Sir Alex Ferguson and Ryan Giggs

Sir Alex Ferguson's top Manchester United XI

In recent months, we've been revealing the team-mates who played most often alongside former Manchester United greats, but this week, to mark the anniversary of his final match in charge of the club, we're listing the Reds who featured the most times under Sir Alex Ferguson.

The Scot held the top position at the club for over 26 years between 1986 and 2013, winning an incredible 13 league titles, five FA Cups and two European Cups, before retiring in 2013 after 1,500 games at the helm.
 
But what would an all-time XI look like featuring his most-used players? 
 
Naming the legendary manager's best XI is a near impossible task, given the number of superstars who passed through the club during his reign, but, thankfully, all we need to do here is crunch the numbers.
 
Without further ado, here's Sir Alex's top United XI...

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GOALKEEPER
Peter Schmeichel (398 games under Ferguson)
 
The boss moved heaven and earth to obtain Schmeichel's signature in the early 90s, and it proved one of his most important transfers. The Great Dane was present for five title wins in the first seven seasons of the Premier League era, and famously bowed out by captaining the side in Roy Keane's absence as the Treble was completed on a magical, balmy night in Barcelona. Tellingly, Sir Alex's United would not reach similar heights until nine years later in Moscow, when Edwin van der Sar – the man who finally proved capable of replacing Schmeichel – made the difference in a dramatic penalty shoot-out.
DEFENCE
Gary Neville (602), Rio Ferdinand (432), Gary Pallister (437), Denis Irwin (529)
 
This back four never played together, but the contribution made by each member crossed several periods during Sir Alex's time at the club. Gary Pallister was a record British signing when he arrived in 1989, and was an important part of the first vital successes United achieved under Sir Alex: the 1990 FA Cup and the 1991 European Cup Winners' Cup. Denis Irwin and Gary Neville were both unsung heroes, but only Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes have more Premier League medals, and the pair loyally served Ferguson for a combined total of 31 years. Rounding things off is Rio Ferdinand, the silky centre-half who formed a famous partnership with Nemanja Vidic at the heart of Sir Alex's last great team.
MIDFIELD
David Beckham (394), Roy Keane (480), Paul Scholes (718), Ryan Giggs (941)
 
Arguably, the greatest British-and-Irish midfield to ever grace a football pitch, and perfectly balanced from right to left, this quartet has gone down in history, so it's little surprise to see each of these names at the top of the list of players with the most appearances under Sir Alex. Comprised of three Academy graduates and the indomitable Roy Keane, it is stuffed with hard-working and outrageously talented footballers, including one, in Giggs, who was present at the club for every single one of Ferguson's major trophy successes. You'd back this lot to win the midfield battle in a game against almost any opposition imaginable.

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ATTACK
Brian McClair (471), Wayne Rooney (402)
 
One of Sir Alex's most dedicated stalwarts, Brian McClair, leads the attack. A big-money signing from Celtic in the summer of 1987, the Airdrieonian is often overlooked nowadays, given the superabundance of quality that followed, but he made a big impact upon arrival, becoming the first United player to surpass 20 goals in a league season since George Best in 1967/68. Partnering him is the club's greatest-ever goalscorer, Wayne Rooney. The Scouser toppled Sir Bobby Charlton's scoring record during the Jose Mourinho era, but his greatest years came under Sir Alex, for whom he netted a huge 197 goals.
 
SIR ALEX FERGUSON'S FULL XI
 
Peter Schmeichel; Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand, Gary Pallister, Denis Irwin; David Beckham, Roy Keane, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs; Brian McClair, Wayne Rooney.
Sir Alex Ferguson with Giggs, Butt, Beckham, Gary Neville, Phil Neville and Scholes.
All six of the group often referred to as the Class of '92 make Sir Alex's all-time squad.
ON THE BENCH

Edwin van der Sar (266), Steve Bruce (414), John O'Shea (393), Phil Neville (385), Nicky Butt (387), Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (366), Mark Hughes (349).
 
This XI was based on the players who made the most appearances under Sir Alex but, inevitably, to compose a balanced XI that could actually take to the pitch, we had to take position and formation into account.

That meant, unfortunately, Steve Bruce (ahead of Rooney, Schmeichel and Beckham in appearances) missed out, because centre-backs Ferdinand and Pallister boasted more games. We also needed a substitute keeper, so van der Sar sneaks a spot on the bench. 
 
Similarly, we need a few forward options, so Mark Hughes gets in ahead of Wes Brown (362) and Mikael Silvestre (361), because defensive back-up is already assured through the versatile John O'Shea and Phil Neville. The latter and Nicky Butt are the only members of the famed Class of '92 elite to miss out on a starting berth.
 
Narrowly missing out on the squad were players like Patrice Evra (334), Michael Carrick (319), Darren Fletcher (312) and Cristiano Ronaldo (292) but of course, they all have plenty of medals to console themselves with!

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