Manchester United had such an endless amount of world class stars during their glory days that naturally, some players didn’t get the credit they deserved.
The Red Devils won the lot under Sir Alex Ferguson, and whilst the likes of Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo were showered in praise, the Ji-Sung Parks of this world were left to do an underrated but equally important job in what was the ultimate winning machine.
Of course, the midfielder wasn’t the only player to go under the radar, so here’s United’s ten most underrated players of the Premier League era.
The versatile defender was a consistent figure within the backline at Old Trafford. You don’t just make 361 appearances for Manchester United during the Ferguson era for no reason. Brown also started the 2008 Champions League final against Chelsea, helping keep Florent Malouda quiet as United won on penalties in Moscow.
It’s always nice to have an Antonio Valencia in your side – a player who can play both full-back and on the wing, making a similar impact in the process. Valencia was never quite the Cristiano Ronaldo replacement United needed when both wingers moved in 2009 but he did prove to be a fantastic servant, making 337 appearances for the club and even becoming captain.
When talking about underrated players, it feels mandatory to mention Michael Carrick. He fulfilled his role at Old Trafford to perfection. He quietly swept up, did the dirty work, and distributed the ball. Carrick formed an exceptional partnership with Paul Scholes and won everything there is to win at United, yet somehow only ever made 34 England appearances.
With so many world-class talents further up the pitch, Ferguson needed a workhorse in the middle of the park and Darren Fletcher was exactly that. Perhaps he wasn’t quite Roy Keane but the Scotland international was never afraid to put a challenge in and added energy to United’s engine room. In 2020, Wayne Rooney declared that Fletcher had often sacrificed showing off his own ability for the good of the team. It doesn’t get more underrated than that.
Like Brown, John O’Shea is often used to mock those who haven’t won a Premier League title. But the defender was s a solid part of Sir Alex Ferguson’s winning machine, making 393 appearances and featuring in every position from left midfield to goalkeeper. And, who could forget his nutmeg on Luis Figo?
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will forever live in United folklore for clinching the 1999 Champions League, immortalising his status as the ultimate supersub. But in some ways, that does a disservice to the level of ability Solskjaer actually had. He made the huge step up from Molde to the top of the Premier League with immaculate ease, and scored at least ten goals in all competitions during seven of his eight seasons at Old Trafford that weren’t scuppered through injury. That’s no easy feat when you’re having to make do with minutes from the bench.
Like many players throughout recent footballing history, Nani was often unfortunate enough to be left in the shadow of Cristiano Ronaldo. But Nani was an important part of Ferguson’s side at times, particularly impressing in the 2010/11 season, in which he scored 10 goals and assisted a further 20.
Having only scored 46 goals in 153 appearances for United, it’s easy to forget how good Teddy Sheringham really was. He was the type of player who could set the tempo at his pace; he could dictate play with ease and always brought out the best in those around him. He was the other Champions League final hero alongside Solskjaer and won three consecutive Premier League titles during his time at Old Trafford.
No one wants to grow up and be a Gary Neville, Jamie Carragher once famously said on Monday Night Football. And he was right. Ahead of Neville in United’s starting XI stood a certain David Beckham, a far more glamorous, better-looking and frankly more talented footballer. Every kid growing up in the 1990s and early 2000s wanted to be the next Becks. But Neville offered nous, heart, passion and the ability to get away with stonewall penalty after stonewall penalty. He made almost 600 appearances for United and rose to captain status before retiring.
The definition of underrated, Ji-Sung Park was one of the most important players during his time at Manchester United, but his performances consistently went under the radar, with more famous names taking the credit for his hard work. The way he pocketed prime Andrea Pirlo against AC Milan in 2010 epitomised Park to perfection and in 2021, Ferguson revealed his regret in not giving Lionel Messi the same treatment in United’s 3-1 defeat to Barcelona in the 2011 Champions League final. That says it all.