Revealed: United's greatest Premier League XI
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.
Scroll down for all the details to see who’s in, and who narrowly missed out…
GOALKEEPER: DAVID DE GEA
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.1Video
Patrice... you're a legend!Video
Ronaldo's first five PL goalsVideo
“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.
CENTRE-FORWARD: ERIC CANTONA
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.
CENTRE-FORWARD: WAYNE ROONEY
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.
THREE LEGENDS HAVE THEIR SAY
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
“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…
“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
“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.”