Rating the nine best Manchester United debutants of the Premier League era

After almost six months of speculation and failed transfer attempts, Bruno Fernandes is finally a Manchester United player. 

Having been forced to wait this long to see their top-target don the colours of their team, however, it appears United fans won’t have to wait much longer to see his debut – with Fernandes set to make his Manchester United and Old Trafford bow v Wolves on Saturday afternoon. 

With the weight of expectation already looming large over the talismanic Portuguese midfield maestro, many Red Devils supporters are hoping any early nerves can be put to bed immediately with an impressive debut in English football. 

Whilst Fernandes’ fate, both against Wolves and for his United career as a whole, hangs in the balance, we’ve taken a look back at the nine most impressive United debuts from the Premier League era – and ranked each of their careers that followed out of ten. 

Ruud van Nistelrooy

Starting with a man who will need no introduction for any fan of the Premier League in the last 20 years, Ruud van Nistelrooy certainly gave fans a taste of what was to come from minute one of his United career.

Scoring against Liverpool in a controversial 2-1 Charity Shield loss on his official United debut, Van Nistelrooy set about repaying his then-lofty £18.5 million price tag with another two goals on his Premier League debut against Fulham just one week later. 

Going on to bag an incredible 150 goals for the club in just 219 appearances, the Dutchman firmly cemented himself as an Old Trafford icon in just his five years at the club, before leaving for Real Madrid in the summer of 2006.

United Career Rating – 8/10

Anthony Martial

Another man who made his United bow vs Liverpool – albeit this time with a very different outcome – little was known about Anthony Martial prior to his £36 million move to Manchester in September of 2015.

The talented Frenchman soon had the attention of the media, however, after coming off the bench in the 65th minute and scoring a spectacular solo goal to extend United’s lead to 3-1. 

Two more goals followed just eight days later on his full debut, and a further 57 have come in the five years to follow – although his debut season tally of 17 remains his best to date.

As frustrating at times as he is spectacular in others, very few can argue that Martial possesses the potential to be one of the best in the business – but at 24 years of age, the time might fast be approaching when potential needs to be turned into consistency. 

United Career Rating – 6/10

Alexander Büttner

An athletic and attacking full back, with all of the tools needed to succeed in the modern game, Büttner seemed a shrewd purchase when he left Vitesse to join United in the summer of 2012.

Being made to wait over a month for his debut, the energetic Dutchman certainly took his chance with both hands when it came, assisting the second goal and scoring the third in a 4-0 rout of Wigan in front of the Old Trafford faithful. 

A rare debut man of the match award followed, but unfortunately the same could not be said of further game time – with only 12 further Premier League appearances coming over the next two seasons, before a sale to Dynamo Moscow. 

Büttner has since played for Anderlecht, and his first professional club Vitesse once again, before moving to New England Revolution in the MLS in November. 

United Career Rating – 2/10

Marcus Rashford

United’s current golden boy, and heir apparent to Cristiano Ronaldo’s long-vacant throne, who could forget Marcus Rashford’s introduction to life at Manchester United?

Thrown into first-team action in a Europa League tie against FC Midtjylland, following an injury to Martial in the warm up, an 18-year-old Rashford scored twice for United – becoming their youngest ever scorer in European football in the process. 

If one breathtaking debut wasn’t enough for his doubters however, the Wythenshawe-born striker made his Premier League debut just three days later against Arsenal, and once again scored twice, assisting the third, in a memorable 3-2 win. 

Five years on from his stunning breakthrough season, Rashford has scored 64 goals in total for the Red Devils, including 19 in just 31 appearances this season.

Rewarded with a new four-year contract in July of 2019, the future is looking bright for both United and England, with Rashford getting better and better with every year that passes. 

United Career Rating – 8/10

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

From United’s current star man, to the manager who is currently ‘at the wheel’, Solskjaer’s move to Manchester in 1996 left more than a few fans scratching their head. 

After being heavily linked to £15 million man Alan Shearer for most of the previous year, United instead opted for the completely unknown Norwegian poacher, although fans weren’t left questioning the move for too long.

Scoring just six minutes into his United debut, having come on for David May in the 64th minute vs Blackburn Rovers, ‘The Baby-faced Assassin’ also scored on his full debut the following month, a 4-1 win at home to Nottingham Forest.

A total of 126 goals were to come across his ten years at the club, including perhaps the most iconic in their history – the 93rd minute winner against Bayern Munich in their 1999 Champions League final, sealing their historic Treble. 

A United legend, and one of the biggest bargains in Premier League history. 

United Career Rating – 9/10

Federico Macheda

The 2008 title race will live long in the memory for many fans, as a full strength Liverpool, Chelsea, and Manchester United went toe-to-toe for the title, heading into the final few months of the season. 

With United eventually only claiming the crown by four points – achieving 90 to Liverpool’s 86 – every point mattered, and it seemed Fergie’s Reds had let three slip through their fingers against Aston Villa in April, as they entered the final third of the game 2-1 down. 

Enter Federico Macheda. 

The 17-year-old entered the fray alongside Portuguese winger Nani, and watched as Cristiano Ronaldo dragged his side level, entering into the final ten minutes. 

Macheda left it later still, however, to make his own mark, pulling off a stunning turn and beautiful curled finish from the edge of the area in the 93rd minute to send United fans delirious. 

Unfortunately for the talented Italian, things never really clicked at United thereafter, with the now 28-year-old plying his trade for Greek side Panathinaikos. 

United Career Rating – 3/10

Cristiano Ronaldo

Talking of the Portuguese superstar, it would be rude to continue this list without mentioning the global phenomenon that is Cristiano Ronaldo. 

A rarity on this list, not only for the historic career the winger-turned lethal goalscorer has had in the ensuing years since his debut, but also for the fact he didn’t actually make a goal-scoring start to life. 

Receiving a standing ovation as he took to the field in a 4-0 win over Bolton in August of 2003 – having become the most expensive teenager in English footballing history – Ronaldo stole the limelight immediately. 

Flashy trick after flashy trick left fans drooling over his ability and potential, whilst United legend George Best labelled it ‘undoubtedly the most exciting debut’ he had ever seen. 

118 goals for the Reds in his eight years ranked amongst the most of any winger in their history, but it was as much as an embodiment of United’s dominance and excitement in the Premier League and Europe under Fergie, that Ronaldo will be remembered for, as his goal scoring prowess. 

United Career Rating – 9/10

Wayne Rooney

The man to steal Ronaldo’s crown of the most expensive teenager – this time in the world – expectations and excitement were at an all time high when an 18-year-old Rooney left his boyhood club Everton for Manchester United in August of 2004. 

Already labelled as perhaps one of the best young players in English history, Rooney wasted no time in hammering home his staggering ability – bagging a hat-trick and as assist in United’s 6-2 win over Fenerbahce in the Champions League, on his first ever appearance for the club. 

Little can be said that hasn’t been already of the 250 further goals that were to follow for one of England’s and United’s best ever players, and a man who truly achieved it all across his 12 years in Manchester. 

United and England’s all time top goal scorer, a five-time Premier League winner, Champions League and Europa league champion, former European Golden Boy, and winner of the best goal scored in Premier League history – thanks to his stunning overhead kick Manchester derby winner in 2011. 

Take a bow, Wayne Rooney. 

United Career Rating – 9/10

Paul Scholes

Who could possibly follow on from one of the club’s greatest ever players, and bring an end to our countdown of the greatest United debuts?

Making his debut vs Port Vale in the League Cup, a 19-year-old Scholes scored both goals in his side’s 2-1 win, before also scoring on his Premier League debut against Ipswich just three days later – this time in a 3-2 loss. 

A fan favourite from day one, and the perfect embodiment of everything that the club has stood for in recent years, there is perhaps no more popular player in United’s history than the man whom Zinedine Zidane labelled ‘the best player of his generation’.

In the great Xavi’s words, the ‘best central midfielder’ he had seen in 20 years, Scholes would make 718 appearance for the club across his two stints, claiming an astonishing 11 Premier League titles along the way. 

There’s only one Paul Scholes.

United Career Rating – 10/10

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