Top 15 Manchester United Defenders in the History

Who is the greatest Manchester United defender ever?

One of the greatest strengths of Manchester United squad lies in their defense. From time to time, the Red Devils (Manchester United's nickname) defense line is always filled by great footballers. There are some world-class players such as Rio Ferdinand, Gary Neville, Nemanja Vidic, and Jaap Stam who played major roles in helping Manchester United establish a reputation as the most successful club in the Premier League.

The question is, who is Manchester United's best defender of all time? I try to answer the question through this article. Here, I present a ranking of fifteen Manchester United's greatest backs that was created by considering each players' individual skills and their team accomplishments at Red Devils.

15. Phil Neville

Phil Neville is a player who was raised by Manchester United Youth Academy along with his brother, Gary Neville. During his career at the Red Devils in the 1995-2005 period, he played as a left back. Neville was more widely used as a reserve player for Denis Irwin until the early 2000s. He left Manchester United in 2005 to join Everton for a fee of 3.5 million pounds.

14. Mikael Silvestre

Just like Phil Neville, Silvestre also spent more time on the bench during his period at Manchester United in from 1999 to 2008. He was known as a versatile defender who could play on the right, left, or center. Not only solid in defense, Silvestre also actively went forward and helped the team's offense. As a Manchester United's player, he won numerous trophies, among them are five Premier League titles and a Champions League trophy.

13. Ronny Johnsen

Ronny Johnsen is a former Norwegian defender who could also play as a defensive midfielder. He joined Manchester United in 1996 after being signed from Besiktas for a fee of 1.2 million pounds. At that time, Johnsen became the most expensive Norway defender of all time. Although he was often hit by injuries, Johnsen always showed his best performances at the club. Together with Jaap Stam, he became the center of Manchester United defense in the 1998-99 season, the season when the club won the treble winners.

12. Wes Brown

Wes Brown is a British defender who made his debut for Manchester United in 1996. His original position is a central defender, but he could also play as a right back. During his career at Manchester United in the 1996-2011 period, Brown was more often utilized as a substitute for Gary Neville, Jaap Stam, and Nemanja Vidic. He captained Manchester United in some domestic competition matches before moving to Sunderland in 2011.

11. Tony Dunne

Tony Dunne is a retired left-back from Ireland who played for Manchester United in the 1960-1973 period. During his time at Manchester United, Dunne was selected as the best Irish football player in 1969. He experienced bittersweet moments at Manchester United, where he was there at the rises and downfalls of the club. Dunne played major role in helping the Red Devils dominate English football competitions in the 1960s, winning two English League title and a Champions League trophy.

10. John O'Shea

In terms of versatility (the ability to play in different positions), John O'Shea is probably the best in the history of Manchester United. Having original position as a right-back, O'Shea can also be positioned as a left back, center back, defensive midfielder, or even a winger. He joined Manchester United in the 1999-2011 period, winning five Premier League titles, one Club World Cup trophy and a Champions League trophy.

9. Patrice Evra

Not only at Manchester United, is Evra even considered one of France's best defenders of all time. He is very strong in defense and possesses tendency to actively go forward and help the offense of the team. Evra also has remarkable leadership and currently is trusted to be the captain of Manchester United and France national team. He was signed Manchester United in 2006, and since the first season he immediately became the first choice for left-back position, replacing his two seniors, Gabriel Heinze and Mikael Silvestre.

8. Gary Pallister

Gary Pallister was the mainstay of the Manchester United defense line in the mid-1990s, before the arrival of Ronny Johnsen, Henning Berg and Jaap Stam. He partnered with Steve Bruce, forming a one of the strongest defense partnership in the history of English football. During his time at Manchester United, Pallister won four Premier League titles, three FA Cup trophies, a Winners' Cup, and a UEFA Super Cup.

7. Denis Irwin

The greatness of Denis Irwin as a left-back is no longer in doubt. During joining Manchester United in the 1990-2002 period, his position as the number one left-back was almost irreplaceable. He even continued to be a main squad player after his 30s, making the younger left-backs like Phil Neville and John O'Shea had to spend more time sitting on the bench. Irwin was not only formidable in defense, but also famous as a reliable penalty taker. For 12-year playing for the Red Devils he netted 33 goals, most of them were scored through penalty kicks.

6. Steve Bruce

With a total of 51 goals he scored during nine years at Manchester United, Bruce holds the record as the most scoring defender ever to play for the club. Not only reliable in taking penalty kicks, Bruce also possessed remarkable heading skill that helped him score a lot of goals through corner kick situations. During his time at Manchester United, Bruce won three Premier League titles, three FA Cups, a Winners' Cup, and a European Super Cup.

5. Jaap Stam

His gigantic stature and his capability as a defender made Jaap Stam was greatly respected by the opponents' forwards. He started his debut for Manchester United in 1998 after being signed from PSV Eindhoven for a fee of 10.6 million pounds. In his debut season, Stam achieved immediate success by helping Manchester United secure treble winners. He was also two years in a row chosen as the UEFA Club Best Defender of the Year during his period at Red Devils.

4. Bill Foulkes

Bill Foulkes was part of "the Busby Babes," one of the best Manchester United generations in the 1950s. Playing as a central defender, Foulkes spent his entire career as a professional footballer in the period 1951-1970 playing for Manchester United. He appeared in 688 games for the Red Devils, winning four English League titles, one League Cup and an FA Cup. Foulkes was one of eight Manchester United players who survived and continued his career as footballer after a plane crash tragedy in 1958.

3. Nemanja Vidic

Strong, tough, and possessing good leadership skills. Vidic joined Manchester United in 2006 from a Russian club Spartak Moscow. His transfer value is not too spectacular, "only" 7 million pounds. However, the purchase Vidic from Spartak Moscow became one of the best signings in the history of Manchester United. He led Manchester United win five Premier League titles, three League Cups, one Champions League trophy, and one FIFA Club World Cup. Vidic was also elected twice as the Premier League Player of the Season.

2. Rio Ferdinand

In my opinion, Rio Ferdinand has achieved a status as a legendary player of Manchester United. He joined the Red Devils in 2002 for a fee of 30 million pounds from Leeds United. Ferdinand is known as a perfect center-back. He possesses remarkable tackling, marking, heading, and interception. During his time at Manchester United, Ferdinand claimed six Premier League titles, two League Cups, a Champions League trophy, and a FIFA Club World Cup trophy.

1. Gary Neville

Calm, tactical, and intelligent. Considering his individual defensive skills and loyalty, it seems very appropriate to name Gary Neville as the greatest Manchester United defender of all time. He spent his entire professional career in the 1992-2011 period to play for Manchester United. Neville was famous as a tough and very consistent right-back. He gained his chance to be the first-choice right-back of the club in 1995, and for 16 years his position was almost irreplaceable. Throughout his career at Manchester United, Neville won a lot of trophies, including eight Premier League titles, two Champions League trophies, three FA Cups, and a FIFA Club World Cup.

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