At the time of writing Wayne Rooney has recently joined Sir Bobby Charlton as United’s leading goalscorer. Can Rooney move clear of the comb-overed legend against Stoke on Saturday and if he does, does that make him United’s greatest ever striker?
Those of a betting persuasion can get odds of 13/8 on Rooney in the anytime goalscorer betting against Mark Hughes’ men. He’s sure to become United’s record scorer sooner rather than later but the debate over who is the greatest striker isn’t as clearly settled.
Here are our thoughts on the best five centre forwards to have ever played for United. Of course, the definition of “striker” or “centre forward” itself is very much open to debate. We simply can’t discount Charlton but equally he wasn’t, in any real sense, a striker.
As such we’re being flexible with regards what constitutes a forward. It’s our top five, so we can do what we like I’m afraid, although perhaps “Best 5 Man United Attackers” ever would have been a more apt title.
1 – Cristiano Ronaldo
The Portuguese star isn’t everyone’s cup of port but there is no doubting his brilliance. Ronaldo is one of four United players to have been awarded the Ballon d’Or whilst at the club.
He played more than 250 times in the red shirt and managed 84 goals and 45 assists in 196 Premier League matches. Other players have won more trophies at United, played more games, scored more goals and decided more matches but few, if any, can lay any serious claim to being the best player of all time. Ronnie can.
2 – Bobby Charlton
Charlton was essentially a midfielder but how can we ignore the volume of goals he scored? We can’t. And when you throw in his role in bringing United out of the post-Munich darkness and ongoing ambassadorial links to the club, he’s our number two.
249 goals, more than 750 appearances and 17 years at the club, plus the aforementioned influence are enough to convince us. But don’t forget he also won the World Cup in 1966, the same year he lifted the Ballon d’Or.
3 – George Best
The red shirt is about more than just cold hard stats, facts and silverware. Before football was a business, it used to be a sport and before that it was a game, played for fun. In that regard, there is no doubt that Best was the best.
For the sheer joy he brought to Old Trafford, for the magic, the mystery and the mesmerising skills, Best makes our top three. We must also ask the question, how good would he have been on modern pitches, with modern refereeing? He scored 179 times for the Red Devils but would undoubtedly had a lot more had his ankles not been assaulted in every game!
4 – Eric Cantona
Cantona was nowhere near as prolific as striker such as Dennis Viollet, Denis Law or Ruud van Nistelrooy but the memories, the memories are what elevates Eric. He saw and did things that no other United player has.
Some may claim he failed to perform on the biggest stages but when we consider how he almost single-handedly delivered the league title in 1993-94 and his aura and charisma, he’s our number four. The season before he had been instrumental in ending the long, long wait for the championship and his impact on the club was immense.
5 – Wayne Rooney
Of course there is a place for Rooney! By the time you read this he may well be the leading scorer in the history of Manchester United. He may not have fully delivered on his early promise but his record of almost a goal every other game, alongside five league titles and a European Cup, edge him ahead of several other legends.
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