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Household names who served under Ferguson at Man United

l Roy Keane (signed from Nottingham Forest, 1993).

The £3.75m (€4.42m) Ferguson paid Forest for Keane was a British transfer record at the time, but there is little question that he got value for money.

In 12 years of service, the Irish midfielder was United's engine room and driving force as they dominated English football through the 1990s and into the next decade.

He also led them to the 1999 Champions League final, only to miss the game through suspension. Keane succeeded Cantona as captain and was just as combustible a character.

• Eric Cantona (signed from Leeds, 1992)

Cantona's five-year spell at United will never be forgotten.

The Frenchman, who cost Ferguson just over £1m (€1,179,310), gave the club's fans many a moment to savour on the pitch with his dazzling skills, which helped the Red Devils to a haul of four Premier League titles and two FA Cups.

But what perhaps cemented his iconic status was the way he played the part of the tortured genius. The most infamous instance of his short temper was the kung-fu kick he aimed at a Crystal Palace supporter and he made philosophical comments afterwards about seagulls following a trawler.

• Cristiano Ronaldo (signed from Sporting Lisbon, 2003)

Ferguson signed a teenage Ronaldo for £12.24m (€14.44m) and he soon developed into one of the world's most potent players. Ronaldo scored an incredible total of 42 goals for the club in the 2007-08 season as the Red Devils won the Champions League. Although his exit to Real Madrid was a blow, the world record £80m fee softened it considerably.

• David Beckham (signed as a trainee in 1991)

Beckham was part of a group of young players who guided the club to win the FA Youth Cup in May 1992, with Beckham scoring in the second leg of the final against Crystal Palace.

He made his first appearance for United's first-team that year, as a substitute in a League Cup match against Brighton & Hove Albion. He signed his first professional contract shortly after.

The pinnacle for his was undoubtedly the 1998/1999 season when United won the treble. He subsequently fell out with Fergie and was sold to Real Madrid in 2003.

• Ryan Giggs (given first professional contract in 1990)

Uniquely among the current squad, Giggs has played a part in every one of Fergie's title winning seasons, collecting 13 Premier League trophies along the way. Giggs broke into the first team even though he was still aged only 17, and paved the way as the first of many Manchester United youth players to rise into the first team.

Ferguson memorably recounted the first time he saw Giggs play. He said the then 13-year-old seemed to float across the field "like a cocker spaniel chasing a piece of silver paper in the wind".