Who Is Manchester United’s Best Striker Since Sir Alex Ferguson’s Retirement?

Since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013, Manchester United have had an abundance of different strikers with varying levels of success and impact.

The 20-time Premier League winners have struggled to find a consistent centre forward who is good enough to lead the line for several years, often opting for older, more experienced options. In this 10 year period, the best United strikers have been Robin Van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Anthony Martial and Cristiano Ronaldo.

What makes a good Manchester United striker?

Down the years, United’s best strikers have had varying defining attributes. In the 90’s, Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole were known for their superb link up play. This unique connection between the two made them a formidable pairing. In his time at the club, Yorke scored 66 goals, assisting 31 in 152 games. Cole scored 121 goals, assisting 45 in 275 games.

Thus, strong linkup is an important quality in a United striker. Whereas, in 2001, United signed Ruud van Nistelrooy, who was an elite poacher with clinical finishing.

He completely contrasted the style of Yorke and Cole, but is seen as one of United’s best ever strikers due to his phenomenal goal scoring conversion rate. In his five years at the club, Van Nistelrooy scored 150 goals, assisting 25 in 219 games. Thus, quality finishing is a pivotal aspect.

Attitude is another key attribute. Over the years, many players have had the quality to be footballing greats, but only the ones with the right attitude make it. Former red Ravel Morrison epitomises this, as his career never reached the levels that his talent suggested, due to a lack of discipline and attitude. Therefore, players like Cristiano Ronaldo represent the right discipline and work-rate needed to make it to the very top.

Van Persie

Robin van Persie signed for United in August of 2012 for £24m from rivals Arsenal before leaving in 2015.

The Dutch striker scored 58 goals, assisting 21 in 105 appearances at the club. His best season came in his only season under Ferguson, firing 26 league goals in with 15 assists in 38 games.

Van Persie was a deadly goal scorer but was also able to linkup well with the players like Rooney. Van Persie was seen as the final piece in the puzzle with his arrival from Arsenal, giving United that edge over their rivals; thus, many dedicate United’s 20th Premier League title to the Dutch striker.

However, Van Persie’s downfall derives from his inability to reach the form he once found under Ferguson after the legendary manager retired. In the following season, the former Arsenal striker played only 21 times in the league, 17 games less than the season prior scoring just 12 goals and assisting three. Despite the drop-off this was still respectable figures. However, in his final season at the club in the 2014/15 season, the Dutchman played 27 league games, scoring only 10 times, assisting two.

Therefore, in his two years after Ferguson’s retirement, Van Persie was unable to maintain his form under new managers David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal. Thus, tarnishing his chances at being United’s best post Sir Alex Ferguson signing.

Wayne Rooney

Wayne Rooney signed for United in 2004 for around £30m.

At the time, £30m was a huge sum for an 18-year-old, but in his 13 years at the club the Englishman proved he far succeeded this value.

Rooney thrived under Ferguson. In his best season he scored 27 goals and assisted seven in 34 games.

However, similarly to Van Persie, he was unable to reach these heights again after Ferguson left. Despite this, Rooney still managed 17 goals and 12 assists in 29 league games under David Moyes.

In the following season, Rooney scored 12 goals assisting five in 33 league games. This sparked his gradual decline as he slowly secured less minutes for the team. However, a key attribute of Rooney’s game was his versatility.

United’s top goal scorer was happy to play closer to the midfield to ensure he could contribute in the team more. This relates to the importance of attitude and Rooney was a key role model in that regard.

Ultimately, Rooney’s prime years were before Ferguson’s retirement but he still played a key role in the seasons after contributing considerably to the team.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Zlatan Ibrahimovic signed for United in 2016 on a free transfer from Paris St Germain. The Swede had a remarkable reputation prior to his arrival at the club playing for teams like Barcelona, Inter Milan, AC Milan and Juventus.

For PSG, Ibrahimovic scored 156 goals assisting 61 in just 180 games. At 6ft 4, Ibrahimovic had the stature of a traditional centre forward.

However, the Swede was unique in his skilful ability. His ball control and quality on the ball for someone of his stature was second to none.

This combined by his phenomenal goal scoring ability made him a world class striker. Thus, upon his arrival at United, expectations were very high, despite signing at 34 years of age. In his first season, Ibrahimovic made an instant impact scoring 17 goals, assisting five in 28 league games.

In addition, United won the League Cup in February 2017 with Ibrahimovic scoring a brace to win the cup. However, on 20th April 2017, Ibrahimovic suffered an ACL injury in United’s game against Anderlecht. Subsequently, this meant the 41-year-old was on the sidelines till November 2017.

From his return from injury, the former Inter Milan striker was unable to make his mark on the team, struggling for minutes. The Swede failed to score any goals after this, before suffering another knee injury which ended his United career as he left for LA Galaxy hereafter.

Thus, despite the promising first season, injuries plagued the iconic centre forward, hampering his chances of being United’s best striker since Ferguson’s retirement.

Antony Martial

United signed Antony Martial from Monaco in September 2015 for £53m. The Frenchman was anticipated to be the next Thierry Henry.

He possessed electric pace with silky dribbling and expert ball control. This was combined with strong finishing to make the young striker an exciting prospect.

In his first game, he lit up Old Trafford with a smooth run to take it past Martin Skrtel before firing in the bottom corner. Subsequently, Martial scored 11 league goals assisting four in 31 games.

In his second season, upon the arrival of Ibrahimovic, the former Monaco striker was forced out onto the left wing. As a result, the Frenchman’s goals dried up with him only managing 4 goals and 6 assists in the league.

Martial remained mostly out on the left until the arrival of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who began to use him in his natural striker position again. Thus, in the 2019/20 season, Martial scored 17 league goals assisting seven. This sparked the feeling that the French international could continue to grow into a United great. However, in the following season, Martial only managed to score four goals assisting six in 22 games.

In the 2021/22 summer transfer window, United signed Cristiano Ronaldo. Subsequently, Martial struggled for minutes, so was sent on loan to Sevilla. This loan proved unsuccessful with him failing to score for the Spanish side.

Therefore, despite a couple promising seasons, Martial has failed to be consistently good enough to hold down the centre forward position, which questions his chances of being United’s best striker since Ferguson.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo signed from Juventus in the summer of 2021/22 for around £15m. The Portuguese forward returned to the club in the hopes of bringing success back after years without trophies.

Aspirations were through the roof with the legendary players return, in the belief that he could be the man to win United their 21st league title.

In his first season, Ronaldo scored 18 league goals assisting three in 30 league games. Furthermore, in the Champions League, Ronaldo was pivotal in keeping United’s hopes alive with last minute winners against Atalanta and Villareal.

However, at 37-years of age, Ronaldo’s decline was inevitable, and so in his second season at the club, his form gradually declined before he was released due to internal matters.

Thus, despite his stellar career, in his second spell, Ronaldo only managed to perform for one season which hinders his ability to be United’s best ever striker.


Therefore, Ronaldo, Martial, Ibrahimovic and Van Persie were good strikers for United, each providing differing qualities.

However, their inability to continue their form over several seasons consistently was their fundamental downfall.

Whereas, although Rooney peaked under Ferguson, he still consistently provided for United over several seasons, offering the right attitude, great linkup play and strong finishing.

Thus, Rooney is Manchester United’s best striker since Sir A.