The arrival of Alex Ferguson at Manchester United in 1986 heralded one of the greatest managerial careers we’re ever likely to witness in our lifetime.
There is just a select handful of players from Ferguson’s reign, which lasted over 26 years, who he sees as being world-class, however.
In his book ‘Leading’ the Scot revealed that four players – Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Cristiano Ronaldo and Eric Cantona – were the cream of the crop during his time in the Old Trafford dugout.
“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: Cantona, Giggs, Ronaldo and Scholes,” Ferguson writes in ‘Leading’ (via the Manchester Evening News).
Ronaldo ‘like an ornament on top of a Christmas tree’ – Ferguson
Understandably, one player, in particular, comes out as a cut above the rest.
“And of the four Cristiano was like an ornament on the top of a Christmas tree.”
The likes of David Beckham, Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney and Roy Keane are noteworthy exceptions to the former United manager’s list of world-class options.
Beckham was considered to have one of the best strikes in world football, while Rooney forged a successful career at the club after joining from Everton.
The exclusion which stands out like a sore thumb to most, however, is that of Keane. United’s captain for the majority of his time at the club helped his side to seven Premier League titles, four FA Cups and a Champions League crown.
Since leaving the club, the relationship between Keane and Ferguson has been less than rosy with comments in each of their autobiographies causing some degree of angst between the pair.
Although Ferguson may have not named Keane as one of his few world-class players, there is no denying that a huge portion of United’s fan base would see the Republic of Ireland assistant manager as one of the protagonists of Ferguson’s hugely successful reign.
The ex-Aberdeen boss does, though, describe Keane as a great player from his tenure.
Speaking to the BBC, Ferguson said that the likes Beckham, Rooney, Tevez, Schmeichel and Ferdinand were not world-class but were “great players” for the club.
Originally published September 22, 2015