Revealed: Top 10 overseas players in United history
If selected against Aston Villa, David De Gea will overtake Peter Schmeichel to become the overseas player (non-UK and Ireland) with the most Manchester United appearances.
Big Pete has proudly held that record since ending his illustrious United career when winning the Treble in 1999 and, speaking to us on Monday, he praised De Gea’s achievement as a Red.
“He’s been tremendous for us, there’s no doubt about that,” Schmeichel explained. “He stuck it through in the most difficult period of modern-day Manchester United history. It’s been up and down and, basically, he has been our best player. There’s no doubt about that. Four out of five years being our Player of the Year. That just tells its own story about his performances for the club.”
So who does De Gea sit above in the list of United’s top 10 overseas players? As you can see below, David is joined by some of the greatest and most successful names in Old Trafford history…
10: Juan Mata
Total appearances: 252
No. in all-time list: 82
Apart from De Gea, the 'nicest man in football' is the only active player in our countdown and he was proud to pass a milestone of his own last month, by hitting 250 appearances at Norwich City in the Emirates FA Cup. Another landmark could follow soon, too, with the Spaniard currently on 48 goals and closing in on 50 - a mark only eight non-British and Irish players have reached.
9: Edwin van der Sar
Total appearances: 266
Clean sheets: 135
No. in all-time list: 75
The first of three goalkeepers in our list, Edwin was 34 when he signed from Fulham in 2005, but he belied his advancing years to help re-establish United at the pinnacle of English and European football. Keeping clean sheets in over half of his appearances for the Reds, van der Sar will always be remembered for his incredible run without conceding during the 2008/09 season – 1,311 minutes, in total!
Total appearances: 292
No. in all-time list: 62
Ronaldo is right up there with Eric when it comes to a debate over United’s finest-ever foreign player. For six years between 2003 and 2009, he bewitched fans and opponents alike with his dazzling array of trickery and simply got better and better – and more single-minded when it came to finding the net – as time went on. He’s third behind Ruud van Nistelrooy and Solskjaer in terms of goals scored by overseas players, but Ruud and Ole never won the Ballon d’Or!
7: Nemanja Vidic
Total appearances: 300
No. in all-time list: 59
The Serbian hardman is the seventh foreign Red to have cracked the triple-century of appearances for United and, like Solskjaer, he’d be much higher up the list had it not been for injuries towards the tail-end of his career. No matter, though – Vida formed a teak-tough central defensive partnership at the back with Rio Ferdinand and became only the second foreign captain, after Eric Cantona, to lift the league title as United captain.
Total appearances: 339
No. in all-time list: 47
Former club captain Antonio departed the Reds to little fanfare in the summer of 2019 – but that’s the kind of player, and person, the quietly-spoken Ecuadorian was. Signed from Wigan in 2009 as a right-winger, he enjoyed a fine debut season before suffering a horrific broken leg the following campaign. As his Old Trafford career progressed, he transitioned from a pacy, tricky attacker to an athletic but unsung full-back and had a fine year in helping United to second place in 2018.
5: Mikael Silvestre
Total appearances: 361
No. in all-time list: 42
The first of two Frenchman in our top 10 joined just after the 1999 Champions League final and left following the 2008 edition, experiencing all that United had to offer in-between. He was a quiet guy, but, make no mistake, the versatile defender is up there with the most experienced and accomplished Reds in history.
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Total appearances: 366
No. in all-time list: 40
The boss is fourth in our list – but he’s actually United’s longest-serving player from outside the UK and Ireland, having featured for the Reds for 11 years between 1996 and 2007. Had it not been for a succession of knee injuries that kept him sidelined for almost three years, he’d almost certainly be out ahead at the top of this list. Still, Ole – you can comfort yourself with having scored our most famous-ever goal…
3: Patrice Evra
Total appearances: 379
No. in all-time list: 37
Just like the aforementioned Vidic, Pat wasn’t affected by an indifferent start and arguably became the best left-back ever to play for the club (alongside Denis Irwin). He proudly lifted the League Cup as captain and recently credited Eric Cantona for paving the way for Frenchmen in English football. Merci!
1=: Peter Schmeichel
Total appearances: 398
Clean sheets: 180
No. in all-time list: 28
Has there ever been a better goalkeeper? The Great Dane signed from Brondby in 1991 and made his position cool, by becoming arguably the world’s best for the entirety of his Reds career. He left United in 1999 as our overseas player with the most appearances and he is set to lose that record this evening…
1=: David De Gea
Total appearances: 398
Clean sheets: 140
No. in all-time list: 27
Signed from Atletico Madrid in 2011 to replace retiring great Edwin van der Sar, David recovered from a tricky start to life at Old Trafford to stake a claim to be one of the club’s greatest-ever goalkeepers. A four time-winner of the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award and selected five times in the PFA Team of the Year, De Gea is still only 29 and will have his sights set on breaking into United’s highly exclusive ‘500 club’ in years to come.
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