David De Gea celebrates a goal at Old Trafford

Revealed: United's greatest Premier League XI

Tuesday 12 June 2018 16:24

To celebrate United’s 1000th Premier League game – a 1-0 win over Watford in our final match of the 2017/18 league campaign – ManUtd.com invited Reds to take part in a series of special polls to determine the Best Goal, Best Game, Best Save, Best Player and our greatest combined XI from the entire era.

You voted in your thousands, and we revealed the results of the first four individual categories last month. Now, we are ready to confirm the findings of arguably the most hotly disputed poll: which United players have managed to win a starting berth in our greatest Premier League XI?

Scroll down for all the details to see who’s in, and who narrowly missed out…


United have racked up 13 titles since the Premier League began in 1992, so it’s little surprise there are a cast of stellar names eligible for every position. The Reds’ current no.1, David De Gea, came out clearly on top in the race to be goalkeeper, nabbing a good 59% chunk of the votes, which placed him above Peter Schmeichel (25%) and Edwin van der Sar (15%). De Gea claimed his one title to date in 2012/13 at just 22, and was a vital cog in Sir Alex Ferguson’s final great side. The Spaniard’s vast talent and potential were rudely evident back then, but his development in recent years has been simply awe-inspiring. The fact he has edged out Peter Schmeichel – a strong candidate for the greatest goalkeeper of all-time, who won five championships – and Edwin van der Sar – a four-time title winner who holds the PL record for the longest consecutive run without conceding (1,311 minutes) – sums up De Gea’s majesty as well as written words ever could.
Ten saves that made David world no.1 Video

Ten saves that made David world no.1

#DaveSaves! Sit back and relive some of David De Gea's best stops in England's top flight since 2011.

The choice at at right-back is former captain Gary Neville, who garnered a mammoth 75% of the votes in this category, ahead of Antonio Valencia, Rafael, Wes Brown and Paul Parker. Neville would readily admit he was never the most naturally gifted member of the many United squads he represented, but his determination and consistency offered our best teams backbone and resilience. His relationships on the right flank with David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo might have operated very differently, but Neville’s intelligent appreciation of their skills – and shortcomings – allowed both to flourish. Off the pitch, particularly in the years after Roy Keane’s departure, the elder of the Neville brothers was also a vital influence in preserving the winning culture embedded by Ferguson and his earlier sides. Oh, and he won eight Premier League titles, too...
Alongside Neville is Rio Ferdinand, a champion in six of his 12 seasons in M16, and the classiest of central defenders. An astute reader of the game who was quick over the ground and even quicker in the head, Rio brought composure and confidence at the back, and gained 58% of the votes for the first centre-back spot. Ferdinand was once told by one of his youth coaches that if his shorts were not dirty by the end of a game, he’d not played well. Yet the man from Peckham, who believed his flexibility, strength and balance could be attributed to the ballet lessons he took as a youngster, came to a different conclusion: spotless shorts were the sign of a job well done. More often than not at United, Ferdinand was pristine.
Sir Alex Ferguson says

“Gary was the best English right-back of his generation. He is an example to any young professional; hard-working, loyal and intelligent. As a United fan born and bred, his fantastic career at Old Trafford has cemented his place in the affection of the club’s supporters everywhere.”

As superb as Ferdinand was, most Reds would contend that his career did not reach full fruition until the arrival of a little-known Serbian centre-half from Spartak Moscow. Nemanja Vidic joined in January 2006 and was the perfect foil for Ferdinand, complementing his team-mate’s refined skills with his own unique blend of ferocious bravery and desire. The Reds claimed the league in four of Vida’s first five full seasons, and twice he was named the Premier League’s Player of the Year –  being the first defender to receive the honour. Captain from 2010 until his departure in 2014, he remains a hero to fans for his crushing challenges and at-all-costs commitment to the cause. Vidic’s share of the vote here was 55%, placing him well clear of other mighty figures from the club’s history, like Jaap Stam and Steve Bruce.
Occupying the left-back slot is a man who joined just four days after Vidic. Patrice Evra endured a nightmare start to his United career – being substituted at half-time during a 3-1 humiliation away at Manchester City – but quickly grew in stature. The diminutive but deceptively strong Frenchman edged out Treble-winner and seven-time champion Denis Irwin – who claimed 30% of the vote – by winning the hearts of 63% of our pollers. Evra won five Premier League titles and endeared himself to the Old Trafford faithful with his remarkable athleticism, tireless energy and quirky personality. His somewhat overlooked ability to improvise and dribble on the ball also offered United’s attack an extra dimension in the final third.
Patrice... you're a legend! Video

Patrice... you're a legend!

Here's our tribute to Patrice Evra's eight years as a Red...

No alarms and no surprises here. In fact, it’s testament to David Beckham’s quality that Cristiano Ronaldo – a five-time winner of the Ballon d’Or, no less – ‘only’ managed a meagre 75% of the vote. The likelihood is that Ronaldo would have won the battle for whatever position he was nominated, such is his popularity. The Portuguese phenomenon joined in 2003, the summer Beckham departed, and turned in one of the most memorable debuts in the club’s history when he appeared for a short cameo in a 4-0 drubbing of Bolton Wanderers. Ronny took time to truly excel but, upon returning from the World Cup in 2006, he hit a rich vein of form that is yet to end, some 12 years later. Few will forget the immense impact our former no.7 had in those glorious years between 2006 and 2009, when United won three consecutive titles, largely thanks to the 66 Premier League goals he delivered across that trio of campaigns.
The league’s most decorated English player is a shoo-in for the first of our central midfield roles, drawing a hefty 70% of the vote ahead of Paul Pogba, Michael Carrick and Bryan Robson. Older Reds may prefer Robson, but at the dawn of the Premier League, the longest-serving captain in our history was coming towards the end of his career. But Scholes was just getting going. An FA Youth Cup winner in 1993, he burst into the team in 1994/95, and claimed the first of 11 titles in 1995/96, scoring a crucial league 10 goals as United hauled back Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle. His stature and authority only grew as the years passed, but arguably Scholes’ finest campaign was 2002/03, when he netted 14 times as an advanced midfielder, in support of Ruud van Nistelrooy. That earned the Ginger Prince his sixth championship winner's medal, but he was far from finished. A remarkable career entered its second phase when Scholes returned from an eye issue at the end of the 2005/06 season. Following the departure of Roy Keane, Scholes adopted a deep-lying, more authoritative position, directing the play from in front of the defence with his lasered passes and stunning imagination. Five more titles arrived, enshrining him as one of the greatest players of any era, Premier League or otherwise.
Ronaldo's first five PL goals Video

Ronaldo's first five PL goals

Go on, Cristiano! Watch his first five Premier League goals here and all 84 of them on our YouTube channel...

Partnering Scholes is the one and only Roy Keane – “our manager on the pitch”, to use Scholes' own words. Keane might not have drawn gasps for his skill, as Ronaldo and Scholes did, but his influence on colleagues was legendary, as was his determination and will to win. Made captain at the age of 25, the Irishman drove the team to four titles in five seasons between 1998 and 2003, adding to the three he won during his early years at the club. The striving, winning culture he helped to create endured long after his departure in 2005, having been absorbed by Neville, Giggs, Scholes, Rooney et al, but Keane was also a fabulous and somewhat underrated player on the ball. Crisp and creative with his prompting passes, he started United attacks as often as he killed those of the opposition. Along with Scholes, he dominated the votes for this position: a whopping 78% of you voted for one or both of the players. 
The only player with as many Premier League titles as Sir Alex Ferguson, Giggs is synonymous with the most successful era in the club’s history. It’s little surprise, then, that he dominated the poll for a left winger. An incredible 95% of you identified the Welshman as the man for the job, ahead of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Lee Sharpe and Treble-winner Jesper Blomqvist. Giggs held aloft the championship trophy on an amazing 13 occasions, influencing every single triumph with his dazzling dribbling, close control and awesome consistency. Players came and went throughout the 22 Premier League seasons Giggs took part in, but however United fared, the Welsh Wizard was always there, creating chances, wowing crowds and contributing to the cause. His longevity makes him one of the most revered footballers in history, but it’s easy to forget how exciting Giggs was during his early years, and how magically he transformed himself into a more mature, economical – but equally effective – player later in his career.
Giggs was not just a sensational player, but a fantastic influence on younger colleagues.


There are United strikers with more Premier League goals than Eric’s 64 – Ruud van Nistelrooy, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Andy Cole – but none who can match his talismanic effect on this club. When Cantona arrived, the Reds had not won the title for 25 years. By the time he retired in 1997, the club had won four championships in five years. The only season of failure during Cantona’s time was 1994/95 – a campaign Cantona missed almost half of, due to a nine-month ban. Eric was a huge catalyst for United’s rebirth, and was pivotal in all four of the title wins he helped to achieve. An impressive 41% of you voted him as the first centre-forward in our greatest Premier League XI, ahead of a list of incredible players such as the aforementioned van Nistelrooy, Solskjaer and Cole, plus Robin van Persie, Dwight Yorke and Mark Hughes.


The final position in our greatest XI of the Premier League era goes to the club’s all-time leading goalscorer, Wayne Rooney. It was a narrow victory, with van Nistelrooy (23%) just falling short of Rooney’s 31% vote share, but the Liverpudlian is a worthy winner. Rooney won five titles in 13 seasons at the club, notching a monumental 183 Premier League goals. Somehow that doesn’t quite tell the full story: though primarily a striker, Rooney performed admirably in every position across the midfield and attack, and was always willing to sacrifice himself for the greater needs of the team. A great goalscorer, and a wonderfully gifted all-round footballer, it’s fitting that our all-star team is completed by the man who could do everything.


Before the voting closed, We asked Andy Cole, Denis Irwin and Bryan Robson to nominate their own picks for our greatest XI...

I’m biased to the 1999 team

Andy Cole: “For me, I look at the team I played in, with great respect for what we achieved and the way we played football. If I was to go for two centre-backs, I would most likely say Ronny Johnsen and Jaap Stam. When I first came to play, Brucey and Pally were fantastic. One was the aggressor, the other the slick individual who came out to play little one-twos and didn’t get too involved in the physical confrontations. To see those two gel together was phenomenal, but I wouldn’t know who to pick without being biased to the 1999 team. When you saw Ronny and Jaap, they were on the block, they were difficult, they were very quick and they were physical. They could mix it both ways.”

My front two would be…

Denis Irwin: “I’d stick Ronaldo in there, any day of the week. He came as a winger who was capable of scoring plenty of goals and developed into a player who could play anywhere along the top. He’s so clever. You could he tell he behaved like a centre-forward, with his movement around the box and we’ve seen his progression in that, so he would take some stopping. I’d also play Ruud – he was a fantastic scorer from my era. So I’d have one from my era and one from the era after me – Ronaldo and Ruud.”

My perfect midfield four

Bryan Robson: “I’d go for Ronaldo on the right and Giggsy on the left. Scholesy and Keaney in the middle. Keaney was a great captain who led by example with his all-round ability. Scholesy, with his vision, could make and score goals and create things. That’s why I’d put him in there as well. You’re leaving out quite a lot of fantastic players but I’d have no hesitation in picking those four. Ronaldo was mainly on the right as a winger with our club – he always played there – and Giggsy, I’d say, is just the best player for us over those 1,000 Premier League games.”