When you’re talking about the most prestigious clubs in English football, Manchester United has to be the first one that comes to mind. No club has won as many league titles in England, FA Cups, or Community Shields as Man U, and they have also won several honours throughout all of Europe. Along the way, Man U has also had some of the best players in the world.
The list of players to make at least one appearance for Manchester United is incredibly long, but we were able to narrow it down to the five men who were truly the best in club history. Before we start the list, some of the Red Devils who just missed the cut include David Beckham, Roy Keane, Peter Schmeichel, Gary Neville, Bryan Robson, and Eric Cantona.
Those who are on the younger side may think that Wayne Rooney started his career with Manchester United, but he actually came through the Everton youth program. He then made his professional debut with the club in 2002, making 67 appearances between then and 2004. Sir Alex Ferguson saw the 18-year-old’s potential and convinced Man U to sign him to a massive contract.
The deal ended up paying massive dividends for Man U as Rooney became a club legend. In total, Rooney had 559 appearances, the sixth-most in club history. Rooney also netted 253 goals, which is the most ever for a Manchester United player. With Rooney, Man U won the English Premier League five times and he won a long list of individual titles before heading back to Everton in 2017, and ultimately the United States.
From 1974 until 1983, Belfast native George Best played for 10 different professional teams, but never made more than 60 appearances. However, in the 11 years leading up to that, he was one of the best players in Manchester United’s history. Best made his senior club debut in 1963 and during the height of his career won the Ballon d’Or as the world’s top football player.
Best netted 179 goals with Manchester United, putting him in a tie for fifth all-time in club history. He was able to accomplish that in just 470 matches, giving him a better goals-per-game average than many of the others who are in the top 10. Best helped Man U win the First Division twice, as well as the 1968 European Cup, leading to his English Football Hall of Fame induction in 2002.
For the entirety of George Best’s career with Manchester United, he was teammates with Bobby Charlton. Charlton had started his career many years before, coming up through the Man U youth program in the mid-1950s and making his senior club debut in 1956. Charlton spent 17 years with Manchester United, and his 758 appearances are second all-time.
Charlton is also second in goals, just four behind Wayne Rooney with 249. Charlton’s Man U clubs won the First Division three times, as well as an FA Cup and two Charity Shields. As for his individual accomplishments, Charlton won the Ballon d’Or in 1966, finishing as the runner-up the following two years, including second to George Best. In 1966, Charlton led England to a World Cup victory.
Everyone on the list to this point had spent several years playing for clubs outside of Manchester United, but that’s not the case for our top two. The first is midfielder Paul Scholes, who came up through the youth program and played with Manchester United from 1993 to 2013. During his 20 years, Scholes made 718 appearances, putting him third all-time.
Scholes, despite his position, is in the top 10 of all-time goal scorers for Man U with 155. Thanks to Scholes, Manchester United was able to win the Premier League title 11 times, as well as two UEFA Champions League titles and a FIFA Club World Cup. In 2022, Scholes was inducted into the Premier League Hall of Fame, 14 years after being inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame.
The top player on the list started his youth career with Manchester City, but joined the crosstown rivals in 1987, then made his senior debut in 1990. Ryan Giggs remained part of the roster until 2014. Giggs holds the record for most appearances in Manchester United history with 963, putting him more than 200 ahead of anybody else.
Giggs scored 168 goals during that time, and his Manchester United squads won the Premier League a whopping 13 times. Giggs also won the FA Cup four times, a pair of UEFA Champions League titles and he was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame with nearly a decade still left in his career.