Iconic shirts: who is Manchester Uniteds greatest ever No.10?

Kenneth Tan

Stan Pearson

Manchester United player: 1936-1954

Possessing a deadly and accurate shot, the late Pearson made his name as an 'inside-forward' and became a key member of the first great United squad under Sir Matt Busby that tasted FA Cup success in 1948 and lifted the league title four years later. 

He recorded 148 goals in the Red Devils’ shirt and was Mr Reliable, missing just 13 first-team matches in seven seasons between 1946 and 1953.

Pearson passed away in 1997 at the age of 78. 


Dennis Viollet

1953-1962

Blessed with pace and great positional sense, Viollet scored a remarkable 179 goals in 293 United appearances – making him the club’s joint-fourth highest goalscorer alongside George Best.

One of the survivors from the 1958 Munich air crash, he proved to be pivotal in the club's rebuilding, scoring a record 32 goals in 36 games in the 1959/60 season before leaving in 1962.

He died in 1999 at the age of 65 due to cancer and is still revered by the club’s faithful.


Denis Law

1962-1973

A born finisher, Law had 11 fruitful seasons with United, scoring 237 goals in 404 games (which ranks him as the club's third highest all-time scorer) before leaving for bitter rivals Manchester City.

He famously scored a goal for City against United – and didn’t celebrate – in the final match of the 1973/74 season as the Red Devils were relegated to the second division, although other results meant his former club would have been demoted with or without his strike.

He is still regarded as one of United’s best ever players.


Lou Macari

1973-1984

Becoming an instant hero for United fans by turning down bitter rivals Liverpool to join the Red Devils from Celtic in 1973, Macari was not the most prolific of scorers but became a popular figure with his all-action and exuberant playing style. 

He was part of the squad that got relegated in 1974, but helped the club achieve promotion the following year and played in a number of European campaigns before leaving for Swindon Town.

He also further enhanced his status by scoring the winning goal against Liverpool in the 1977 FA Cup final (see below).

Now, he is not only a resident pundit and commentator for MUTV, he also owns a famous fish and chip shop near Old Trafford. 

Mark Hughes

1980-1986, 1988-1995

There is a saying among fans that the only way is down after players leave United.

But ‘Sparky’ was an exception to that rule, departing firstly for Barcelona and a loan spell with Bayern Munich before returning for an even more successful second spell at Old Trafford. 

He rescued the Red Devils in the 1990 FA Cup final with two goals against Crystal Palace to force a replay that gave Sir Alex Ferguson his first trophy, before embedding himself into United folklore by scoring against Palace to help the club clinch the club's first Premiership crown in 1993. 


Norman Whiteside

1982-1989

World-beater at 17, retired by 26 – that is how Whiteside is remembered. On April 24, 1982, just under two weeks before his 17th birthday, Whiteside became the youngest player to debut for Manchester United since fellow 16-year-old Duncan Edwards three decades earlier.

A winger who possessed charisma and gifted technical ability, he became the youngest ever scorer in an FA Cup final the following year. He also scored a worldie to win the 1985 FA Cup final against Everton (see clip below).

His career was dogged by injuries, however, leading to him leaving for Everton in 1989. He retired two years later at an age when most players are still to reach their peak. 

Teddy Sheringham

1997-2001

He signed for United for the age of 31 and had to bide his time for first-team chances, despite scoring in both the FA Cup and Champions League finals in 1999.  

When the opportunity arose, the intelligent attacker took it with both hands, scoring 15 league goals in the 2000/01 season to inspire the club to a third straight Premier League title.

He was voted the Footballer of the Year by both the Professional Footballers' Association and Football Writers' Association that year, before jetting off for Tottenham Hotspur.


Ruud van Nistelrooy

2001-2006


A torn cruciate knee ligament delayed his arrival at the club by a season, but boy was he worth the wait. 

A supreme poacher in the penalty area, he scored 150 goals in just 219 appearances to become one of the most prolific marksmen in Premier League history.

Renowned for his many tap-in goals, one of his best strikes in a Red Devils shirt came through work of his own, gaining possession in his own half and dribbling past a bunch of hapless Fulham opponents before a neat finish (see below). 

He left for Real Madrid after five seasons at Old Trafford, but his goal-scoring exploits safeguarded his place in United's history. 

Wayne Rooney

2004-present

The No.10 shirt was vacant for a year after Van Nistelrooy's departure until Rooney inherited it at the start of the 2007/08 season. His powers may be waning now, but there was a time when few could cope with his explosive acceleration and finishing. 

After scoring a hat-trick on debut against Fenerbahce, he has gone on to win numerous trophies with the club and was appointed club captain in 2014.

Oh did we mention he scored a stunning free kick against Stoke City earlier this year to surpass Sir Bobby Charlton as the club's all-time goal scorer with 250 goals? 


Honourable mention:

David Beckham

1992-2003

‘Becks’ is revered as one of the club's best ever No.7s, but before he became a household name and a global icon, he actually wore the No.10 jersey for a season.

That came in the 1996/97 campaign when he scored that halfway line goal against Wimbledon and the rest – they say – is history.

If only Sir Alex had not kicked that boot and hit him in the eye, who knows if he could have ended his career at Old Trafford?


So that's our list. Who is your all-time favourite Manchester United No.10? Join the conversation on our Facebook and Twitter pages using the hashtag #FFTICONICSHIRTS and keep an eye out for more from this series!

Main image: Matt Dampney/FourFourTwo

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