Manchester United's five best signings (1980 to 2002) 4 years ago

Manchester United's five best signings (1980 to 2002)

"A great player, he very rarely had a bad game."

Manchester United made some excellent signings during the 1990s, from Peter Schmeichel to Eric Cantona and Roy Keane. Sir Alex Ferguson's all conquering teams were built around stars developed in the club's academy, such as Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and David Beckham, but that talent was greatly aided by the established senior players already in the squad.

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Cantona, Keane, Schmeichel, Gary Pallister and Denis Irwin were key parts of the United team that won the double in 1996, a side which BBC pundit and former Liverpool defender Alan Hansen said would fall short because "you can't win anything with kids."

More often than not, Ferguson got it right in the transfer market, and as such it's difficult to choose one definitive signing as the best the Scot made during his 26 years at the club.

The man who hired him, Martin Edwards, was tasked with selecting the best signing United made during his 22 years as chairman, and he couldn't settle on one, so he opted for five of the best transfers the club made during his tenure, which ended in 2002.

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It's difficult to disagree with Edwards' choices.

The former United chairman, who is promoting a book about his time with the club titled Red Glory, opted for Cantona, Schmeichel, Irwin, Keane and Bryan Robson, who joined the club from West Brom five years before Ferguson arrived.

"I want to name five and not in order because it is value for money," Edwards said during an interview with MUTV.

"I'd have to have Cantona in there. Just look at the time he was there, we won the league four of the five years and we did two doubles. I think we would have done a third double if he hadn't kicked the supporter at Crystal Palace. I think he just completely revolutionised the club."

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Cantona arrived at Old Trafford from Leeds United in 1992 and proved to be the missing piece for Ferguson, inspiring the team to four Premier League titles.

Schmeichel joined United from Brondby in 1991 for just £505,000. He would go on to be regarded as the best goalkeeper in the world, and his last game for the club was in the 1999 Champions League final, when he captained United to victory over Bayern Munich.

"An absolute bargain when you think of what he did in the eight years he was there and what we won. Five titles, (and) we won the Champions League and FA Cup a few times. Unbelievable."

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Edwards then opted for Irwin. The Irish full-back joined the club from Oldham Athletic in 1990 for just £700,000. Irwin was one of the most dependable players Ferguson had to call upon, comfortable in both full-back positions, he took free-kicks and penalties, and made over 500 appearances for United across 12 years, rarely making a mistake.

"Again, eight or nine years (of service). I think he got seven championship medals, (he was) part of that huge success. A great player, he very rarely had a bad game."

Robson joined United in 1981, and was United's best player during the 1980s, captaining club and country, he was the complete midfield player.

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"Bryan Robson for £1.5m, it seemed a lot of money at the time, a British record, but he captained us to three FA Cup finals, a couple of league titles. He was really the main player at a time before United really hit the headlines, before they became a great side. Again a fantastic midfield player, up and down, scored important goals... semi-finals, finals, you could rely on Robson."

Finally, Edwards mentioned Keane, who joined the club from Nottingham Forest in 1993 for a then-British record transfer of £3.75m. The former Ireland midfielder became Ferguson's most important and influential player, captaining the side to seven league titles.

"A fantastic midfield player, something like seven championship medals, FA Cup winner, he captained us, took over the captaincy from Bryan Robson, probably took over that midfield from Bryan Robson. When Bryan went, we all wondered who was capable of taking over - certainly Roy Keane stepped into the breach there."

Keane actually inherited the captaincy after Cantona left in 1997, and kept the armband until his acrimonious departure from the club in 2005.