He quickly became known for his goalscoring prowess, however, netting 118 times in 292 games while lifting three Premier League titles and the 2007-8 Champions League.
That form has seen him honoured by United supporters, who chose him ahead of Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, the club's official website revealed on Friday.
Wayne Rooney may have lost out in the fight to be named best player, but the striker was honoured for scoring the best goal of United's first 1000 Premier League games.
Rooney's overhead kick in a Manchester derby against City in 2010-11 prevailed ahead of goals from Ronaldo and Van Persie.
Another derby thriller, a 4-3 win over City in 2008-9, was chosen as the best game, while David de Gea took the honours for best save.