The top seven all enjoyed their post-United success abroad, with an ex-England defender enjoying the best new lease of life. The lowest-ranked star isn’t so smug now…
During Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign, it used to be said that the only way was down after Manchester United. Which was probably true then. What about since Ferguson left?
Here’s how we’ve ranked those who moved on from Old Trafford in the post-Fergie years on they have fared after leaving United.
Only those who made 10 Premier League starts for the Red Devils are included, otherwise we would be here all day…
48) Paul Pogba (Juventus)
Pogba and Juve were full of themselves after the Old Lady signed the France star for free for a second time after his wasted years at Old Trafford finally came to an end last summer. Not so smug now, though, with Pogba having brought nothing but grief back to Turin. He’s been injured for most of his second spell in Italy and currently waiting for the outcome of a second doping test after failing the first.
47) Jesse Lingard (Nottingham Forest)
Went to Forest on a one-year deal last year on the assumption he’d tear it up and spark a clamour for his signature this summer. He didn’t and there wasn’t. Still looking for a club.
46) David De Gea (free agent)
Struggling to get a job – at least one that he fancies. There has been talk of early retirement if a decent offer isn’t forthcoming. Sad, really.
45) Adnan Januzaj (Real Sociedad)
The one-time wonderkid, Ryan Giggs’ supposed heir, has bobbled around Europe, playing in Germany, Spain, Turkey and Sunderland. Currently with Sevilla who are said to be desperate to get rid since he has just under three years remaining on a deal they foolishly offered last summer.
44) Anderson (Internacional)
After more than seven years at Old Trafford, in 2015, Anderson returned to Brazil with Internacional. He missed a penalty in his first match and, in his second in La Paz, he was subbed on 36 minutes and needed oxygen due to the altitude. He also collected two red cards in 50 total appearances before a brief spell in Turkey prompted the midfielder’s retirement aged 32.
43) Rio Ferdinand (QPR)
After 12 years at Old Trafford, Ferdinand signed for QPR where he managed only 12 appearances in a miserable season that ended the club’s stay in the Premier League and the player’s career.
42) Nemanja Vidic (Inter Milan)
Vidic left Old Trafford at the same time as his partner Rio Ferdinand and he endured a similar struggle away from Old Trafford. He conceded a penalty and was sent off on his debut for Inter and things got little better during a season and half in Milan before the Serbia defender retired when his contract was cancelled by mutual consent in 2016.
41) Morgan Schneiderlin (Everton)
Never rediscovered the form that got him his move to United in the first place. The Red Devils were grateful when Everton, for some reason, offered them most of their money back, which proved to be another wrong move on the Toffees’ part. Since Everton, Schneiderlin has played for Nice and Western Sydney Wanderers, before leaving Konyaspor this summer just nine days after signing.
40) Daniel James (Leeds United)
Finally got his move to Leeds United, and subsequently Fulham on loan where James struggled. Now back at Leeds and playing regularly in the Championship, where he seems to have added an end product to all the running very fast.
39) Anders Lindegaard (West Brom)
The stand-in stopper never played another Premier League game, despite joining West Brom. After half a season at The Hawthorns, Lindegaard was off to Preston for a year and a half before two seasons in the shadows at Burnley. Got his gloves dirty again while finishing his career with Helsingborg.
38) Dean Henderson (Crystal Palace)
The former England goalkeeper seems to have swapped United’s bench for Palace’s, with Sam Johnstone in fine form. A strange move for Henderson and Palace, but perhaps a reflection of his desperation to get away from Old Trafford.
37) Edinson Cavani (Valencia)
Had his nose put out of joint by Ronaldo’s return so sought refuge, of sorts, in Valencia. After a rough year in Spain where he scored five goals, he was off again, at great personal expense, to sign for Boca Juniors.
36) Axel Tuanzebe (Ipswich)
Once earmarked as a future captain but failed to make the breakthrough, though injuries didn’t help. Still getting his feet under the table at Ipswich after joining on a free.
35) Paddy McNair (Sunderland)
Very much at home in the Championship, first with Sunderland and now with Boro.
34) Tom Cleverley (Everton)
The 13-cap England midfielder struggled at Everton – doesn’t everyone – before finding his home at Watford. Cleverley played more than half of the Hornets’ Premier League games only once in five seasons, with his most productive campaign coming in the Championship in 2020/21.
33) Nani (Fenerbahce)
Joined Fenerbahce at the same time as Robin van Persie but lasted only a season setting off to travel the world, taking in Spain (Valencia), Italy (Lazio and Venezia), Portugal (Sporting), USA (Orlando City) and Australia (Melbourne Victory). No shame in that.
32) Marcos Rojo (Boca Juniors)
Mad Marcos eventually left in 2021 having not made a single appearance since December 2019. Moved to Argentina where his particular brand of defending is better suited but has, again, been sidelined through injury.
31) Bastian Schweinsteiger (Chicago Fire)
A quick check reveals that Schweinsteiger played more games and spent longer with Chicago Fire than we first thought. But the former Bayern Munich skipper stopped being a serious footballer during his time at United.
30) Eric Bailly (Besiktas)
Currently keeping a lid on the crazy while finding his feet in Turkey. Give it time…
29) Fred (Fenerbahce)
Started every game for Fenerbahce since leaving United in the summer. Without being snide, the Brazilian has probably found his level.
28) Romelu Lukaku (Inter Milan)
It’s been hard to keep up with Lukaku since he left United in 2019. He was brilliant for Inter; awful for Chelsea; meh for Inter again; and now making a reasonable fist of things at Roma. A post-United success? Two fine seasons, one iffy, and an absolute shocker back in the Premier League.
27) Anthony Elanga (Nottingham Forest)
Earned his breakthrough at United because he listened to Ralf Rangnick when everyone else ignored him. Always likely to be squeezed out when United got serious and currently spending most of his time on the Forest bench.
26) Marouane Fellaini (Shandong Luneng)
Fellaini is closing in on five years in China, in which time we’ve heard almost nothing of the big-haired Belgian. Which is probably just the way he likes it.
25) Shinji Kagawa (Borussia Dortmund)
Shinji was freed in 2014 when he returned to Dortmund, where he was much more at home, for four seasons. From there, it was off to Turkey (Besiktas), Spain (Real Zaragoza), Greece (PAOK) and Belgium (Sint-Truiden) before returning home to Japan this year with Cerezo Osaka.
24) Robin van Persie (Fenerbahce)
Took off for Turkey with Nani and spent three seasons at Fenerbahce before winding down with a season and a half back where it all began for Van Persie at Feyenoord.
23) Rafael (Lyon)
Arguably sold too soon, with Lyon benefitting from United’s haste. After five seasons in France, the better Da Silva twin had a season with Istanbul Basaksehir before returning to Brazil with Botafogo.
22) Memphis Depay (Lyon)
The fear was Depay would eventually prove United wrong but though he did great for Lyon, okay for Barcelona, and he’s playing well for Atletico, there are few regrets about selling the Dutchman.
21) Javier Hernandez (Bayer Leverkusen)
A productive spell at Bayer Leverkusen earned the Mexican a return to the Premier League with West Ham as their record signing, which was rather less productive. Worse still was a half-season stint at Sevilla before LA Galaxy made him the highest-paid player in MLS in January 2020.
20) Antonio Valencia (LDU Quito)
The ex-United captain was easing into retirement with his return to Ecuador after leaving Old Trafford in 2019. Still he squeezed in a Copa Ecuador triumph and a quick stint in Mexico before hanging up his boots.
19) Cristiano Ronaldo (free-agent)
Getting in to bed with the Saudis has certainly made Ronaldo even richer but he had little choice when the Champions League clubs he wanted wouldn’t look at him.
18) Alex Telles (Al-Nassr)
Getting paid, and that’s all that really matters.
17) Wayne Rooney (Everton)
Got his wish to return to Everton, where he played an underwhelming season before heading off to Washington to do some ridiculous things for DC United. Squeezed in a quick, weird stint at Derby before the boots went back on the peg and he focused on management.
16) Nemanja Matic (Roma)
Reunited again with Jose Mourinho upon leaving United as a free agent and established himself as a key player, making 50 appearances for the Europa League finalists. But Matic was on his way again after a year, to Rennes, amid a fall-out with Mourinho.
15) Juan Mata (Galatasaray)
Lovely Juan went to Turkey, had a lovely year in Istanbul where he won a title, and moved on to Japan this summer. Lovely.
14) Danny Welbeck (Arsenal)
The England striker was sold to Arsenal in 2014 and he spent five injury-plagued years at the Emirates, in which time he was more popular than useful. Then followed a spell with Watford that we had entirely forgotten before Brighton came in and sprinkled their magic on the 32-year-old.
13) Alexis Sanchez (Inter Milan)
A disaster of a signing for United, but Sanchez fared better at Inter, winning a Serie A title and Coppa Italia scoring 20 goals in 109 appearances before heading off to Marseille. He did pretty well in France too, bagging 18 goals, before returning for another stint at Inter this summer.
12) Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Arsenal)
The Armenian fared little better at Arsenal than he did at United. From the Emirates, it was off to Italy, where Mkhitaryan has seemed far more comfortable, first with Roma, then Inter where he continues to be a key player for the Nerazzurri.
11) Darren Fletcher (West Brom)
The Scotland midfielder fought back from ulcerative colitis to become West Brom captain and play a part in every Premier League game over two seasons up to 2017 when he joined Stoke where he completed a run of 100 consecutive league starts. After retiring, he returned to United as a coach and is currently technical director.
10) Andreas Pereira (Fulham)
The Brazilian Cleverley is proving to be much more than that at Fulham, pulling strings for the Cottagers and thriving in the trust of Marco Silva.
9) Matteo Darmian (Parma)
A fine first month was as good as it got in four seasons at United. A switch to Parma saw Darmian re-establish his credentials in Serie A before Inter came for him in 2020 and he’s been a regular there ever since.
8) Jonny Evans (West Brom)
Should not have been allowed to leave United, initially for West Brom, then Leicester where he won an FA Cup. Now, surprisingly, back at Old Trafford and making a decent fist of his unexpected opportunity.
7) Patrice Evra (Juventus)
Evra says he left United because his then-wife ‘found it difficult to live in Manchester’ so it was off to Turin where the left-back won two Serie A and Coppa Italia doubles while reaching the 2015 Champions League final. A year at Marseille ended when he kicked a fan in the head, before a brief, entirely-forgettable stint at West Ham.
6) Ashley Young (Inter Milan)
It was expected that Young would wind down after leaving United but instead, he went to Inter Milan and won a Serie A title, becoming only the third Englishman to do so. Returned to Aston Villa as a 36-year-old in 2021 and still going strong for Everton aged 38.
5) Daley Blind (Ajax)
Returned to Ajax for four years, captaining the side, adding three more Eredivisie titles to the four he already had, prior to a half-season stint at Bayern Munich, winning a Bundesliga title there. Now living in Catalonia while doing bits for Girona.
4) Zlatan Ibrahimović (Los Angeles Galaxy)
The perception around his move to MLS was that Ibra was easing into retirement but not Zlatan. He scored a ridiculous 56 goals in 52 appearances for LA Galaxy before returning to Italy for four seasons, winning another Serie A title.
3) Angel Di María (Paris Saint-Germain)
Getting most of United’s money back for Di Maria was perhaps one of Ed Woodward’s finest achievements. The Argentinian flop was much more at home in Paris, playing seven seasons at PSG, winning six Ligue 1 titles. Now at Benfica after a year with Juventus.
2) Ander Herrera (Paris Saint-Germain)
Joined PSG for free with a hefty pay-rise in 2019 after which Herrera made 95 appearances, winning two Ligue 1 titles, two Coupes de France, one Coupe de la Ligue and two Trophees des Champions. The midfielder talks of regrets over how he left Old Trafford but he certainly made the most of his time in Paris and is now back at his home town club Athletic Bilbao.
1) Chris Smalling (Roma)
Smalling’s decline at Old Trafford was odd – he was outstanding for Louis van Gaal – so it was no great surprise to see him thrive when he went to Roma. Seems to love life in Italy and now into his fifth season with European honours on his CV. His form briefly prompted talk of an England return.