Cristiano Ronaldo may be back at Manchester United and once again among the goals, but some are still wondering whether CR7 has a future under Ralf Rangnick.
But while the specifics of a system that effectively utilizes the Portuguese hotshot’s prolific abilities in front of goal is for the next Manchester United manager to worry about, one thing that can’t be denied is that Ronaldo remains in tip-top condition.
And while 36 is a ripe old age in footballing terms, there has been plenty of proof already that there is life in the old boy yet. In fact, the history of the Premier League is littered with examples of veteran players defying their advancing years to star in the English top-flight beyond the age of 35.
From Sam Allardyce pet projects to Sir Alex Ferguson cast-offs, here are 10 players who aged like a fine pint of wine in the Premier League.
1. Fernando Hierro - Bolton Wanderers
Allardyce had a knack for getting the best out of players who appeared past their best at Bolton as Jay-Jay Okocha and Youri Djorkaeff can attest. A three-time Champions League winner, Hierro was 36 by the time he rocked up in 2004 following a season in semi-retirement with Al-Rayyan in Qatar.
Deployed at centre back or as a defensive midfielder, the Spaniard made 28 Premier League appearances, including 15 starts, with his experience and superb passing range helping Bolton to a sixth placed finish.
Despite earning rave reviews, Hierro opted to retire on a high after just one season.
2. Glenn Murray - Brighton and Hove Albion
Murray struggled for goals in the Premier League with Crystal Palace and Bournemouth earlier in his career but enjoyed an Indian summer at Brighton having spearheaded the Seagulls’ promotion.
Murray turned 35 in 2018. That year he netted 12 times in the Premier League making him the league’s third most prolific Englishman behind Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane and prompting calls for an international call-up. Though no England caps were forthcoming, the goals continued to flow with Murray hitting double figures in the top flight for two seasons running before dropping down to the Championship and retiring earlier this year.
3. Les Ferdinand - Leicester City
Ferdinand was the ripe old age of 37 when he signed for newly-promoted Leicester on a free transfer in 2003.
The club’s oldest ever debutant at the time, Ferdinand made an immediate impact on his first outing for the Foxes, winning a penalty and scoring a goal in a 2-2 draw with Southampton. Though Leicester were relegated after a difficult season beset by financial issues, Ferdinand was exemplary, even postponing a knee operation to help the club’s cause.
His tally of 12 Premier League goals made him the club’s top scorer while he was crowned Leicester’s Player’s Player of the Year.
4. Teddy Sheringham - Tottenham
Sheringham had just become the oldest recipient of the PFA Player of the Year Award at Manchester United in 2001, aged 35, when he decided to return to former club Spurs the following summer.
Ignoring a last-ditch plea from Ferguson to remain at Old Trafford, Sheringham was tempted back by the promise of first-team football, convinced he was still worthy of a starting place in any team. 10 Premier League goals coupled with a starring role in a 5-1 League Cup demolition of Chelsea suggested he was right. Another 12 league goals followed a year later before Sheringham headed to Harry Redknapp’s Portsmouth.
5. Tugay Kerimoglu - Blackburn Rovers
Tugay was already a cult hero at Ewood Park by the time he turned 35, operating as something akin to a Turkish Socrates in that he was often the best player on the pitch despite his 20-a-day smoking habit. The Turk was never one for doing things by halves either with almost every one of his 13 goals for Blackburn being an absolute screamer.
Yet arguably his best came in his final few years at the club including a rasping volley from the edge of the area against Tottenham when he was 36, and another belter against Reading a year later.
6. Gary Speed - Bolton Wanderers
Speed arrived at Bolton just a few weeks shy of his 35th birthday with Allardyce convincing the Trotters to pay £750,000 for the veteran Welshman’s services.
It proved to be money well spent with Speed quickly establishing himself as a mainstay of the Bolton midfield, playing more than 30 times in the Premier League over the next three seasons with Wanderers twice qualifying for the UEFA Cup during that time.
A tally of eight goals over the courts of the 2006/07 campaign saw him finish second behind only Nicolas Anelka in the Bolton scoring charts. He was 37.
7. Zlatan Ibrahimovic - Manchester United
After four seasons with PSG, some questioned whether a veteran Ibrahimovic was still up to the challenge of the Premier League.
Not Zlatan, of course, who confidently declared he would become a “God of Manchester.” Hyperbole aside, Ibrahimovic lived up to the billing, scoring the winner in the Community Shield and on his Premier League debut. By February he had racked up 15 Premier League goals, becoming the oldest player to do so at the age of 35 years and 125 days.
Sidelined for the final few weeks with injury, he still helped United win the EFL Cup and Europa League.
8. Gary McAllister - Liverpool
Gerard Houllier described the Bosman signing of the 35-year-old McAllister as his “most inspirational signing.” It’s difficult to disagree.
Despite being sent off on his full debut against Arsenal, the Scot’s enduring class and experience proved key in helping Liverpool win an unprecedented treble of the League Cup, FA Cup and UEFA Cup, with Super Mac earning the Man of the Match award in the latter.
His greatest moment came in the Premier League though, courtesy of a superb 94th minute free kick winner against Everton from 44-yards out that proved crucial in helping Liverpool qualify for the Champions League.
9. Gordon Strachan - Leeds United
Manchester United fans may mock Leeds for selling them Eric Cantona but the same could be said of Strachan.
Despite being the wrong side of 30 upon arrival in 1989, Strachan proved instrumental in getting Leeds back into the top flight in 1990. By 1992, he was captaining them to the old first division title. Though the club struggled in the inaugural season of the Premier League, Strachan dazzled, winning the club’s Player of the Year Award after a campaign that included a hat-trick against Blackburn.
He started another 37 games a season later as Leeds finished fifth. He was 37.
10. Ryan Giggs - Manchester United
A stellar 22-season career at the very top of the game, Giggs’ 963 appearances for Manchester United is a record that will most likely never be surpassed. Though fans may look back most fondly on memories of him as a precocious young winger, arguably his more impressive feats came in his later years.
Having evolved into a more creative central midfield force after his pace began to wane, Giggs was 35 when he won a second Premier League and Champions League double with the Red Devils and a year later, aged 36, was even named the PFA Player of the Year.
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