We all know Manchester United is a club with incredible history. We’ve had some incredible players and some unbeatable teams. Naturally, of course, we’ve been more successful than most teams ever will be, but how well have our players fared when off on international duty?
Here are some of the reds who shone brightest on the international stage.
Sir Bobby Charlton
Perhaps the most obvious one, Sir Bobby was the star of the 1966 team which won England’s only World Cup to date. He also held the England top scoring record for 45 years, fending off goal scoring machines such as Lineker and Shearer, until last year when fellow United star Wayne Rooney overtook the United legend. Charlton is also the only England player to ever feature in four World Cup Squads (despite not playing one) and he scored an extraordinary four hat-tricks for his country.
Caps: 106 – Goals: 49 – Major Trophies: 1
Another big hitter, Ronaldo has undoubtedly had a great career for Portugal. After winning a major international tournament he can put his name alongside Pele, Maradona, and Sir Bobby Charlton. Aged just 31 he’s already won 133 caps and in that time he scored a remarkable 61 goals, that makes him the record cap holder and goalscorer for Portugal. He broke onto the scene in 2004 when his team reached the final of Euro 2004. Since then he’s taken an often decent, but never great team, to a World Cup semi-final, a Euro semi-final and quarter-final before winning Euro 2016 in dramatic fashion.
Caps: 133 – Goals: 61 – Major Trophies: 1
The Great Dane certainly earned his nickname on the international stage as much as he did at club level. Most famously, of course, starring in the 1992 Europeans Championships, where Denmark famously won the tournament. Big Pete was named Goalkeeper of the Tournament and went on to play in a number of major tournaments and even managed to grab himself a goal for Denmark.
Caps: 129 – Goals: 1 – Major Trophies: 1
He may have only been at the club for a few months but Zlatan cemented his legendary status in Sweden long before arriving in Manchester. Scoring a quite frankly ridiculous 62 goals in just 116 caps for his country, it is unsurprising that Sweden has qualified for all but two international tournaments during Ibrahimovic’s career. 2012 was a particularly phenomenal year for Zlatan, who scored the Goal of the Tournament and was named in the Team of the Tournament despite getting knocked out in the group stages. That year he later went on to score four goals against England in that famous game, where he also scored THAT goal which won him the FIFA Puskas Award for Goal of the Year.
Caps: 116 – Goals: 62 – Major Trophies: 0
His time at United was fairly disappointing but nevertheless, Diego shone for his country, particularly in his formative years. Most famously leading his side to fourth place at the 2010 World Cup, Forlan scored five goals (joint highest of the tournament), four of which were outside the box and one which won him Goal of the Tournament. He also won the Golden Ball for player of the tournament. In 2011 he went on to win the Copa America with Uruguay before retiring in 2015. He currently lies second in both cap and goal departments, with current players Maxi Pereira and Luis Suarez overtaking him on respective fronts.
Caps: 112 – Goals: 36 – Major Trophies: 1
Laurent Blanc and Fabien Barthez
These two didn’t leave a particularly lasting impression on United fans either, although they did have incredibly successful international careers. Blanc and Barthez were part of the French team that won the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Championships. Perhaps this success was due to the pair’s good luck tradition of Blanc kissing Barthez’ bald head before every game (how very French). In 1998 the defender and goalkeeper only conceded two goals throughout the entire tournament, which is an achievement that has yet to be surpassed in the World Cup. Barthez won Goalkeeper of the Tournament and Blanc scored the first ever ‘Golden Goal’ in a World Cup match. Blanc did miss the final in ’98 after earning his only ever red card in the semi-final after Slaven Bilic dubiously went down claiming an elbow, but did go on two years later to win consecutive major trophies with Barthez and France.
Blanc: Caps: 97 – Goals: 16 – Major Trophies: 2
Barthez: Caps: 87 – Goals: 0 – Major Trophies: 2
Edwin van der Sar
Edwin, the third ‘keeper on this list, had a fantastic career in Manchester but also cemented hero status in the Netherlands. It’s unsurprising he never won an international tournament with the Dutch, international football’s ultimate Bridesmaid, but nevertheless, he had a phenomenal career. He played in as many European Championships as anyone ever has (4) and has the fourth highest number of Euro appearances. He played in three major tournament semi-finals, making a number of penalty saves along the way. Ed finished his career as Netherlands all-time cap record holder on 130.
Caps: 130 – Goals: 0 – Major Trophies: 0
Pique was at United from an early age and decided to move when Vidic and Ferdinand stood in the way of first team football. Few players succeed after leaving Old Trafford but Pique has already become one of the most successful footballers of all time, and he’s only 29. As well as a glittering career with Barcelona, Gerard starred in Spain’s 2010 World Cup victory, before playing every single minute of the 2012 Euros. In 2010 he helped Spain match France’s record in ’98 of only conceding two goals throughout the tournament. In 2012 they went one better and only conceded once, keeping five consecutive clean sheets after a 1-1 draw against Italy in their opening game of the tournament.
Caps: 84 – Goals: 5 – Major Trophies: 2
Park earned cult hero status at Old Trafford but he must be regarded as a legend back home in South Korea. Remember when we played there on a pre-season tour and the stadium announced him as ‘Man of the Match’, despite not actually stepping foot on the pitch? Well, there’s a reason for that. In 2002, with South Korea the hosts, Park starred as his team incredibly reached the semi-finals, the furthest any Asian team has ever managed. He went on to help his country qualify for the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, becoming the first Asian player to score in three consecutive World Cups.
Caps: 100 – Goals: 13 – Major Trophies: 0
Disappointed in tournaments but continues to break his own England goal record.
Caps: 116 – Goals: 53 – Major Trophies: 0
Played an integral part in England’s 1966 World Cup winning side.
Caps: 28 – Goals: 1 – Major Trophies: 1
Had some ups and downs with his country but captained the side on 58 occasions.
Caps: 115 – Goals: 17 – Major Trophies: 0
Ruud van Nistelrooy
Outstanding goal record.
Caps: 70 – Goals: 35 – Major Trophies: 0
Robin van Persie
Equally outstanding goal record. Robin van Persie surpassed Ruud van Nistelrooy and gained 100 caps and top scorer status.
Caps: 101 – Goals: 50 – Major Trophies: 0
Still the youngest player ever to score at a World Cup.
Caps: 38 – Goals: 9 – Major Trophies: 0
Have we missed anyone out? Let us know!
Written by Gethin Morgan