The seven players Manchester United signed from the Football League

  • Kat Lucas

Nobody is quite sure when the transfer window will open this summer, but that hasn't put a brake on Manchester United's interest in Jude Bellingham. 

The 16-year-old prodigy has evidently done enough at Birmingham City to convince Ole Gunnar Solskjaer he'll be worth the gamble. 

It is indeed a considerable punt to sign any player from the lower leagues and unsurprisingly, given the massive resources at their disposal, it's a tactic to which United have rarely resorted. 

The Red Devils' academy is usually their go-to source for the unproven and uncertain, but there have been occasions when they've delved into the Championship and beyond.  

On just seven occasions in the Premier League era, United have tasked players registered in the lower leagues with making the step up to the top flight. 

Thanks to Planet Football, we've been able to reminisce about how all those signings got on. 

Wilfried Zaha

Sir Alex Ferguson didn't get many players wrong. Unfortunately, Zaha was one of them, even though he was loaned straight back out to Crystal Palace and didn't make his debut until David Moyes was at the club. What followed was disappointing. The winger made just four senior appearances for the club and was ultimately loaned out to Cardiff, before returning to Selhurst Park. 

That's not to say Zaha wasn't cut out for the Premier League, though. Since re-joining Crystal Palace, he's re-established himself as their most important player. He felt he was never really given a chance by Moyes to show what he could do. 

Kitchee FC v Manchester United

Lee Grant 

Grant, now 37, was never going to make the first team ahead of David de Gea and Sergio Romero but he was snapped up in 2018 as soon as Stoke City were relegated.

Bizarrely, Jose Mourinho saw him not as a mere squad player, but as a vital ingredient to his Rondos in training, putting the stopper in the middle - the one player who didn't need to learn how to press. 


Andy Kellett

United fans could be forgiven for forgetting about Kellett's appearances for the under-21s. Signed on loan from Bolton Wanderers in January 2015, the defender-turned-midfielder ended up back at Bolton soon after, before joining Wigan, Notts County, and now playing for Alfreton Town.

Aged just 21 at the time he arrived at Old Trafford, he initially thought his offer from United was a wind-up. 


Tomasz Kuszczak

Another goalkeeper signed from a relegated Premier League side, this time it was West Brom who handed over their number one in 2006. Kuszczak spent five years with United as back-up to Edwin van der Sar.

The Poland international made 32 appearances for the first team but cut a much happier figure once he was playing regular first team football elsewhere. 

Fulham v Manchester United - Premier League

Michael Owen

Owen's signing was worth it just for that injury-time (well, more than injury-time...Fergie time) winner in the derby against Manchester City. It also infuriated fans of his former club, Liverpool. Aside from that, the former England striker wasn't really a hit after signing from relegated Newcastle United, managing just five league goals in three years. 

Manchester United's Michael Owen celebra

Reece James

Not to be confused with Chelsea's up-and-coming full-back, of course. James moved across Lancashire from Preston and was very impressive for United's reserves. That convinced Louis van Gaal to take him with the first team on his first pre-season tour as manager, but the defender only went on to play one competitive game: that infamous 4-0 defeat to MK Dons in the League Cup. 

Blackburn U21 v Manchester United U21 - Barclays U21 Premier League

Nick Powell 

Powell's signing was met with a suitable amount of fanfare. Crewe stood to gain up to £6m from the deal dependent on add-ons. While we were spared the finer details, it's safe to assume many of those bonuses never materialised as the youngster scored one goal, played three games and was sent out on loan three times before being released in 2016. 


Bellingham doesn't have an awful lot to live up to, if truth be told. 

It'll still be fascinating to see whether the teenager's move does materialise when the transfer window opens, and whether Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is able to transform him from a Championship star into a player worthy of the famous red jersey. 

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