Crerand, Moses…United’s TEN ‘Most Underrated’ Players Of All Time

Playing for Manchester United is one of the pinnacles any footballer can hope to achieve, up there with representing your country, winning the Champion’s League and dating Charlotte Mears. Usually those fortunate enough to call Old Trafford their home are the players constantly being lauded by fans and the media as one of the world’s top players. Since time began, United have had a plethora of stars in all positions who’ve generally been accepted as some of the best in the game. Yet for every Eric Cantona, there’s a Denis Irwin, quietly going about their job often being unsung by many outside the Old Trafford faithful.

So who have been the truly underrated players for United over the past years? Which men have not received the accolades they deserved despite doing a superb job? There can’t be that many I hear you cry, after all nearly anyone that dons the Red of United is usually drooled over by all and sundry. Well not quite, there’s a small select band of players, who’s name may not have been the first to be mentioned by the Chelsea fans in Fleet Street but who without a doubt have been some of the finest at their craft.

Here’s a top ten list of United players who were never given the credit they deserve- at least outside of Old Trafford- and may still be considered rubbish by those who never actually watched them regularly.


10. Diego Forlan. One of the most frustrating things about watching the World Cup, other than the rubbish football, constant droning of vuvuzelas and p*ss poor commentary, was hearing the term ‘Premier league flop’ being prefixed to Forlan’s name at every given moment. While Forlan’s time at Old Trafford was hardly a stunning success, he still managed to win over the hearts of the Stretford Enders thanks to a series of important goals. Winners against the likes of Chelsea and Southampton, helped make him respected, but a brace at Anfield made him adored. His subsequent Golden Boots and Balls only highlighted what a great player those at Old Trafford already knew he was.
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9. Paul Parker. This may get a few laughs from those who weren’t watching United regularly in the early days of the Premier League, but Parker was actually a superb right back who was equally adept at getting forward as he was at stopping left wingers. Injury and the emergence of every Liverpool fans least favourite player, saw Parker’s United career cut fairly short. However if you want to know just how good Parker was for his brief but successful United career, the fact that Sir Alex Ferguson dropped captain Steve Bruce, for the home game against Barcelona in 1994, so Parker could move to centre back to man mark Romario, should give you some sort of idea. Parker may not be the first name on everyone’s lips when they mention the great pantheon of United defenders, but there was a time when he was the man you’d call upon to take care of arguably the world’s best player.
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8. Michael Carrick. Right now is probably not a good time to be defending Carrick or arguing his worth among a list of United heroes. Last season and the beginning of this one have hardly been the former Spurs’ man’s best and its not a bad bet that he may well be on his way in the January transfer window. The reason Carrick makes the list is simple, in his first three seasons he was an integral part of a side that won, three titles, a Champion’s League and made another Champion’s League final. Throw in a couple of League Cups and it’s not a bad return for an £18 million investment. Carrick may be fast becoming persona non grata with most Reds, but he’s actually been an unsung hero for large parts of the past four years. Put simply you don’t win all those trophies and make so many appearances in a United midfield if you haven’t got something. Carrick on his day is one of the finest passers of the ball anywhere in Europe. Although, he’s one of the few players on here a few United fans may not be too fond of, even the most critical will have to admit, he has played his part in the recent -until last season of course- success.
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7. Ronny Johnsen. When people talk about the famous treble side of 1999, the usual list of names rolls of the tongue. Dwight Yorke, Andy, or should that be Andrew Cole, David Beckham, Roy Keane, Jaap Stam, I could go on. One name that’s not likely to be the top of anyone’s list is that of Johnsen’s. During the 1998/99 season though, Johnsen was a major part of United’s success, forming an effective defensive partnership with Stam, while it was the ‘Big Dutchman’ that got the accolades there was no denying Johnsen was rock solid. His time at Old Trafford was mired by injury and he never quite achieved the status afforded the likes of Pallister, Stam and Ferdinand but the man who helped United to three titles in as many years as well as their greatest ever triumph, will always be remembered as a world-class defender by those who saw him.
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6. Arthur Albiston. Arthur who? Some of those not familiar with United’s team of the 70’s and 80’s may be saying and quite justifiably as the Scottish full back was not known for hogging the limelight. However, Albiston was one of the most consistent United performers of all time, racking up an impressive 485 appearances for the club. Albiston was similar to Patrice Evra or Denis Irwin in that he always gave a seven out of ten performance, literally every game. The reliable defender came through the United youth ranks and oversaw a relegation, promotion and three FA cup wins in his ten year stint with the club. Ron Atkinson used to love playing six a sides when he was United manager and used to pick the five best players from the previous United fixture to be on his team. Apparently Albiston was the first name he picked every week, bar none.

The type of player you never realise just how good he is until he’s gone.
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5. Johnny Giles. Giles may have made his name as a hero at United’s hated rivals Leeds, before mopping up Eamon Dunphy’s dribble on Irish TV as a pundit- he actually started his career at Old Trafford. The signs were already there, that the midfielder was going to be one of the brightest stars in the game and he was part of the team Busby used in the aftermath of Munich. Despite being a regular over the next few years and only being a youngster- he was 18 at the time of Munich- Giles was eventually sold to Leeds, just after he’d helped United win the FA cup. In Nobby Stiles’s book ‘After the Ball’, Stiles claims Giles was one of the best players at the club, who for some reason fell foul of Busby and couldn’t seem to win him over. United’s loss was Leeds gain as Giles helped the Yorkshire club become one of the dominant forces of the 60’s and 70’s. His time at United may have been shorter than it possibly should have but he was certainly more than worthy of it.
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4. Andy Cole. Again a few eyebrows may be raised at the inclusion of one of the most famous strikers in Premier League history. However allow me to elucidate, Cole has never quite seemed to gain the respect his record and ability merited, outside Old Trafford. Only thirteen England caps for a player of such unquestionable goal scoring ability is quite frankly shocking and he’s always had the Glenn Hoddle “he takes seven chances to score one goal” nonsense to contend with . Cole’s United career took a while to get going and despite several highs, such as five goals in a game against Ipswich and winning the double in his second season, he looked as though he may be forced to leave. 1997/8 was his most prolific season to date but unfortunately United finished the season empty handed and many thought the subsequent arrival of Dwight Yorke would spell the end for Cole, especially with Solskjaer and Sheringham still in the squad. However Yorke and Cole’s partnership is the stuff of legend, as the two tore Europe’s finest defences to shreds with gleeful abandon.

Cole is admired by all United fans and respected by most of the media as a true legend. However there’s always the sneaky feeling that he never quite gets the reverence he truly deserves for such a wonderful record. 121 goals in 275 appearances and winning every trophy imaginable means he will always be a United hero, but others seem to rank him slightly below the Premiership’s best strikers, rather unfairly.
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3. Ji Sung Park. Like Carrick, Park’s not exactly had the best start to the season, in fact you could argue he’s been quite shocking, so why exactly does he make this list I hear you ask. Well Park’s been one of the few players United have had in the squad over the past few years, who’ll come in, no matter what the occasion and how big it is, do a job and then quietly warm the bench again for the next few weeks. 2008 was a prime example of just how important Park was. He came into the United side for the Champion’s League semi final clashes against Barcelona, only to find himself not even in the squad for the final- a decision Fergie cites as one of the most difficult he’s ever had to make. Park has always been a reliable player whenever he’s been called upon, even scoring some important goals along the way. Park may captain his country but he’s not been rated as highly as he should have been from many outside the media. He may be on his way out of United, if some reports are to be believed, but the man who gave birth to one of the best chants at Old Trafford will always be well thought of at United.
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2. Remi Moses. Ron Atkinson became the first United manager to sign and play a black player in the form of Remi Moses. It’s not Moses’ ethnicity that gets him on this list though, it’s the fact that he was a tough tackling tenacious sort that would make even Roy Keane think twice about going in for a fifty-fifty. Moses arrived as part of the deal that also brought Bryan Robson to Old Trafford, but if anyone thought the 20 year old Mancunian was just there to make up the numbers they were gravely mistaken. Moses was a holding midfielder who complimented Robson beautifully allowing him to get forward without having to worry about defensive cover. It was a shame injury blighted Moses’ United career causing him to miss out on two FA cup finals and retire at the age of only 28. Moses’ greatest game came against Juventus in the 1984 Cup winners cup semi final first leg at Old Trafford. With Robson out injured it was left to Moses to command the midfield and he did so magnificently. There wasn’t one Juventus player who didn’t feel the wrath of a crunching Moses tackle. European footballer of the year Michel Platini was so put out by Moses’ attention that he had one his worst games ever for the club, as his passing game deserted him, no doubt panicked by the sight of Moses. A player who the term ‘unsung hero’ could have been made for.
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1. Paddy Crerand. Crerand is a legend inside Old Trafford of that there can be no doubt, but when people in the media talk about the great United side of the mid to late 60’s it’s Best, Law and Charlton who get all the plaudits. However, there’s an argument put forward by many older United fans, that Crerand was actually the man that made Sir Matt Busby’s team tick. A tough tackling midfielder who could also pick out a killer pass, Crerand was bought from Celtic five years after the Munich disaster. The Scot immediately helped repay his transfer fee, by helping United lift the FA Cup as they finally rose from the ashes of the tragedy that had decimated almost the entire team. United would also go on to win two titles and the European Cup during Crerand’s time there and there’s no doubt that had he not been in the team, the club would have struggled to win anything. Now making his name as the most biased pundit in the history of commentary on MUTV, everyone associated with United knows Crerand’s a legend. There used to be a saying at Old Trafford “If Paddy plays well, United play well.”

Law, Best and Charlton may have the statue, but if there was any real justice, Crerand would probably be on the end of it.

List compiled by Justin Mottershead