Manchester United’s Top Fifty – and the Missing

Here, from that huge new Manchester United book that only the Glazers can afford, is a top 50 Manchester United players of all time:

Manchester United Opus: Top 50 Players of All Time:

  1. Sir Bobby Charlton,
  2. George Best,
  3. Roy Keane,
  4. Duncan Edwards,
  5. Denis Law,
  6. Bryan Robson,
  7. Eric Cantona,
  8. Peter Schmeichel,
  9. Ryan Giggs,
  10. Paul Scholes,
  11. Wayne Rooney,
  12. Bill Foulkes,
  13. Roger Byrne,
  14. David Beckham,
  15. Ruud Van Nistelrooy,
  16. Nobby Stiles,
  17. Dennis Viollet,
  18. Gary Neville,
  19. Mark Hughes,
  20. Denis Irwin,
  21. Pat Crerand,
  22. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer,
  23. Tommy Taylor,
  24. Steve Bruce,
  25. Liam Whelan,
  26. Martin Buchan,
  27. Brian Kidd,
  28. Steve Coppell,
  29. Norman Whiteside,
  30. Alex Stepney,
  31. Eddie Coleman,
  32. Brian McClair,
  33. Gary Pallister,
  34. Tony Dunne,
  35. Lou Macari,
  36. Paul McGrath,
  37. Paul Ince,
  38. Arthur Albiston,
  39. Cristiano Ronaldo,
  40. Jimmy Delaney,
  41. Andy Cole,
  42. Dwight Yorke,
  43. Sammy McIlroy,
  44. Shay Brennan,
  45. Jaap Stam,
  46. Kevin Moran,
  47. Harry Gregg,
  48. Rio Ferdinand,
  49. Johnny Berry,
  50. Teddy Sheringham.

No more or less daft than these lists ever are, and most of the right names are probably there. But – only two from the pre-Busby Babes days? United won three titles and two FA Cups before 1954, so here are a selection of the missing men.

Charlie Roberts: centre-half and rock of the Manchester United title winning sides of 1908 and 1911 and the 1909 FA Cup winning team. He played 271 league games for the club, and won 3 caps for England, a number reduced by his outspokenness as chairman of the Players’ Union at a time of change and conflict.

Sandy Turnbull: one of three supreme players to switch from Manchester City to Manchester United after the 1905 corruption scandal. In the 1908 Championship season, he scored 25 goals in 27 games. Killed in action at Arras in 1917.

Billy Meredith: the Welsh Wizard. The Stanley Matthews of his day, playing top-rank football for 30 years, retiring after defeat in the 1924 FA Cup semi-final playing for Manchester City. That was 19 years after he, too, had left City for United after the 1905 scandal. Meredith was the superstar of his day, a brilliant right-winger, of whom only a brief snatch of film remains (but enough to tell you all you need to know).

Harold Halse: Manchester United’s centre-forward in the same great Edwardian team, scoring 56 goals in 125 games for the club between 1908 and 1912. He cost United the then maximum fee permitted under the rules of the day, £350, rewarding them with six goals against Swindon Town shortly afterwards.

Memory Holes

Charlie Mitten: “The Bogota Bandit”. His career badly disrupted by World War II, Mitten was a dashing winger in Matt Busby’s first Manchester United side, winning an FA Cup but mssing out on the 1951-2 title, scoring 61 goals for the club before being tempted abroad to Colombia by the promise of better wages. After the failure of that pioneering venture, he turned down Real Madrid in order to keep his family together, but played no further part in United history.

Stan Pearson: Matt Busby’s first centre-forward and a veteran of the pre-War club, Pearson scored 148 goals in 343 appearances (compare Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s 150 in 213: Pearson is United’s 9th best goalscorer) and won an FA Cup in 1948 (scoring a hat trick in the Final against Derby) and the League title in 1951-2.

Johnny Carey: another pre-War United debutante, Carey was captain of the 1948 FA Cup Final winning team and the 1951-2 Football League champions. He played 344 games for Manchester United, and later managed Nottingham Forest into second place in the First Division, the club’s highest pre-Clough finish.

Memory holes

And no Gordon Hill, Stuart Pearson the Second, no brothers Greenhoff.. that’s four members of the exciting young Docherty side that won the 1977 FA Cup. It was once the case that Manchester United fans looked back on the Docherty years as the great missed opportunity: no longer quite so much, clearly!

1 Reply to “Manchester United’s Top Fifty – and the Missing”

  1. The order is a joke. The list of absentees is embarrassing. Why can’t several knowledgeable heads sit together and compile a decent order free of exaggerated feelings and new kids on the net? Then we could see something like this: 1-Best 2-Edwards 3-Charlton 4-Law 5-Meredith 6-Cantona 7-Robson etc… And I’m sure the likes of Spence and Stafford are worth a mention somewhere, eh?

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