The four ‘world class’ players Sir Alex Ferguson had at Man Utd – according to the man himself

Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was famously discerning when it came to his definition of ‘world class’, once stating that over the course of his legendary 26-year reign at Old Trafford only four players fit the billing.

“If you read the papers or listen to the television commentators, we seem to be awash with ‘world-class’ footballers,” Ferguson wrote in his 2015 book Leading.

“In my book there are only two world-class players playing today: Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

“I don’t mean to demean or criticise any of the great or very good footballers who played for me during my 26-year career at United, but there were only four who were world class.”

So who made the cut? Let’s get down to it.

Cristiano Ronaldo

“Of the four Cristiano was like an ornament on the top of a Christmas tree,” added Ferguson after naming the quartet.

He later described the Portuguese icon as a ‘complete genius of a player’ in an interview with the BBC, in which he elaborated on his world class picks.

An uncontroversial choice, Ronaldo developed into a world-beating superstar under Ferguson’s tutelage, shining as United won three successive Premier League titles, as well as the Champions League, between 2006 and 2009.

Undoubtedly the club’s standout player at that time, Ronaldo remains the last Premier League footballer to receive the Ballon d’Or – when he picked up the first of his five golden balls in 2008, going on to make a world-record transfer to Real Madrid the following summer.

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Eric Cantona

“When we brought Eric Cantona in, we won the league that season. It was his mere presence and his ability to make and score goals,” Ferguson said of King Eric, describing the mercurial Frenchman’s arrival from Leeds as ‘the catalyst’ for United’s imperial era of Premier League dominance.

He’s not wrong. Ferguson’s men were sat in midtable when Cantona was signed in the November of that campaign. His immediate impact saw them rampant from there, eventually ending up champions in the inaugural 1992-93 Premier League season with a 10-point lead over runners-up Aston Villa.

Ryan Giggs

It’s no wonder that Giggs made the cut, given that he made a mind-blowing 941 appearances under Ferguson at United, notching 168 goals and 252 assists in that time.

Ferguson’s most-used player by a country mile at Old Trafford, the Welsh winger won no fewer than 13 Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups and two Champions Leagues. We’ll surely never see the like again.

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Paul Scholes

“The younger breed like Ryan and Scholes were just fantastic players and the thing about those two was longevity,” stated Ferguson in that BBC interview.

“Are there players who have played right through the whole of the Premier League and performed at the level they have? There are none, absolutely none.”

Scholes was Ferguson’s second-most used player at United, albeit with over 200 fewer appearances than fellow Class of ’92 alumnus Giggs.

But when it came to describing what made Scholes so special, Sir Bobby Charlton arguably said it better than Fergie:

“I have no hesitation in putting a name to the embodiment of all that I think is best about football. It’s Paul Scholes,” Charlton stated in 2009.

“Many great players have worn the shirt of Manchester United. Players I worshipped, then lost with my youth in Munich. Players like Denis Law and George Best who I enjoyed so much as team-mates and now, finally, players I have watched closely in the Alex Ferguson era.

“And in so many ways Scholes is my favourite. I love his nous and conviction that he will find a way to win, to make the killer pass or produce the decisive volley.”