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Top five Manchester United players in the modern era

This week brought a bittersweet feeling to Manchester United supporters across the world. Club icon Wayne Rooney left the club to rejoin Everton as a main component in his youthful side. As Rooney departs the club that turned him into a global superstar, Manchester United are losing the last artifact of the Sir Alex Ferguson era (Sorry Michael Carrick). The English Premier League was founded in 1992, since then, The Red Devils have won it more times (13) than any other club. This success has been fueled by some of the best footballers the world has seen. But of all these legends, who is the best? Below I will rank the top five Manchester United players. A few rules apply though: First, the player must not currently play for the squad (again, sorry Carrick). Secondly, players who spent less than two seasons at Old Trafford are exempt from the list. The final rule is that the player must be a modern footballer, meaning their time at Manchester United occurred during the recently formed English Premier League. Read below and leave comments on your thoughts:

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5: Roy Keane

Probably deserving of a higher ranking in the top five, Roy Keane let his attitude get the best of him. A decisive and tough as nails midfielder, Keane had all the tools to be one of the worlds best. The only thing holding him back, was himself. For example, during the 2001 Manchester Derby, Keane was sent off for an illegal tackle on a City player (one whom had hurt him the season before). The initial damage was a three match suspension and a fine, but then Keane outed himself. The next year in his biography, Keane admitted to the dirty tackle being pre-mediated. Next came the interview with Manchester United Television, in which Keane publicly trashed his teammates and openly questioned their talent, commitment and judgement amongst other things. “That was the beginning of the end”, as Sir Alex Ferguson said. Not wanting his captain to publicly trash his teammates, Sir Alex knew it was time for Keane to move on.

For all the errors in judgement and torn relationships, Keane could play. Winning 17 trophies with the Red Devils, Keane was an instrumental piece of the squad from 1992 to his departure in 2005. Keane was the Manchester United Captain from 1996 and on. Beloved by the fans for his hard-nosed tackling and ability to get up the pitch, Keane never shied away from the fan support. Regarded is a world class talent, Keane dominated the center of the park and made the others around him. To prove his spot in this ranking, one should look at his record-breaking attendance during his testimonial in 2006. Even after the public fallout with the club and Sir Alex Ferguson, Roy Keane remains one of the best to ever wear the shirt.

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4: Cristiano Ronaldo 

To say that Ronaldo is one of the best players ever would be an understatement. Blessed by the god’s with world class speed and dribbling, Ronaldo can score a goal from any place on Earth. Arguably the best player to ever play football, Ronaldo fails to top this list simply due to all his success at Real Madrid. With Manchester United, he only won the Champions league once. Even though he utterly dominated the English Premier League, Ronaldo can only be ranked so high because he has accomplished so much in Spain.

Bought from Portugal by Sir Alex Ferguson, questions arose surrounding this mercurial talent. As his relationship grew with Ferguson, so did his game. Tying the most goals in a season record during the 2007-08 campaign with 31 goals in 38 matches, Ronaldo established himself on the world stage. In truth, his ambitions to play in Spain were so strong that Manchester United was lucky to convince him to stay for one more season after our treble winning run during that same year. Tossed out on the flank, Ronaldo consistently gave the Red Devils chances to go ahead. An opposing nightmare due to his skill moves and polish, Ronaldo absorbed multiple defenders with the ball at his feet yet managed to blow past each one. The physicality of the English teams proved futile due to his athleticism as well as his free kick ability. Defenders often times fouled him and instantly regretted it as he lined up for the free kick, legs spread wide and hands to his side, and smashed it into the back of the net. Ronaldo is simply one of the greatest to ever touch the ball.

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3: Paul Scholes 

Labeled too small from the moment Sir Alex Ferguson met him to his debut match, Scholes was always beating expectations. Part of the vaunted Class of ’92, he proved to be the engine that ran Manchester United during it’s glory days from the early 90’s to the late 2000’s.

Scholes was an above average dribbler, but his strength was his knack for goals. Wildly popular with the Old Trafford faithful, Scholes was always a threat to catch a deflected pass at the top of the box and smash it into the nylon of the net! Throughout his successful career he had numerous midfield partnerships. Yet, he remained the constant player whom Sir Alex Ferguson could always count on. The biggest knack on his player profile would be his tendency to find himself in the referee’s book. Scholes was great because he played with a chip on his shoulder, but this playing style had consequences. Missing out on the Champions League final in 2008 through accumulation of yellow cards during the tournament ranks as his worst career moment. Fortunately, his highlights outweigh this!

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2: Wayne Rooney

I’m biased. I admit it. Rooney has long been the object of my footballing affection. I love him for his tenacity, commitment and consistency. Brought to Old Trafford by Sir Alex in the early 2000’s, Rooney was an instant hit. Debuting with a hat trick in the Champion’s League, Rooney hit the ground running. Rooney wasn’t graced with the athleticism of Ronaldo or the technical ability of Scholes. What he was is a player whom is phenomenal at putting the ball into the net and fairly above average at everything else. The difference? Rooney cares. He truly does. Always galloping up and down the pitch throwing in tackles and dishing out assists, Rooney wants to win. He needs it. He’s got a little bit of Keane in him in the fact that he is Manchester United through and through.

People forget that in his younger days, Rooney was devastating. Before the club record goal scoring feat and the bicycle kick, he was playing alongside Ronaldo forging one of the best duo’s of all time. Opposing teams didn’t stand a chance when Rooney was on his game. With a fire brewing inside him at all times, he mimicked Scholes with his tackles and Keane with his tenacity, all the while matching Ronaldo feat for feat. As Rooney’s Manchester United career has continued, critics arose. The ideology that he never quite lived up to expectations is erroneous. Rooney took the club record for goals at the age of 31, as well as the England international goal scoring record that same year. He has won every single trophy offered to him.  All this after playing consistent first team football in the most physically demanding and brutal league in the world since the age of 16. The best way to gauge his Manchester United is, without a doubt, his consistency. Having played with every other player on this list (Number one included) Rooney has been the constant in an ever evolving rotation of great players, and throughout this he has remained is a main focal point of legendary Manchester United squads.

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1: Ryan Giggs

Giggs is an icon. For a man of few words, Giggs has become THE fan favorite. His FA Cup game winner in the finale against Arsenal has been voted is the best Manchester United goal time and time again by various polls. He, by all accounts, is the most decorated player of all time. Giggs came to prominence alongside the Class of ’92 and was looked upon as their leader.

Giggs was a swashbuckling winger in his early days. Looking as if he glides on the field when the ball is at his feet, Giggs is a threat against any type of defense. Able to beat a defender with a quick shoulder drop or a fancy flick over, he has the tools to weaponise the ball and embarrass his opponent. As he aged, he moved more central, yet this didn’t deter him. He continued to contribute to the squad. Giggs follows a steady regiment of yoga and dieting, which kept him in the game at a high level for so long. Touted as the next great Manchester United manager, Giggs will one day return to the touchline, albeit wearing a suit instead of a kit.

Written by Jordan Bullock

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