After Manchester United was taken over by Sir Alex Ferguson, keeping aside the success and history that was forged at the Theatre of Dreams, a new culture was revived. A culture which was conceived in 1958 by Jimmy Murphy after the tragic demise of the Busby Babes in a plane crash embarked upon a steady decline once when the all-important Holy Trinity of George Best, Denis Law and Sir Bobby Charlton went their separate ways.
United was in the midst of jeopardy so titanic that it needed someone as great as God to revive the winning culture at the Theatre of Dreams. As the news of Atkinson being shown the door came booming with an extremely sloppy display from Manchester United, the management turned at the bloke leading Aberdeen to countless glories, better known amongst the players as ‘Furious Fergie’.
Known popularly as Sir Alex Ferguson, the man struggled initially and seemed to be slowly getting consumed by the fire of baptism, only to see a late resurgence to which he latched onto in a harder way than life and what followed thereafter was stuff from folklore.
If we tend to sideline all the glory and history that was chronicled at Old Trafford under his reign, the culture of harnessing youths and turning them into future icons of the sport became a de rigeur in the fabric of Manchester United. They were not interested in roping in the scintillating names of football but had a strong scouting system which was spearheaded by Fergie himself, and he brought a wave of players to Trafford that saw Manchester establishing itself as one of the crème de la crème of Europe over a persistent period of dominance.
In this story, we will be looking at five players whose career graph took an unchecked ascent after donning on the jersey of the Red Devils.
#1 Eric Cantona
Going by the numbers, Eric Cantona may most likely be lingering around the fringes of a decent footballer, with 64 strikes from 143 appearances for the Red Devils. However, it is not all about scoring goals and stringing assists in football. In order to become an icon, you need a lot more than just the numbers. You need charisma, you need character, you need a significant impact and most importantly the capabilities of a deft leader. You blend these qualities together, and the man who was forged at the end of it was Eric Cantona.
From being the king of Old Trafford to leading a contagious habit of winning trophies, Cantona simply didn’t know how to stop. The dark side that witnessed the King throwing a furious kung-fu kick at one of the Crystal Palace supporters who abused his family had its counter as one of the most flamboyant personalities in football, that bore witness to Cantona lifting three Premier Leagues before bidding adieu to United.
#2 Wayne Rooney
Wazza met an unlikely fate at Old Trafford that saw his career entering a vortex of entropy and the sharp flair with which he arrived at Manchester United meeting an unfortunate end. However, when he came to Old Trafford, social media wasn’t still at its peak and it needed a lot more than looking around on Facebook or Youtube to realize how good Rooney was. Transferred from Everton at a price of
33.3 million, Rooney started exuding magic with his right foot. The goal against Arsenal that saw him leaving the audience in awe was just an initial highlight of the raw talent that he possessed. Though he was popularly known for that bicycle kick that sank Manchester City, he was much more than an acrobatic phenomenon. His marauding instincts in front of the goal and his passing ability was picture-perfect, to say the least. Rooney now holds the record of the highest number of goals for England, and he is just behind Alan Shearer in the Premier League scoring charts. Maybe if United could have done a wee bit better about dissuading him of his arrogance of being at his prime always, maybe he could have had a couple of more fruitful seasons in the Premier League.
#3 Cristiano Ronaldo
Definitely, if you would ask fans of modern-day football to connect Ronaldo with a club, the most popular answer will be Real Madrid. However, before Los Blancos happened for CR7, he was witty left-winger in the ranks of Manchester United for three seasons that left the other English clubs chasing shadows whenever they attempted to stall the Portuguese sensation.
He was a fearsome attacker with blistering speeds, peachy accuracy and some classic scoring ability both with his head and feet. His exploits at Manchester United weren’t as phenomenal as his Madrid numbers look, but the price at which he joined United was a paltry £17.1 million, while now the figure ranges close to £200 billions.
#4 Roy Keane
A fearless spirit roving in the heart of Manchester United’s attacking force, Roy Keane would have tore down at anyone trying to confront him on the field. Booked or not, he never showed hesitation in paybacks, even on the football field. They say that vengeance is served best when served cold.
Guess what, Keane waited for three long years to avenge Alf-Inge Haaland, father of Erling Braut Haaland. Keane was an adept playmaker, but later changed himself to one of the most prolific distributors after the arrival of Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes. It was him who penned the beginning of a remarkable comeback against Juventus that saw United managing the final berth after an invigorating encounter.
#5 Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic
This is an interesting pick because one cannot be pronounced without the other, given the dynamic sway that the duo held in the heart of the Manchester United defence. Rio came in as a replacement for Jaap Stam at a staggering price of £41.4 millions. Ferdinand served United for a whopping twelve years, winning six Premier Leagues, two League Cups and a Champions League on a historic night at Moscow.
Now heading over to Nemanja Vidic, he was a ruthless bloke marshalling the defensive forces alongside Ferdinand. His aggression is what paved the way for the iconic partnership between him and the aforementioned legend. He was signed for £9.5 millions and was always on his toes, absolutely hesitant to resist himself from clattering into the bodies of the attackers if needed. He was a part of the PFA Team of the Year a whopping four times and won the PFA Player of the Season a record two times, in the process becoming the sole defender to notch up this record. He also won five Premier League titles before finally bowing out with his head held high.