch, he seduced the world. There was a mystique to Georgie, one that has lasted until today, just as the 'Mancunian Way' is a little mystical itself, indefinable but definitely 'there'.
Striker: Eric Cantona
Arrogant but charmingly so, unless he was unleashing a vicious volley past your team's goalkeeper, Cantona knew he was good, played like it, spoke like it and made those around him step up, or leave. Manchester enveloped him, following his every move and adoring him for that. He brought glory and heartache, teamwork and individual brilliance and he embodied difference. He did nothing by the book, and it was immense.
Sir Alex Ferguson said: “If ever there was one player, anywhere in the world, that was made for Manchester United, it was Cantona. He swaggered in, stuck his chest out, raised his head and surveyed everything as though he were asking: ‘I’m Cantona. How big are you? Are you big enough for me?'”
Striker: Denis Law
The original King of the Stretford End, Denis Law was like Cantona, a brilliant goalscorer who knew it and revelled in the applause of the crowd who worshipped him. Those of a certain generation revered a world-class hitman, who won the Ballon d'Or in 1964.
Subs: Alex Stepney; Paul McGrath, Rio Ferdinand, Dimitar Berbatov, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Ruud van Nistelrooy.