Ultimate Manchester United dream team: Ronaldo, Best and Keane but no Scholes or Giggs

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This all-time XI might well divide opinion among United fans - but we think it would be unstoppable

From George Best to Cristiano Ronaldo – some of the greatest footballers of all time have donned the red of Manchester United, so how do you pick the best of the best? Absolute legends of the game will find themselves failing to make the cut in any dream team – and one fan’s best XI could vastly differ from another’s.

In truth, picking United’s finest – from the Busby Babes, to the European Cup winners of 1968, the treble winners and Sir Alex Ferguson’s last Champions League triumph – will always be fraught with difficulty.

Choosing two centre-backs from Fergie’s era is tough enough – never mind factoring in the legendary sides produced by Sir Matt Busby.

And what about a forward line that needs to squeeze in Denis Law, Best, Eric Cantona, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Wayne Rooney and Ronaldo? Spoiler alert – only three from that six makes this cut.

There’s no place for Paul Scholes in midfield, either. But perhaps the most difficult decision was leaving out Ryan Giggs – quite possibly United’s greatest servant as their all-time record appearance-maker and winner of 13 Premier League titles.

His body of work over an incredible career places him above anyone else who wore the shirt. But it doesn’t mean he gets a place in this dream team...

  1. GK: Peter Schmeichel
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    GK: Peter Schmeichel

    Arguably the finest goalkeeper of all time, Schmeichel was a pioneer, with his spread-eagled style when one-on-one with opponents, and his ridiculously long throws sparking counterattacks.

    The Denmark international, who spent eight years at Old Trafford after joining from Brondby in 1991, was also a commanding figure in the air.

    At his best, he was practically unbeatable and he bowed out in fine style, captaining United to victory in the Champions League final, in the absence of the suspended Roy Keane.

  2. RB: Gary Neville
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    RB: Gary Neville

    An underrated member of the Class of ’92, Neville was ahead of his time with his attacking instincts and link-up with David Beckham on the right flank.

    Fast, brave and aggressive, this one-club man was every bit the complete full-back.

  3. CB: Rio Ferdinand
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    CB: Rio Ferdinand

    Ferguson had some of the greatest centre-backs of the modern age in his title-winning teams.

    Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister formed a formidable partnership, Jaap Stam was a man-mountain, while Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic were the perfect blend of silk and steel.

    Perhaps Stam was United’s most complete centre-back under Fergie – but Ferdinand’s timing, poise and distribution just earns him the nod in a fierce field of competition.

  4. CB: Duncan Edwards
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    CB: Duncan Edwards

    He could probably have been placed anywhere in this dream team – but one thing is for sure, no greatest XI would be complete without him.

    Those who played with or against Edwards agree that he could have become the finest footballer of all time had he not tragically died after the Munich air crash.

    A complete player, who was a powerhouse as well as a skilled technician.

  5. LB: Denis Irwin
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    LB: Denis Irwin

    Some might argue for Patrice Evra and there’s not a lot to separate the two great left-backs of Fergie’s reign.

    Irwin just edges it as a perfectly-balanced, two-footed player, whose set-piece delivery and goals added another dimension to United’s teams that won two doubles and one Treble.

    And having arrived at Old Trafford at a cost of £625,000 ($765,000) from Oldham, he is one of the best bargains in football history.

  6. CM: Sir Bobby Charlton
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    CM: Sir Bobby Charlton

    A legend for club and country, Charlton won it all.

    A survivor of Munich, he led England to victory in the 1966 World Cup and two years later delivered the European Cup for United.

    A Ballon d’Or winner, he was a goal machine from midfield, with a lethal shot from distance.

    Scored 249 goals in 758 appearances for United.

  7. CM: Roy Keane
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    CM: Roy Keane

    Still the ultimate box-to-box midfielder as far as United fans are concerned.

    It was always going to take some player to fill the void left by Bryan Robson – and Keane did just that as an absolute warrior on the pitch.

    His performance against Juventus in Turin will go down as his stand-out moment in a United shirt when guiding them to the Champions League final in 1999, despite knowing he would miss the match through suspension.

    That United have never managed to replace him, some 17 years since he departed, says everything about his influence.

  8. CM: Bryan Robson
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    CM: Bryan Robson

    Fully lived up to his nickname of captain marvel – Robson was United’s guiding light during a period in which they had to watch Liverpool dominate at home and abroad.

    Deserved to spend his best years competing for the biggest trophies – but, instead, he was the man carrying a faltering United on his shoulders.

    A complete midfielder who could tackle, pass and score crucial goals.

    Eventually got his rewards when winning two titles, albeit as a less pivotal member of the team, in the twilight of his career.

  9. RW: George Best
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    RW: George Best

    United’s wing wizard left defenders with twisted blood – capable of ripping through defences with his devastating dribbling.

    If not for his alcohol addiction and off-field excesses, he might have gone on to be considered the finest footballer of all time – though many who witnessed him still believe he was right up there with the very best.

    For all his flaws, remains one of the most iconic figures the game has ever known.

  10. CF: Denis Law
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    CF: Denis Law

    The Lawman was Old Trafford’s original ‘King’ before Cantona was graced with the same title.

    A spectacularly lethal striker, he was part of Busby’s rebuild after the tragedy of Munich, leading United back to the summit of English football and eventually Europe.

    Missed the final in ’68 due to injury – but his goals were vital to Busby’s last great team.

    Had a phenomenal strike rate of 237 goals in 404 appearances, which earned him the unique honour of having two statues erected in his honour at Old Trafford.

  11. LW: Cristiano Ronaldo
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    LW: Cristiano Ronaldo

    Would walk into dream teams for United and Real Madrid, which says everything about the man.

    Ronaldo’s best years may have been away from Old Trafford – but he was still the most pivotal part of Ferguson’s last great team.

    Won three titles and the Champions League before going to Real Madrid, where he smashed records galore and lifted club football’s biggest trophy on a further four occasions.

    Can stake a genuine claim to be the greatest player of all time.