There are certain Man United cult heroes that will stand the test of time amongst Red Devils fans all over the world, and there are a number of reasons for why that is.
By definition, players like these develop a ‘cult‘-like following with a sub-sect of supporters standing by them for the memories and/or representation they provided for them. Which can have something to do with how they played, where they’re from, what they did or all of the above.
For more information, check out the last article we did here for wider Premier League cult heroes.
Who are the best Man United Cult Heroes?
That’s the beauty of it – nobody knows!
If you’re a part of a player’s ‘cult’ following – then you’re going to swear by them.
For example, purely by virtue of being a fan and writing this, the Man United cult heroes mentioned in this article are going to be special to me.
But, as we’re continuing to do with the various Hobby FC collections e.g. in shirts, cards and stickers, we are looking at this through the gaze of a player or piece being ‘collectible‘. So, despite the obvious bias, you can bet your bottom dollar that I’m not the only fan who feels this way about them.
Okay, I’ll admit. This one’s a little bit of a personal choice.
For whatever reason, I absolutely adored Diego Forlan as a young Manchester United fan. Be it the continuous endeavour to prove himself or his cool ponytail, I still respect him to this day.
That being said, he infamously struggled on the red side of Manchester – stuck in the impossible position of trying to displace Ruud van Nistelrooy, or deal with the fact that he would be doing nothing else but feeding him to become better. But whatever his role, Forlan did it. No questions asked.
Over time, the odd purple patch sprinkled in with his relentless desire to prove himself to his supporters endeared to a number of United fans worldwide – particularly those from his native Uruguay.
His most famous moment came at Anfield, where a Jerzy Dudek spill and near-post thunderbolt led to a famous 2-0 away win for his side. That alone is enough to make him one of the most revered and adored Man United cult heroes of all time.
That white ‘Forlan-21’ shirt invokes a very welcome memory for Red Devils fans worldwide.
Thankfully, Diego Forlan’s star did eventually shine, but he had to leave the Premier League to do it. And I can’t think of a single United supporter who has begrudged his success upon leaving Old Trafford.
He was also apparently quite instrumental in seeing the young Facundo Pellistri choose Man United a few years ago. So if we didn’t love him before, we certainly do now!
In a rare period of experimentation in the ’90s, the European Championships of 1996 presented the opportunity for Manchester United to sign some fledgling talents from abroad.
Certain unfancied countries had held themselves in good stead throughout the competition, and Sir Alex Ferguson took notice – signing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Karel Poborsky and Ronny Johnsen.
Recent times will suggest that Solskjaer was the most successful, but that’s telling half the story.
Naturally, scoring goals (especially that one against Bayern Munich in ’99) will make you more memorable than the defenders who stop the opposition from doing the same thing. But with Ronny Johnsen and Jaap Stam at the back, the United attacking line could do whatever they wanted.
Even out of the pair, most of the plaudits fall Jaap Stam’s way. Standing as this ‘colossus of men’ who people were intimidated by, and therefore the ‘better of the two’. But that’s tough on Ronny.
Jaap was a fantastic player. But so was Ronny. He was calm, silky – the original ‘ice man‘. Arguably one of the most under-represented and underrated Manchester United players of all time. Especially when you consider how pivotal he was to their greatest success in modern history.
Thankfully, some fans do remember him very well, and he’s well worthy of being on this list of Man United cult heroes. The sharp kits, cool name-sets and unconventional numbers help, too.
It’s the summer of 2009, and Manchester United are quickly having to come to terms with the fact that they are going to have to live the rest of their prime without Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Portuguese superstar had a long, protracted arrangement to leave for Real Madrid that summer, and attention soon turned to how his record ~£100m transfer fee was going to be spent.
And who came in? Michael Owen, Gabriel Obertan and Luis Antonio Valencia.
The Ecuadorean was supposedly earmarked to take Ronaldo’s old no.7 shirt, but refused on the grounds that the ‘25‘ he’d worn at Wigan and Villarreal held some personal value to him.
Instead, the number was offered to Michael Carrick, who also refused – and then to Michael Owen. So, he took it, Valencia kept his favourite number, and on they went.
From signing, the South American powerhouse made that right-wing spot his own – alternating occasionally with Nani on the left-hand side whenever required. Together, they spearheaded United’s efforts to the 2012/13 triumph, with the previous season arguably being ‘Anto’s best.
Of the Man Untied cult heroes here, he’s one of the most versatile – having served the latter half of his career at right-back, and serving as captain for his final two seasons. A well-loved, much-revered member of Manchester United’s last great class under the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson.
One does not simply write a Man United cult heroes post without mentioning Ji-Sung Park.
It’s an understanding that’s almost biblical among the Red Devils community.
Having joined in the early 2000’s following a scouting trip to take a closer look at Lyon’s Michael Essien, a chance encounter with PSV in the Champions League gave the United hierarchy an opportunity to eye-ball the battery-powered South Korean who silenced him instead.
This ability to nullify the influence of key players in the game became a staple of his time in a Manchester United shirt. A particular match-up against Andrea Pirlo stands out.
In fact, in a recent interview with Sir Alex and Gary Neville for LadBible, the Scot theorised that changing his game-plan with the South Korean could have led to one or two more Champions League titles.
Now, it’s a lot to suggest that putting Ji-Sung Park in charge of Lionel Messi would have done everything to change the game in their favour, but that shows how well-respected he is.
Even today, I’d go as far to suggest that of all the Man United cult heroes (not just on this list, but in general), most fans would want a prime Ji-Sung Park in the current lineup.
And that’s that!
4 Man United cult heroes that fans love – and still like to collect.
We have four players who may have had solid careers as Manchester United fans, but given their impact in a period of success for the club, they make the perfect collector’s items.
The Manchester United community do have to deal with a lot of flack from rival fans for living in the past, but given that’s all we do as collectors, we may as well let it work to our advantage.
Which of these Man United cult heroes have you collected so far?