Manchester United use the language of divine mystery to celebrate the partnership of George Best, Denis Law and Bobby Charlton, who helped propel the club to European Cup success in 1968, ten years after the Munich Air Disaster. They each won the Ballon d'Or (Law in 1964, Charlton in 1966 and Best in 1968) and are the core part of a narrative of phoenix-like resurrection which saw United become world football's most famous club. Forty years after becoming the first club to win the European Cup, a statue to commemorate the 'Holy Trinity' was unveiled outside Old Trafford (in the same year Cristiano Ronaldo became the fourth United player to win the Ballon d'Or).
After 1968 the club fell into decline and were already relegated when Denis Law (now playing for local rivals City) scored his famous backheeled goal on the last day of the 1973-74 season. Promoted the following season, they won the FA Cup in 1977, 1983 and 1985 before beginning their long march with Alex Ferguson in 1986. Winning the FA Cup again in 1990 provided breathing space as did European Cup Winners' Cup in 1991 with an all British-and-Irish team but by the time the first Premier League season got underway in 1992, United had gone 25 years without a league title.
United had dominated the first five seasons of the FA Youth Cup in the same way Real Madrid did with the first five seasons of the European Cup. The team that won the competition five times between 1953 and 1957 went on to become the 'Busby Babes': Duncan Edwards in 1953, Charlton and Edwards in 1954 and 1955, Charlton in 1956. In 1992 a team featuring Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, David Beckham and Nicky Butt won the competition again. The following year Giggs was absent from the team which lost in the final to Leeds but Neville, Beckham and Butt were joined by Gary's younger brother Phil and Paul Scholes. Just as Charlton and Edwards had become part of the 'Busby Babes,' these six would become part of the rather more awkward-sounding 'Fergie's Fledglings.'
Ryan Giggs made his debut in March 1991, Gary Neville made his in September 1992 and Paul Scholes made his in September 1994. They now make up three of the top five United players in terms of games played. At the time of writing, Giggs is first with 910 appearances, Scholes third with 699 and Neville fifth with 602. Longevity alone makes them worthy successors to the original 'Trinity.' All three have shown the loyalty of local lads playing for the club they grew up supporting (Giggs from Swinton, Neville from Bury and Scholes from Middleton). Throughout the years, they have provided the core for star players such as Cantona, Keane, Beckham, Rooney and Ronaldo to work around. But what marks them out is their success.
In 1976 Liverpool became the most successful club in England outright, with nine league titles to Arsenal's eight. They went on to win nine more titles over the next fifteen years. When United won their eighth league title in 1993, Liverpool fans waved a banner: 'Come back when you've won 18." The incredible thing is that this team, with such important contributions from Neville, Giggs and Scholes, did just that and in 2011 United won their 19th league title.
Gary Neville never enjoyed such heroic moments as Ryan Giggs' winner against Arsenal in the 1999 FA Cup semi-final or Paul Scholes' winner against Barcelona in the 2008 Champions League semi-final. He would never have won the Ballon d'Or but throughout his career he did show the tenacity to become one of the best players in his position. Charlton, Law and Best make up three of the top five United scorers of all time but Charlton won 3 league titles, whilst Law and Best won two. Giggs has won 12 and Scholes has won 10 so far. Neville won 8. Loyalty, longevity but above all success - this is what makes United's modern trinity more-than worthy successors to the originals.