Formed in 1878 and originally known as Newton Heath, Manchester United is one of the most famous and best-supported football clubs in the world. Having become the first English club to play in the European Cup, they also became the first English club to win the competition in 1968. Only for the Munich air crash in 1958 - twenty three people were killed, including eight players - the club may have won the competition much earlier, and much more often. United also became the first English club to win the Inter-Continental Cup in 1999, an annual match between the European and South American Champions. It was widely regarded as an unofficial world championship, and subsequently been expanded and renamed FIFA Club World Championship.
This edition of United's 100 Greatest Players was published in 2004 on the back of a poll in the club's official magazine. Some of the greats who played for the club include Duncan Edwards (a Busby Babe, who died as a result of injuries received at Munich), Bryan Robson (known to many as Captain Marvel), Eric Cantona (a philosophising French genius), Roy Keane (the finest soccer player Ireland has ever produced), Billy Meredith (something of a radical, having been a founder member of the players' union) and the 'Holy Trinity' of George Best, Denis Law and Bobby Charlton. Thankfully, all these players make their rightful appearances. However, while it's possibly understandable that there's a slight bias to wards the players of more recent years, there are a few entries and rankings that had me scratching my head. It's hard to see how some players don't have a higher position in the list, while I found it very puzzling how one former captain of England in particular was voted ahead of Duncan Edwards. The poll also features a couple of players who had just broken into United's first team at the time the poll was held. In time, they may be worth their place on a list like this - but after having played just one season with the club ? A couple of very expensive transfer signings also feature - with one or two of them, there's a bit of doubt that they ever justified their transfer fees, never mind a place in United's top 100. There's even, somehow, one or two players who feature that I'd describe as a liability rather than a great.
However, despite those quibbles, it's still a book well worth owning - David Meek's contribution plays a big part in this. Meek was the soccer correspondent with the Manchester Evening News for more than 35 years and has written many books on United. With this book, he wrote an entry for each player on the list and - thanks to his writing - there is a real sense of both the individual but also of the club's history.