To commemorate Ryan Giggs service to the game, we count down the best 11 of the 150 players that were team mates of the veteran during his 25 years career at Manchester United.
Goalkeeper – Peter Schmeichel
Looking back at his eight great years at Old Trafford, it is difficult to fathom how Peter Schmeichel was signed as a relative unknown for the bargain price of £505,000. The 6’3” Dane made 398 appearances for United in which he showcased his passionate aggression in the form of shouting at defenders, his unique agility with his reactionary saves, his long, accurate throw outs which often resulted in goal scoring opportunities and his propensity to stop the ball from finding the net by any means possible.
Schmeichel is the greatest goalkeeper of the Giggs era and arguably the greatest to have ever played in the top flight of English football. His shot stopping heroics played a massive part in the Red Devil’s historic treble winning season in 1998-1999. He even captained the club in an infamous victory over Bayern Munich in the Champions League final, a fitting way to end his tenure at the club.
Right back – Gary Neville
Over a staggering 19 season career at United, Gary Neville made 602 first team appearances which solidified his place as the number one right back at the club until Ferguson was content to pass the torch onto the next generation.
Neville wasn’t the most technically gifted footballer but he had a tactical brain, which can be seen now in his punditry. Neville was solid defensively, reliable and had unremitting passion for his club. His drive for success earned him the captain’s armband for the last five years of his career.
Centre back – Jaap Stam
Three league titles in three full seasons. Jaap Stam’s time at Manchester United will be remembered for one thing, the success he brought to the club. The Dutchman was a monster in United’s defence and his devastating performances earned him a place in the PFA Team of the Year three seasons in a row.
Outside of the league, Stam was pivotal in United winning the FA Cup, the Intercontinental cup and the 1999 Champions League. His time at United ended briefly when he was sold early in the 2001-2002 season, which Alex Ferguson has since admitted was a mistake. Despite his short time at the club, his dominance at centre back is enough to warrant being called one of the best Giggs has ever played with.
Centre back – Rio Ferdinand
A product of the West Ham Youth Academy, Ferdinand signed for United in 2002 for a record transfer fee of £30 million. He was a rock in the heart of the Red Devil’s defence throughout the noughties and utilised his strength and aerial ability to become one of the most dominant defenders in English football.
He amassed 455 appearances for Utd scoring eight goals in the process. His greatest season came in 2007-2008 when he was part of the double winning team that claimed both the league and the Champions League.
Left back – Dennis Irwin
Irish international Dennis Irwin spent 12 fantastic years at United. Like Neville, he is from a bygone era where fullbacks were selected for their defensive prowess and not their attacking threat. Irwin set himself apart from the archetypal fullback of his generation by having a penchant for scoring goals. Irwin found the net 33 times for United and developed a reputation as a set piece specialist.
Not only could Irwin score goals, he was also a workhorse in defence which helped his side dominate the Premier League in the second half of the 90s.
Right Winger – Cristiano Ronaldo
When this Portuguese teenager arrived at Old Trafford he had the momentous task of filling the spacious boots of the football icon David Beckham. During his six seasons at the club he developed from a promising kid into one of the greatest players in the world.
Pace, strength, flair and the ability to regularly find the net, Ronaldo is among the most gifted players of the modern game. In his penultimate season at the club, Ronaldo inspired his side to winning the Premier League and Champions League trophies while he claimed the PFA Player of the Year.
Centre Midfield – Roy Keane
Roy Keane arrived at Manchester United for a record breaking transfer fee of £3.75 million and he went on to continuously taste success with the club over 13 seasons. A controversial character, both on and off the pitch, he was fearless in his tackling and his talking in equal measure, but his talent was doubtless.
Keane was a natural born leader. His highly competitive attitude allowed him to shine as club captain, during a time where United had continued success both domestically and in Europe. The intensity he brought to the pitch was unparalleled.
Centre Midfield – Paul Scholes
Paul Scholes was another stalwart at Old Trafford, having spent the entirety of his 20 seasons as a professional at Manchester United. In 718 appearances, Scholes scored 155 appearances and has 25 trophies on his record.
The ginger centre midfielder was often compared to a good wine, as he continued to start and rocket in goals well into his 30s. He was arguably the most technically gifted player in United’s midfield during their league dominance in the late 90s.
Left Midfield – Ryan Giggs
In a career spanning over a quarter of a century, Giggs has won 13 league titles, two Champion’s Leagues, four FA Cups, four League Cups, nine FA Community Shields, The UEFA Super Cup, the Intercontinental Cup and the World Club Championship. Giggs received more accolades in his career than most clubs have in their history.
To go from winning the PFA Young Player of the Year in 1992 and 1993 to winning the PFA Player of the Year 15 years later is a remarkable feat and a true testament to the service the Welshman has done for the sport. Giggs’ ability to adapt to the modern game was part of the reason for the longevity of his career. It is ridiculous to think that he held down a place as a starting winger at a club of Man Utd’s stature in his late 30s.
Striker – Ruud van Nistelrooy
The Dutch sharpshooter might have had his critics for his tendency to be a poacher, but with 150 goals in 219 matches, you can’t argue that his style didn’t allow him to maximise his strike rate.
Van Nistelrooy’s proficiency in front of goal was pivotal in the Red Devils Premier League, FA Cup titles in the noughties. The Dutchman’s goal scoring talent earned him a Premier League Golden Boot and the Barclays Player of the Year in 2002-2003 season. Simply put, he was a master of the art of scoring goals.
Striker – Eric Cantona
Undoubtedly one of the greatest players to ever play in English football, Cantona was a footballing genius. In his five seasons at the club he made 185 appearances, scored 82 goals and was instrumental in their four League titles and two FA Cup trophies.
Controversial and charismatic, Cantona became a superstar footballer at Utd. Cantona was a technician but also utilised his size and strength to seal his place as one of the forwards that defined an era.