Departed Eric Bailly among ten players lucky to clock up 50 Manchester United appearances after Fergie

Ian Watson
Manchester United academy graduates Brandon Williams, Anthony Elanga and Adnan Januzaj.

Eric Bailly has finally left Manchester United – he figures in a list of players perhaps fortunate to have played for the Red Devils more than 50 times.

Playing once in United’s first team is a huge honour. Playing 50 times is an even more incredible milestone, all achieved by these lads, some of whom overachieved while doing so… 


Alex Telles – 50 appearances in all competitions
Luke Shaw bemoaned a lack of quality and urged the club to make new signings in September 2020. So United obliged and bought a new left-back…

Telles arrived from Porto and was expected to push Shaw. Which he absolutely did. The Brazilian’s arrival prompted the England star to pull his finger out and become one of United’s key players.

Shaw’s improvement was Telles’ most telling contribution during his Old Trafford career; he finally permanently left the club for Al Nassr in the summer of 2023 with 50 United appearances somehow under his belt.


Brandon Williams – 51 appearances
There were high hopes for Williams when he came through the same year group as Mason Greenwood. A tough, scrappy defender, Williams pushed Shaw and at one point seemed to surpass the England defender in the pecking order. Then his form and status fell off a cliff.

Williams went to Norwich in 2021/22 to establish his Premier League credentials and he got plenty of game time in a struggling side but convinced nobody. Since returning to Old Trafford, he made the bench only twice in the league, when United were struggling for numbers immediately after the World Cup. He featured for all of five minutes in a Carabao Cup tie in a season he’ll be remembered more than anything else for inhaling nitrous oxide near Carrington.

Now on loan in the Championship with Ipswich, which feels more like his level.


Anthony Elanga – 55 appearances
Elanga was one of the very few positive stories of 2021/22 for United. But it wasn’t hard to stand out in that particular field of turds…

The Sweden youngster amassed many of his 55 appearances primarily because he’s not a d*ck. When his team-mates were ignoring Ralf Rangnick and doing as they pleased, Elanga listened and did what he was told. That absolute minimum was enough to get the academy graduate in the first XI.

Still, half a century of appearances later, it’s hard to fathom what Elanga is – a winger or a striker? He could be both, but too often he looks neither, certainly not good enough in either position to cement a place in Ten Hag’s plans. Now at Nottingham Forest, where he could absolutely thrive.


Donny van der Beek – 60 appearances
Poor Donny. We’re just surprised he’s made the requisite appearances for inclusion on this list…

Admittedly the vast majority of his 60 appearances in a red shirt have come off the bench. In over three seasons at Old Trafford, he’s been trusted to start just six times in the Premier League.

It’s hard to believe that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was behind his signing since the ex-United boss appeared to have very little time for the £40million midfielder. It was hoped Ten Hag’s arrival would enhance his prospects but Van de Beek’s involvement didn’t improve greatly. And when he was given a few run-outs around the World Cup, he knacked his knee.


Adnan Januzaj – 63 appearances
In 2013/14 David Moyes and Januzaj were United’s two great hopes. It’s hard to decipher which flopped harder.

The manager was under-qualified for the job, we know that now. Many knew it then. But Januzaj had the natural talent to be a huge success for many years at Old Trafford. Or so it seemed. Perhaps his quality was amplified by the funk his team-mates fell into after Fergie walked out and left them with Moyes.

“We know we’ve got a really special talent, but we’ll keep his feet on the ground. He’s going to be a top, top player.” One out of three, Dave. Suggesting Januzaj ‘has characteristics of Johan Cruyff’ probably didn’t help with keeping him aground. Nor did Gary Neville: “I genuinely think this guy could be one of the best in the world.”

Maybe he would have been had he been minded to apply himself. Instead, he flopped on loan at Borussia Dortmund and Sunderland. It briefly looked like the penny might have dropped when he joined Real Sociedad after 63 United appearances, but apparently not. The 28-year-old is currently at Sevilla and might have no choice but to head to Saudi Arabia.


Dan James – 74 appearances
James hit a half century of Premier League appearances for United in two years at Old Trafford. But, nice lad though he was, he failed to convince Solskjaer that he was worthy of a regular place.

Similar to Elanga, being a good egg perhaps enhanced his opportunities beyond his talents. Being rapid helped too. But his subsequent struggles at Leeds United and Fulham suggest it wasn’t just the talent drain at Old Trafford that was responsible for James failing to hit the heights.

Dan James

Andreas Pereira – 75 appearances
Cards on the table, Pereira didn’t initially make the cut here. But Eric Bailly’s name had been scribbled twice and society demands that snarky lists like these come in 10s, not nines.

But Pereira is worth his place here, even if he is currently proving at Fulham that perhaps United were justified in keeping him around for as long as they did in the hope he would achieve his potential with them.

The Brazilian came through the ranks at Old Trafford and academy graduate status affords any young player more patience than a recruit. Or perhaps it used to. And Pereira was certainly given time. Eight seasons passed between his debut under Louis van Gaal and being sold in 2022. In that time, there were four loans and the odd spark – like Darron Gibson, he could obviously shoot, but United midfielders tend to need more in his locker.


Matteo Darmian – 92 appearances
It all started well for the Italian right-back. He was named United’s Player of the Month at the start of his first season after moving from Torino for £12million in 2015. But that was as good as it got for the bang-average defender.

He slipped down the pecking order over four seasons, playing 28, 18, eight and six games respectively under three different managers, none of whom seemed to much rate the Italian. It was a different story back in his homeland after moving to Inter from Parma.


Eric Bailly – 113 appearances 
Jose Mourinho’s first signing was still missed by some supporters at Old Trafford while he played out his loan spell at Marseille. Not because he was any good, but he was just daft enough to bring some levity when all United fans could do was laugh or cry.

Bailly simply couldn’t be trusted, either to remain fit, or to resist the temptation to do something mental. Good luck, Besiktas.

Marcos Rojo – 122 appearances
See Bailly, Eric.