Since its establishment in 1878 as Newton Heath, Manchester United Football Club has become one of the most successful clubs in the history of the English game. Over the years, many players have donned the famous red shirt with distinction. Here are the top ten appearance makers in United’s long history:
Ryan Giggs (161 appearances from 1991–2014)
The former Wales international and head coach is by far the player with the most appearances for the Red Devils during his playing career. Having come through the United academy, Giggs spent 23 years in the club’s first team.
During his time with the club, United won the Premier League title 13 times, the Champions League twice, and the FA Cup four times, among other numerous trophies. On an individual level, Giggs won the PFA Player of the Year in season 2008–09, as well as being named in the Premier League Team of the Season on six occasions.
Giggs is a true Manchester United and Premier League legend, as it seems unlikely that any player in the Premier League will ever enjoy the same level of success and longevity in the English top flight.
Bobby Charlton (758 appearances from 1956–1973)
Like Giggs, Charlton is a club legend and was highly successful with United. However, the north east-born legend was from a very different era to Giggs. The forward/attacking midfielder arrived in Manchester in 1956 and was part of the great Sir Matt Busby team of the 1950s and 1960s.
Charlton was a survivor of the 1958 Munich air disaster, which killed 23 of the 44 passengers, including some of his fellow ‘Busby Babes’ such as Duncan Edwards. Charlton was just 20 when the disaster happened. He had become an English league campaign in season 1956/57 while also going on to pick up title-winning medals in 1965 and 1967.
The silverware didn’t stop there, though, as Charlton also played a part in United’s first European Cup win in 1968, when the Red Devils defeated Eusebio’s Benfica 4-1 in extra-time at Wembley in the competition final. In 1963 Charlton also picked up an FA Cup winners medal.
Charlton’s form in season 1965/66 saw him claim the FWA Footballer of the Year award after he scored 18 goals in 56 appearances in all competitions.
Paul Scholes (718 appearances from 1994–2011 and 2012–2013)
Scholes is another player who came through the United academy and thrived under the tutelage of the great Sir Alex Ferguson. The former England international had a knack for scoring goals from midfield, as he scored 148 goals in his Red Devils career.
Those goals helped the men from Manchester to win 11 Premier League titles, two Champions League trophies, four FA Cups and the League Cup on two occasions.
Scholes was named in the PFA Team of the year on two occasions, in 2003 and 2007, while also being inducted into the Premier League Hall of Fame in 2022.
Bill Foulkes (688 appearances from 1952–1970)
Foulkes was another player to survive the Munich air disaster, and incredibly he was largely uninjured in the crash. Before the Munich air disaster, the centre-half had been part of the United team that had won the English First Division title in back seasons in seasons 1955–56 and 1956–57. He went on to win two more top-flight titles with the Red Devils in 1965 and 1967.
He was also, of course, part of the United team that won the European Cup in 1968 while also picking up an FA Cup winners medal in 1963.
Gary Neville (602 appearances from 1992–2011)
Having come through the ranks at United, Neville enjoyed a highly successful career with United. The full-back won eight Premier League titles with United, as well as two Champions League titles, four FA Cups and two League Cups.
Sir Alex Ferguson, his manager throughout his United career, once described Neville as being ‘The best English right-back of his generation’. He was highly reliable and a lieutenant on the pitch for his boss. Neville appeared in the Premier League Team of the Year on five occasions.
Wayne Rooney (559 appearances from 2004–2017)
Rooney arrived at Manchester United from Everton at the age of just 18. He quickly set about making a mark at the club, as he scored a hat-trick on his debut for the Red Devils against Fenerbahce in the Champions League.
The former England international became renowned for his goalscoring ability, as he became United’s record-ever goalscorer, having netted 253 goals for the men from Manchester.
The Liverpool-born forward enjoyed a trophy-laden career with the Red Devils. He won the Premier League title on five occasions, the League Cup three times and FA Cup and Champions League both on one occasion.
As an individual, Rooney won both the PFA and FWA Footballer of the Year award in season 2009/10 while also appearing in the Premier League Team of the year on five occasions.
Alex Stepney (539 appearances from 1966–1978)
The goalkeeper joined Manchester United from Chelsea in 1966. During his 12-year career at Old Trafford, Stepney made 539 appearances, winning the First Division title in season 1966/67, the European Cup in 1968 and also the FA Cup in 1977.
Surprisingly, despite being a highly-rated goalkeeper, Stepney made just one international appearance for England in 1968. The main reason was that he had so much quality competition from the likes of Gordon Banks, Peter Bonetti and Gordon West for a starting spot for the Three Lions.
Tony Dunne (535 appearances from 1960–1973)
The diminutive Irish full-back joined United in 1960 from Shelbourne for a fee of £5,000 and went on to enjoy a 13-year career with the Red Devils. During his time in Manchester, Dunne won the First Division title twice, in 1965 and 1967, as well as the FA Cup in 1963 and the European Cup in 1968. Dunne also earned 33 caps for the Republic of Ireland internationally between 1962 and 1975.
Denis Irwin (529 appearances from 1990–2002)
Another Irish full-back, Irwin became a United stalwart under Sir Alex Ferguson for over a decade. He joined United in 1990 from Oldham Athletic for £625,000 and proved to be a bargain buy for the men from Manchester.
Like many on this list, Irwin enjoyed a trophy-laden stay with United. The full-back helped United to win seven Premier League titles, the FA Cup twice, and the European Cup once, amongst the other silverware he picked up during his Red Devils career.
Irwin was in the Premier League team of the season on two occasions, in 1994 and 1999. He also entered the English Football Hall of Fame in 2016.
David de Gea (512 appearances from 2011–present)
The Spaniard joined Manchester United from Atletico Madrid in 2011 for £18.9 million, a British record fee for a goalkeeper. During his United career, De Gea has won the Premier League title, the FA Cup, the League Cup and also the Europa League.
The former Atletico Madrid man was selected in the Premier League Team of the Year in five seasons while also winning the Premier League Golden Glove award in 2017/18.