Old is Gold: Ten of the oldest Manchester United players

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who finished last season with 28 goals and 10 assists, is expected to re-sign with Manchester United this week, taking a significant pay cut from his previous contract. His swift recovery, especially given his age, has been amazing, but he would have passed his 36th birthday by the time he takes the field again in a United jersey. With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of the oldest players to play a Premier League game for Manchester United:

10. Michael Carrick (35 years, 297 days old)

Already on his 12th season in the Manchester United first team, this season’s captain will be ranked higher when he makes an appearance this season. Michael Carrick is yet to play a competitive match since last season’s league finale, firmly behind Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic, and Ander Herrera in the pecking order. Given that Jose Mourinho would want his team to be competing in multiple fronts, he should eventually be given his opportunity this season.

9. Gary Neville (35 years, 317 days old)

The first member of the renowned “Class of ‘92” in this list. The older Neville brother made 602 first team appearances over 19 seasons, ranking him fifth in total appearances made for the club. He made his last league appearance against West Bromwich Albion, retiring the following month and missing the club’s run towards another Premier League title. If both Carrick and Ibrahimovic plays this season, Neville will also miss out on future iterations of this list.

8. Denis Irwin (36 years, 192 days old)

Signed from Oldham Athletic in July 1990, Denis Irwin is considered by Alex Ferguson as his best “pound-for-pound” signing. Primarily a left-back, his versatility allowed him to play on the opposite flank or as a centre-back. His defensive consistency is complimented by his ability to score goals, especially from penalties and free kicks. In total, he amassed 33 goals over his United career. He made his final appearance for Manchester United in the last game of the 2001/02 season against Charlton Athletic, before moving on to Wolverhampton Wanderers for free.

7. Andy Goram (37 years, 29 days old)

Andy Goram, loaned from Motherwell FC in January 2001, isn’t the most glamorous name on this list. In fact, he only made two appearances during the half-season he spent at Old Trafford. One day after his 37th birthday, he made his debut against Coventry City. His second, and final, appearance was against Southampton in the penultimate game of the season. He started both games, but poor performances forced Alex Ferguson to sub him off for Raimond Van der Gouw on both occasions. Goram retired in 2004 and is currently a goalkeeper coach with Scottish League One team Airdrieonians FC.

6. Bryan Robson (37 years, 116 days old)

Bryan Robson scored the goal that clinched the 1993 league title, ending a 26-year title drought. Although it was his only goal of the season, it was a fitting reward for United’s longest serving captain (1982-1994). He made his final appearance for Manchester United in the last game of the 1993/94 season against Coventry City, before accepting a player-manager role with Middlesbrough. After leaving Boro in 2001, he had managerial spells with Bradford City, West Bromwich Albion, Sheffield United, and the Thailand national team.

5. Laurent Blanc (37 years, 172 days old)

The former Paris Saint-Germain manager spent the last two seasons of his playing career with Manchester United. Brought on to replace the departing Jaap Stam, Laurent Blanc was a regular starter in the 2001/02 season (46 appearances in all competitions). The arrival of Rio Ferdinand and the emergence of academy graduates Wes Brown and John O’Shea limited his minutes the following season. His final appearance for Manchester United came as a halftime substitute against Everton in the final game of the 2002/03 season.

4. Paul Scholes (38 years, 184 years old)

Another member of the famed “Class of ‘92”, Paul Scholes made 718 appearances and scored 155 goals as a midfielder. Scholes actually announced his retirement at the end of the 2010/11 title-winning season, before being convinced by Alex Ferguson to come out of retirement midway through the 2011/12 season. It was a stroke of genius for the manager as Scholes scored four goals in 17 league appearances that season. He retired for good after Ferguson’s swan song game against West Brom, but not before receiving another Premier League winner’s medal.

3. Raimond van der Gouw (39 years, 48 days old)

Given the longevity of a goalkeeper’s career, it’s not surprising to find another one in this list. He was signed on a free transfer in the summer of 1996 as a backup for Peter Schmeichel. He spent most of his Manchester United career as a reserve keeper, briefly sharing the number one role with Mark Bosnich during the 1999/2000 season. The following season, he resumed his understudy role for the incoming Fabien Barthez but still managed to qualify for a Premier League medal with five starts and five substitute appearances. He made his final Manchester United appearance as a substitute in the final game of the 2001/02 season. He is currently a goalkeeping coach for Eredivise side Vitesse while his son plays for the FC Twente youth team.

2. Ryan Giggs (40 years, 158 days old)

The final “Class of ‘92” member in this list, Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs holds the record for most club appearances (963 in all competitions). Giggs terrorized defenders on the left flank for over a decade, before adapting to a more central midfield role towards the twilight of his career. He played his last league game for Manchester United as a player-manager, coming on as a substitute in the final home game of the 2013/14 season. He moved on to become Louis van Gaal’s assistant during the Dutch’s stint as manager. 

1. Edwin van der Sar (40 years, 205 days old)

Already an established goalkeeper during his time with Ajax, Alex Ferguson initially tried to sign the Dutch keeper in 1999 as Peter Schmeichel’s replacement. Van der Sar would have completed spells in Juventus and Fulham before eventually making the move to Old Trafford in 2005, already aged 34. He would pick up the League Cup that season, before winning three consecutive Premier League titles (2007, 2008, and 2009) and a Champions League medal (2008). During this stretch, he broke the league record for most consecutive clean sheets (1,311 minutes). He played his last league game against Blackpool as a Premier League champion. Six days later, he started in the 2011 Champions League finals loss against Barcelona, becoming the second oldest player to make a finals appearance in the competition. He is now back at Ajax as an executive director.

Written by Justin Collera


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