Alan Shearer and Roy Keane.

Which opponents did our best players face most?

Wednesday 13 May 2020 13:29

We know some of Manchester United's past players had intense personal rivalries with certain opponents, but which did they face the most in their careers?

Some of the results are intriguing: we know Roy Keane had a formidable foe in Patrick Vieira, but he also had plenty of run-ins with ex-Newcastle United striker Alan Shearer, including one stormy encounter at St James' Park in 2001, when the Irishman was shown a red card after a spat with the England marksman.

Our inspirational captain came up against Shearer 23 times in his playing days – the same number of occasions he lined up opposite former Arsenal full-back Nigel Winterburn.

Vieira was actually the leading opponent of Gary Neville, and it was their initial tussle that sparked the infamous tunnel bust-up between Keane and the France midfielder at Highbury in 2005.

Cristiano Ronaldo's most frequent opponents are Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi.

Cristiano Ronaldo, who is still competing at the highest level with Juventus, of course, has a couple of stellar names at the top of his personal list. The Portugal star has crossed swords most often with the scorer of the winning goal in the 2010 World Cup final, Andres Iniesta (36), who is only one ahead of CR7's big rival for the title of the best player in the world, Lionel Messi.  

Some other glamorous chief rivals for ex-Reds include Czech Republic icon Pavel Nedved (for Jaap Stam), Italian ace Daniele De Rossi (for Zlatan Ibrahimovic), German powerhouse Michael Ballack (for Dimitar Berbatov) and Italian maestro Gianfranco Zola (for David Beckham).

Current United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's top opponent was Sol Campbell – the central defender was actually sent off for an elbow on our prolific striker while at Arsenal, during a key match in the 2002/03 title race.

However, it is inevitable the same names crop up when looking at the overall figures: players who had long careers in the top flight and became regular adversaries.

Petr Cech is one of these, after keeping goal with distinction for Chelsea and Arsenal, while stalwarts such as John Terry, Frank Lampard, Gary Speed and Gareth Barry also feature prominently.

Ryan Giggs met Lampard 31 times on a football pitch, with Liverpool's Jamie Carragher facing the Welshman the same number of times.

We've reproduced a long list of the chief opponents for some of the most famous Reds of the Premier League era, with thanks to excellent stats site

Petr Cech tries to deny Nani – the pair met 14 times on the field.


David Beckham: Gianfranco Zola 20.
Dimitar Berbatov: Michael Ballack 19.
Wes Brown: Steven Gerrard 19.
Eric Cantona: Jean-Luc Ettori 11.
Michael Carrick: James Milner 28.
Andy Cole: Gary Speed 21.
Jonny Evans: Petr Cech 18.
Patrice Evra: Petr Cech 24.
Rio Ferdinand: Gareth Barry 27.
Darren Fletcher: Gareth Barry 24.
Ryan Giggs: Frank Lampard 31, Jamie Carragher 31.
Ander Herrera: Pedro 16.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic: Daniele De Rossi 15.
Denis Irwin: Dennis Wise 22, Graeme Le Saux 22.
Roy Keane: Nigel Winterburn 23, Alan Shearer 23.
David May: Gary Speed 11, Peter Atherton 11.
Brian McClair: Peter Beardsley 16.
Nani: Petr Cech 14.
Gary Neville: Patrick Vieira 22.
Phil Neville: Frank Lampard 27.
John O’Shea: John Terry 28.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Sol Campbell at Highbury.

Gary Pallister: Gary Speed 19.
Ji-sung Park: Aaron Hughes 13.
Cristiano Ronaldo: Andres Iniesta 36.
Wayne Rooney: Gareth Barry 29, James Milner 29.
Peter Schmeichel: Gary Speed 21.
Paul Scholes: David James 26, Jamie Carragher 26.
Teddy Sheringham: Gary Speed 21.
Mikael Silvestre: Frank Lampard 20, Thierry Henry 20.
Alan Smith: Mark Schwarzer 18.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: Sol Campbell 17.
Jaap Stam: Pavel Nedved 15.
Antonio Valencia: Petr Cech 21.
Edwin van der Sar: Frank Lampard 25.
Ruud van Nistelrooy: Sami Hyypia 16.
Nemanja Vidic: John Terry 16.
Robin van Persie: Petr Cech 20.
Dwight Yorke: Ray Parlour 22.