By Ryan McCann.
If you missed part one you can read here.
5- Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo’s £12million arrival at Manchester United in 2003 raised a few eyebrows. On his debut against Bolton, he crooked a few necks as fans found it almost impossible to keep up with his majestic feet and trickery. On his departure, he probably caused a few people to shed a tear. Such was his aura. Tantrums and playacting aside, Cristiano Ronaldo is one of, if not the greatest talent that Old Trafford has ever seen. He was the poster boy of a generation, idolised by men and women alike.
The tall, graceful and strikingly handsome Portuguese superstar was creative, strong, both footed and had fantastic aerial ability. Those are his normal attributes. During his tenure at Old Trafford, Ronaldo possessed the most dazzling feet on earth. He had the elegance of a ballerina, and the sharp shooting skills of an assassin. In 2008, Ronaldo received the ultimate honour by being voted the world’s best footballer and was awarded the Ballon D’Or, being the first Man United player to win the prestigious award in 40 years.
Ronaldo began his career at Man United as a dazzling, and often frustrating winger. His first few seasons promised so much, yet delivered so little. That quickly changed however. When his consistency began to improve, Sir Alex Ferguson realised the former Sporting Lisbon man would be an ideal front man. His goalscoring record was magnificent, scoring 84 goals in 196 league games. In 2008 alone, Ronaldo bagged 42 goals in 49 games. He will be eternally adored for scoring the goal in the 2007 Champions League Final, en route to winning the competition for the third time in the club’s history.
Unfortunately, Ronaldo always had a dream that irritated and worried Manchester United fans. That was to wear the all white strip of Real Madrid, the club he supported since he was a child. And when Real Madrid stated they were interested in Ronaldo, the Portuguese winger decided it was time to move on to pastures new, with fresh challenges.
He continues to blitz defences in Spain, and the footballing world is his oyster. No matter what he achieves and the records he smashes at Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo will always remember the roar of the Old Trafford faithful when he graced the pitch. Manchester United made Ronaldo the phenomenon he is today, and I hope and pray we have not seen the last of him in the red shirt, with the legendary number 7 deservedly exhibited on his back.
4- Wayne Rooney
Wayne Rooney burst onto the football scene in 2002 as a fearless 16 year old, scoring a truly outstanding goal on his Everton debut, against Arsenal. He spent two seasons at his childhood club, before Sir Alex Ferguson signed him for £25.6million; the highest fee ever paid for a player under 20 years of age.
Rooney did not take long to win the hearts of the Man United faithful. The athletic, fast and energetic Rooney quickly began to show signs that he was truly world class, scoring a hat trick on his debut against Fenerbache in the Champions League. A hero was born.
Throughout his career, Rooney has shown moments of brilliance that no other player on earth is capable of displaying. His volley against Newcastle and his overhead kick in this years City derby will go down as two of the greatest goals that Old Trafford has ever seen.
Rooney enjoyed his finest season to date in the 2009/2010 campaign. With Rooney firing on all cylinders, United looked unstoppable. In the second leg Champions League tie with Bayern Munich, Rooney suffered an injury and is only beginning to recapture his form now, one year on. Never shy to controversy, Rooney was involved in numerous scandals throughout 2010 and subsequently handed in a transfer request in pursuit of a fresh challenge. Sir Alex Ferguson however, persuaded Rooney to stay and sign a new deal.
Transfer request saga aside, Wayne Rooney’s tenacious and infectious appetite for football has made him a pleasure to watch over the years. Rooney is a truly gifted individual who, in my opinion, will rise to unprecedented heights at Man United and under the guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson. In ten years time, if I was to rewrite this piece, it is my belief that Rooney would be perched at the very top, numero uno.
3- Dennis Law
Dennis Law joined Manchester United in 1962, from Italian side Torino, for £115,000, a British transfer record. Law revelled in the role that he was given at Old Trafford by Sir Matt Busby, and repaid the United fans and staff with an outstanding goal return.
Dennis Law is currently standing outside Old Trafford, alongside George Best and Bobby Charlton. It may only be a statue, but the statue itself resembles who he is, and what he achieved. In 1964, Dennis Law became the first player north of the border to be voted European Footballer of the Year.
In 1968, Manchester United had the most fearsome front line in world football, and as a result, won the European Cup for the first time in the clubs history. George Best and Bobby Charlton were often the providers, with Law being the lethal henchman at the spearhead of the attack. Law missed the semi final and final of the European Cup with a knee injury, but still remains a huge part of Manchester United’s Holy Trinity.
Although Law eventually moved to Manchester City, and relegated Man United with his last ever goal, he will forever be remembered as “The King”, who lit up Old Trafford, and various venues around Europe with his playing style, and goal scoring prowess.
2- Eric Cantona
Eric Cantona joined Manchester United from local rivals Leeds United in 1992, for £1.2million. This particular piece of business is, arguably, the greatest bargain in the history of football.
The fiery Frenchman was the most charismatic footballer of his generation. His flicked up collar and overall mastery with a ball at his feet transformed Manchester United, and was a defining figure in United’s surge to the upper echelons of football’s hierarchy. With creativity in abundance, Cantona weaved his magic and tore apart the best defences in the country, with unrivalled magnetism and allure.
His first season at Manchester United resulted in the Red Devils winning their first league since 1967. Cantona was particularly spectacular in that season. And that was just the beginning of his legacy. Cantona won four leagues, including two league and cup doubles during his time at United. The only season he failed to win a medal was the 1994/1995 season, during much of which he was serving a suspension for the now-infamous Kung-Fu kick on a Crystal Palace fan.
In 2001, Man United fans voted Cantona as the best player of the century. That accolade itself is testament to Cantona’s ability, and proves just how dramatic and colossal his influence was at Manchester United. If you travel to Old Trafford today, you will still hear Cantona’s name being chanted and glorified by an army of admirers in the Stretford End. King Eric, it seems, still reigns supreme.
When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea. That is all you need to say about Eric Cantona. Ridiculously eccentric, and equally as talented.
1- George Best
During his career, George Best played for an astonishing 18 clubs. However, he will always be remembered for playing for one in particular, Manchester United.
George Best, ‘The Belfast Boy’ as he was affectionately known, was one of the most skilful and dazzling players the world will ever see. At a time when football was physical and uncompromising, George Best displayed a rare ability to glide past his opponents, ride the tackles and lunges, wave his magic right foot like a sorcerer’s wand, and display moments of magic that Old Trafford will never forget. The Brazilian phenomenon Pelé, widely regarded as the best player of all time, once admitted that George Best was the greatest footballer he had ever seen. But unfortunately, there is a flaw to every genius.
George Best’s rise to fame came at a cost. The Fifth Beatle was often spotted with an array of beautiful women by his side, drinking champagne and celebrating like he was going to live forever. For much of his adult life, George had an alcohol addiction. His media profile meant that he was always front page news, and his downfall and demise was clear for all to see.
On the 25th November 2005, George Best died in London’s Cromwell Hospital. George famously asked to be photographed at his deathbed, with a message for anyone who was willing to listen; “Don’t die like me!” A lifetime of misuse to his vital organs had finally caught up with the legendary Irishman. I can remember the day George died. I can recall the devastation and sorrow that swept my native Ireland when the news of George’s death broke. George’s death was expected, but Manchester United, and football, had just lost one of their most talented and unique sons.
George should not be remembered for his social life and personal flaws. He should and always will be remembered as 1968 European Footballer of the Year, and one of the most dazzling performers the world has ever seen. Maradonna good, Pelé better, George Best. Straightforward and irrefutable.
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