We all know that Sir Alex Ferguson has unearthed some incredible talent in the transfer market, however he’s signed some flops, and he’s missed out on some of the world’s best players such as Paul Gascoigne and Ronaldinho.
But what about the players who left Old Trafford and are still playing? What could the Red Devils first team look like if they had never left? Let’s take a look.
Goalkeeper: Tim Howard (Everton)
The USA international never really got his career off the ground at Old Trafford. After a stunning debut in the Charity Shield (as it was then known) against Arsenal and a great first season in which he was named in the PFA Best XI, Howard fell victim to some crucial errors against the likes of Porto.
The starting berth was passed between Howard and Roy Carroll before the former left for Everton after United signed Edwin van der Sar. Since then Howard has gone from strength to strength and is one of the Premiership’s finest stoppers.
Defence: Ryan Shawcross (Stoke City)
Shawcross was perhaps released too soon from his Old Trafford career. Sir Alex Ferguson has said himself that he believes Shawcross left too soon and wishes he’d stayed to develop at the club.
He moved to Stoke in 2007 after failing to make an appearance for United, but since then he’s developed into one of England’s finest centre halves. He loves a strong tackle and with Vidic and Ferdinand coming up to retirement, Fergie could make a move to bring the once capped England star back.
Defence: John O’Shea (Sunderland)
Mr versatility himself, John O’Shea enjoyed a lengthy career with the Red Devils. After coming through the youth ranks in 1999, O’Shea played an important role for United for twelve years including winning a host of medals.
He also had a tendency to pop up with crucial goals including a beautiful chip against Arsenal. Since joining Sunderland in 2011 he’s struggled for fitness but looks to be an important part of Paolo Dicanio’s squad moving forwards.
Defence: Gerard Pique (Barcelona)
Many people question just why Gerard Pique was allowed to leave Manchester United considering he’s gone on to become one of the world’s best defenders for both Barcelona and Spain, but the truth is he never really settled in Manchester.
He joined from the Barcelona academy in 2004 but made just 12 appearances before re-joining his boyhood club in 2008, going on to win trophies galore. Again with Vidic and Ferdinand reaching the twilight of their careers, perhaps Fergie would relish having a player like Pique in the ranks.
Midfield: Darron Gibson (Everton)
Darron Gibson never seemed to fit in amongst more illustrious teammates like Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs. Although Gibson boasts a quite stunning long range shot, his overall game never looked like it could fit in at the top level.
However, since moving to Everton in 2012 he’s started to find his feet and has produced some important goals for the Toffees.
Midfield: John Obi Mikel (Chelsea)
Technically, Chelsea’s Nigerian midfielder was once a United player. Having signed a contract to join Manchester United from Lyn Oslo, Mikel changed his mind and decided he wanted to sign for Chelsea. After a long transfer saga Chelsea offered to pay United £12million for the players services, which resolved the situation. In hindsight, perhaps £12million for a player who has split opinion at best seems like quite the deal for United.
Midfield: Ji-Sung Park (QPR)
Ji-Sung Park was a real fans favourite at Old Trafford. The South Korean was often Sir Alex Ferguson’s weapon of choice out wide for ‘big games’ due to his high defensive work-rate and ability to hassle opposition full-backs. The 32-year-old has struggled for form and fitness since moving to QPR, but he will always be fondly remembered for his seven year spell in Manchester amongst the Old Trafford faithful.
Midfield: Paul Pogba (Juventus)
Paul Pogba is still a somewhat a thorny issue for Manchester United fans. The talented young French midfielder is no stranger to controversy after seeing his transfer from Le Havre to Manchester United come under FIFA’s suspicion, but United were eventually cleared and the deal went through.
However, Pogba failed to make an impact at United having made just three appearances, although Sir Alex Ferguson often talked of a bright future for him. However, Pogba decided to leave when his contract expired and since joining Juventus in 2012 he’s produced some stunning goals and earned his way into the France squad at just 20 years of age. United could regret losing this player for years to come.
Striker: Carlos Tevez (Manchester City)
Another player who seems to court controversy, Tevez has suffered from tumultuous transfers throughout his time in England. His move to West Ham resulted in a large fine for the club, while his move to United also came under suspicion. Despite several years of high-quality, workhorse-like performances at Old Trafford it is unlikely he will ever be forgiven for moving to bitter rivals Manchester City, particularly after he helped them to the Premiership trophy last year.
Striker: Dimitar Berbatov (Fulham)
Dimitar Berbatov is arguably one of the most technically gifted footballers to don the United red. His silky skills and effortless movement were often a joy to watch but, unfortunately for Berbatov, when things didn’t work out it didn’t take the Old Trafford faithful long to lose patience with the Bulgarian.
Despite scoring 48 times in just 102 appearances at United following his £30.75million move from Spurs, including being the Premier League's top scorer in the 2010/2011 season, Berbatov’s days were numbered when he was left out of the 2011 Champions’ League Final squad. Since his move to Fulham this season he’s produced some of his better form, notching 13 goals for them.
Striker: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
To say that £80million now seems like a bargain for Real Madrid shows just how talented Cristiano Ronaldo really is. After joining United as a fresh-faced step-over merchant from Sporting Lisbon, Sir Alex Ferguson moulded him into arguably the world’s best player.
Power, pace, skill and technique are all attributes Ronaldo has in abundance, and his goal record at Madrid of 143 goals in 132 games speaks for itself. Despite the infamous ‘winker’ incident, the vast majority of United’s millions of fans would welcome the Portuguese maestro back in a heartbeat.
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