Ranking Man Utd’s teenage signings over the last decade…

Date published: Thursday 7th June 2018 11:26

Includes teenagers bought for United’s first team since summer 2008…


8) Adem Ljajic
The Serbian midfielder, then 17, was pictured with Sir Alex Ferguson, holding up the United shirt alongside fellow new arrival Zoran Tosic (20) in January 2009. Tosic would join United from Partizan Belgrade immediately, while Ljajic would return to Serbia for a year before moving in 2010.

While Tosic flopped, at least he got to complete his move. The following year, United pulled out of the agreement for Ljajic, with Partizan claiming it was because of a “financial crisis” at Old Trafford just prior to the green and gold protests against the Glazer family ownership. United put it down to work permit problems, while it was also claimed that the club had simply decided Ljajic wasn’t as good as they initially thought.


7) Angelo Henriquez
United had watched the Chilean since he was a schoolboy before making a firm move in the summer of 2012 when Manchester City started sniffing around the 18-year-old. Henriquez arrived from Universidad de Chile for a fee that could have risen to £4million, but the striker failed to make a single first-team appearance.

Henriquez, though, did win the FA Cup as an unused sub for Wigan when they beat City in 2013 but he failed to convince during his loan spell there or at Real Zaragoza. He found the Croatian league more to his liking and joined Dynamo Zagreb permanently in 2015 after an initial loan stint.


6) Nick Powell
Sir Alex Ferguson signed the midfielder from Crewe in summer 2012, paying around £6million for the then-18-year-old. Powell netted on his Premier League debut early in 2012/13 but it was to be one of only three Premier League appearances for United during his four-year stay.

Powell is probably best remembered for being brought in from the cold by Louis van Gaal, coming off the bench to replace Juan Mata during a Champions League game at Wolfsburg which they had to win to qualify from the simplest of groups. Unsurprisingly, the midfielder – who had suffered severe hamstring problems and saw a loan at Leicester terminated prematurely because of his questionable commitment – failed to inspire United. He joined Wigan upon the expiry of his contract in 2016 and played a major role in the Latics’ promotion from League One last term.


5) Luke Shaw
One member of Jose Mourinho’s squad that the manager clearly does not trust, and the England defender looks set to be heading for the Old Trafford exit this summer. Many sympathise with Shaw because of the horror double leg break he suffered early in his second season when he appeared to be finding his feet at the club, a year after signing from Southampton for around £30million shortly before his 19th birthday – but Mourinho is not the only boss to publicly question Shaw’s credentials. Louis van Gaal and Roy Hodgson also had concerns about the left-back, who seems set to leave after managing just 38 Premier League starts in four seasons.


4) Rafael and Fabio da Silva
The twins agreed to join from Fluminense in 2007 but it was not until the summer of 2008 upon their 18th birthdays that they were allowed to represent United.

Rafael, the Gary to Fabio’s Phil, established himself as United’s first-choice right-back during Sir Alex Ferguson’s final season at Old Trafford before slipping out of favour – first under Moyes – before being sold to Lyon by Van Gaal.

Rafael made 169 appearances at Old Trafford, more than double the number his twin managed, with Fabio being sold to Cardiff 18 months before his brother was shown the door.


3) Anthony Martial
Everyone was astonished at the fee United paid in August 2015 for the then-19-year-old, with £36million reported to have been paid up front with add-ons taking the possible fee towards £58million. There were three further potential payments agreed: if Martial scored 25 United goals (he’s netted 36 in all competitions, 24 in the Premier League); if he makes 25 appearances for France (he’s currently on 18 and omitted from the World Cup squad); and if he is nominated for the Ballon d’Or while under contract with United.

So if Martial does quit United this summer, as he is expected – having failed to win the trust of Jose Mourinho after netting 13 Premier League goals in two seasons under the United boss – then anything over £45million would represent a profit.


2) Phil Jones
“Arguably, the way he is looking, he could be our best ever player,” said Ferguson two years after signing Jones as an 18-year-old from Blackburn in 2011 for £16.5million.

He probably won’t have his own statue next to the United Trinity outside Old Trafford when he retires, but nor does he deserve the somewhat calamitous reputation he has garnered. Injuries have certainly hampered his progress, as has his own versatility, but despite United constantly being told that they should upgrade the centre-half, he remains at United under his fourth manager and will pass 200 appearances for the club next season.


1) David de Gea
Seven years after they signed a waifish 19-year-old for £19million who could barely fill his own shirt, let alone Edwin van der Sar’s gloves, United now have the world’s best goalkeeper guarding their back door.

Ian Watson


More from Planet Sport

FEATURE: Ten times ball kids found themselves the centre of attention at tennis matches (Tennis365)

The 89 players in the World Cup sticker album not heading to Russia (Planet Football)

More Related Articles