Sunday 15 December 2019

Were Manchester United right to let go of these 11 youngsters?

Should Manchester United have kept these stars?
Should Manchester United have kept these stars?

Charlie Eccleshare

With Leicester City's Danny Drinkwater on course to emulate Gerard Pique and Paul Pogba in winning titles after leaving Old Trafford, Charlie Eccleshare looks at the club's lost generation

1. Robbie Savage

Left for Crewe in 1994 for free aged 19

MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 13: Robbie Savage of Manchester United looks on during a Youth game at Old Trafford on May 13, 1993 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Allsport/Getty Images)

Welsh midfielder carved out a niche for himself as the Premier League's irritant-in-chief at Leicester, Birmingham, Blackburn and Derby. A decent player, Savage picked up 39 international caps, and is now a pundit for BT Sport where if anything he's more annoying than he was as a player.

Verdict: No regrets in letting him leave

2. Keith Gillespie

Sold to Newcastle in 1995 for £1m aged 19

SHEFFIELD, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 08: Manchester United winger Keith Gillespie races away from John Sheridan of Sheffield Wednesday during an FA Premiership match between Sheffield Wednesday and Manchester United at Hillsbrough on October 8, 1994 in Sheffield, England. (Photo by Graham Chadwick/Allsport/Getty Images)

Moved to St James' Park as part of the deal that saw Andy Cole switch to Old Trafford, Gillespie went on to become a useful Premier League player. The Northern Irishman was part of the Newcastle squad that so nearly won the title in 1996, and then had spells at various clubs including Blackburn, Leicester and Sheffield United.

Verdict: United's right flank was subsequently occupied by David Beckham and then Cristiano Ronaldo, so fair to say Gillespie wasn't missed too much

3. Giuseppe Rossi

Sold to Villarreal in 2007 for undisclosed fee aged 20

Giuseppe Rossi

Was seen as a hugely exciting prospect, but allowed to leave in 2007 due to concerns over his injury record. Those worries proved to be well founded as Rossi's career has been blighted by injury since leaving Old Trafford. The Italian can be sensational on his day, and has looked excellent at times at both Villarreal and Fiorentina, but now finds himself on loan at Levante after suffering a series of serious knee injuries.

Verdict: Given injuries, right to let him go

4. Ryan Shawcross

Sold to Stoke City in 2008 for £1m aged 20


Impressive displays have made Shawcross a fans' favourite at Stoke, and club captain. The centre-back has also picked up a solitary England cap, and is being tipped for a move to a bigger team.

Verdict: United could do with Shawcross now

5. Gerard Pique

Sold to Barcelona in 2008 for £3.75m aged 21

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 29: Gerard Pique of Manchester United in action on his full Premiership debut during the Barclays Premiership match between Manchester United and West Ham United at Old Trafford on March 29, 2006 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Chris Coleman/Manchester United via Getty Images)

Since leaving United, Pique has won everything there is to win in the game, namely: One World Cup, one European Championships, three Champions Leagues, five La Ligas, three Copa del Rey, three European Super Cups, and three Club World Cups. Valued at around £50m now, United must wish they had held onto Pique. Though in Sir Alex Ferguson's defence, he had Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand as his centre-backs at the time.

Verdict: One of the ones that got away

6. Zoran Tosic

Sold to CSKA Moscow in 2010 for £7m aged 23

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 24: Zoran Tosic of Manchester United comes on as a substitute for Cristiano Ronaldo during the FA Cup sponsored by e.on Fourth Round match between Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford on January 24 2009 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)

Diminutive winger has gone on to be a success at CSKA Moscow, and lined up for the Russian side against United in the Champions League earlier this season. Tosic has scored 33 goals in his five-and-a-half seasons with CSKA and has picked up 70 caps for Serbia.

Verdict: Probably not quite at the level required at United

7. James Chester

Sold to Hull City in 2011 for £265k aged 21

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - APRIL 16: James Chester of Manchester United clashes with Robbie Threlfall and Stephen Darby of Liverpool during the FA Youth Cup Final first leg match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield on April 16 2007 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by John Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)

Consistent performances at Hull earned Chester an £8m move to West Brom last summer. Oddly though Tony Pulis has not fancied the defender since signing him, and Chester has made just four league performances this season.

Verdict: Not one that will be keeping Fergie up at night

8. Ravel Morrison

Sold to West Ham in 2012 for £600k aged 18

Former Manchester United starlet Ravel Morrison has signed for Sheffield United. Photo: John Peters/Man Utd via Getty Images

The man once described as "the best talent I've ever seen" by Sir Alex Ferguson has had a chequered career, marred by numerous off-the-field misdemeanours. Morrison's rap sheet includes being charged for witness intimidation, posting a homophobic threat on Twitter, and common assault. Morrison's serial indisicpline saw him leave United for West Ham in 2012 having made just three substitute appearances at Old Trafford. The midfielder had similar troubles at West Ham and is now at Lazio after loan spells at Birmingham, QPR and Cardiff.

Verdict: Right to let go given disciplinary issues

9. Danny Drinkwater

Sold to Leicester City in 2012 for £675k aged 21

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 2: Daniel Drinkwater of Manchester United in action during the FA Youth Cup semi-final second leg match between Manchester United Under-18s and Arsenal Under-18s at Old Trafford on April 2 2007 in Manchester, England. (Photo by John Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)

One of the stars of Leicester's unlikely push for the title this season, there is a growing clamour for Drinkwater to be given his first England cap.

A neat and tidy central midfielder with bags of energy, Drinkwater has improved massively over the past few seasons and gone from solid Championship campaigner to one of the stand-out players in the Premier League.

Verdict: Would be a useful midfield option for United

10. Paul Pogba

Sold to Juventus in 2012 for free aged 19

Manchester United's Pogba walks across the pitch during their English Premier League soccer match against West Bromwich Albion in Manchester...Manchester United's Paul Pogba walks across the pitch during their English Premier League soccer match against West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford in Manchester, March 11, 2012. REUTERS/Phil Noble (BRITAIN - Tags: SPORT SOCCER) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO USE WITH UNAUTHORIZED AUDIO, VIDEO, DATA, FIXTURE LISTS, CLUB/LEAGUE LOGOS OR "LIVE" SERVICES. ONLINE IN-MATCH USE LIMITED TO 45 IMAGES, NO VIDEO EMULATION. NO USE IN BETTING, GAMES OR SINGLE CLUB/LEAGUE/PLAYER PUBLICATIONS

Pogba left United in 2012 after falling out with the club over a lack of first-team opportunities, which came to a head in a December 2011 clash with bottom of the table Blackburn. United had an injury crisis for the game, but instead of picking Pogba, Sir Alex Ferguson selected Rafael da Silva in midfield and left the Frenchman on the bench for the 90 minutes. United lost 3-2, and Pogba decided then that his time was up. When he left in the summer of 2012 Ferguson accused Pogba of disrespecting Manchester United, saying "It is disappointing. I don't think he showed us any respect at all, to be honest. I'm quite happy that if they [footballers] carry on that way, they're probably better doing it away from us." Since joining Juventus, Pogba has established himself as one of the best midfielders in the world, and helped Juve to the Champions League final last season. He is currently valued at around £70m.

Verdict: Massive error letting him go

Wilfried Zaha

Sold to Crystal Palace in 2015 for £3m aged 22


Sir Alex Ferguson's final signing at Manchester United never threatened to establish himself at Old Trafford due to a combination of sloppy attitude (exemplified by turning up to the airport for a pre-season tour in jeans and a T-shirt rather than his club suit), off-field upheaval at the club (David Moyes never gave the youngster a chance) and United's poor form, which made the new manager unwilling to hand a talented - but unpredictable - winger his chance. Returned to Palace where his performances have prompted suggestions of another England call-up.

Verdict: Should have been given more time

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