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Manchester United has had some fantastic players over the years and have won trophies and the hearts of the Old Trafford faithful during their time at the club. However, after they depart the club some players flourish just as much and sometimes even more. This is the ultimate former-Red XI that are still playing and for this lineup, I’ll do a 4-4-2 formation.
GOALKEEPER: BEN FOSTER
Not many good options out there really but Ben Foster at 37 is still performing exceptionally for Watford and despite their poor defensive record he has been outstanding this season and has been so since joining the Hornets. He may not have had the best time at Old Trafford but is certainly the best of the bunch of ex-United ‘keepers.
Honorable Mention: Tom Heaton
RIGHT BACK: RAFAEL
Rafael had some great moments at Manchester United as he won 8 trophies at the club and 169 appearances during his seven year stay. However, in Louis Van Gaal’s first season at United, Rafael was displaced by Antonio Valencia at right back and only made 11 appearances in his final season before being shipped off to Lyon in the 2015 summer window and has made 129 appearances over 5 years at the club.
Honorable Mention: Antonio Valencia
RIGHT CENTRE BACK: GERARD PIQUE
What more can you say about Gerard Pique? He won three trophies as a squad player at Manchester United as they won the Premier League, Community Shield and Champions League in the 2007/08 season before moving back to his boyhood club, Barcelona in the 2008 summer window for £5m. He has won 28 trophies with Barcelona in 11 full seasons at the club including two Champions League Finals against Manchester United in 2009 and 2011. He has been in the Spain squad since 2009 and won the World Cup in 2010 and Euros in 2012 with La Roja, reaching 102 caps before retiring after the 2018 World Cup. The Barca legend certainly could have stayed at Manchester United his whole senior career but decided to return home to Barcelona and never really looked back.
Honorable Mention: Michael Keane
LEFT CENTRE BACK: JONNY EVANS
Jonny Evans’ departure under Van Gaal was probably one of the Dutchman’s worst mistakes at the club as Evans shone at West Brom and now at Leicester City, he is one of the most consistent Premier League defenders as Leicester have climbed to third place this season. And having moved for such small fees to both West Brom and Leicester, he has shown his worth far beyond his price tags and definitely a defender United should have kept.
Honorable Mention: James Chester
LEFT BACK: DALEY BLIND
Like Jonny Evans to Van Gaal, Blind was one of Mourinho’s few mistakes at Manchester United as allowing him to leave for Ajax for £14m in 2018 seems like a mistake now. Blind was signed by Van Gaal in the 2014 summer after a regular role in the Dutchman’s 2014 Netherlands squad. He played as a CDM in his first season at United, then a centre back in Van Gaal’s final season before rotating between a centre back and left back under Mourinho’s tenure to good effect. He was certainly a very solid, versatile player for United and could have developed to be an anchor in midfield with his exceptional range of passing but now at Ajax won the domestic treble at the club and reached the Champions League semi-finals. He returned to football earlier this year after being diagnosed with Myocarditis in December but despite another strong season, lost the chance to win back-to-back titles as the Eredivisie was declared void this season.
Honorable Mention: Ashley Young
RIGHT WINGER: WILFRIED ZAHA
Zaha was one of the last transfers Sir Alex brought in and while we were expecting good things from the youngster, he only made a handful of appearances and a couple of loan deals before being sold cheaply to Crystal Palace under Louis Van Gaal where he has truly developed into one of the most well-rounded wingers in the Premier League and is attracting big attention. He may only have 38 goals and 42 assists in 210 appearances since his return but his overall contributions in pace, strength and chance creation demonstrate his abilities are far better than Crystal Palace (no disrespect) with the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Bayern Munich reportedly interested last summer and January as the Ivorian put in a transfer request in both windows. He may not have been given the time at United but has seriously shone away from Old Trafford.
Honorable Mention: Adnan Januzaj
RIGHT CENTRAL MIDFIELDER: ANDER HERRERA
Ander Herrera was a fan favourite from the get-go at Manchester United after he signed for a fee of £30m at the end of the 2013/14 season and starred in Van Gaal’s best run of form at Manchester United in the 4-1-4-1 formation used in the later stages of their debut season. Under Jose he was used mostly as a defensive midfielder with a more specific aim as a ball-winning midfielder and operated consistently in Mourinho’s first season and even better in the second season. In the 2018/19 season, Herrera continued as a ball-winning midfielder with Pogba on his left and Matic as an anchor for most the season before his injury against Liverpool in which his place was well-fought between himself, Fred, McTominay and Pereira. He opted not to renew his contract at the end of the season and left on a free to Paris Saint-Germain after making 189 appearances, scoring 20 goals and setting up a further 27. However, since his move he has become a bit-part player and has only featured 18 times this season, scoring and assisting once each. A disappointment to see him go as pretty much every fan loved Herrera and may have enjoyed his football better had he stayed.
Honorable Mention: Morgan Schneiderlin
LEFT CENTRAL MIDFIELDER: ANGEL DI MARIA
A disappointing career at United but a sparkling career everywhere else. After breaking the British transfer record with a £59.7m move from Real Madrid to Old Trafford in 2014, Di Maria began his career well with Manchester United and was the club’s Player of the Month for September after scoring twice and assisting twice in his first full month at the club. He injured himself in October and everything went downhill from there, his form dropped off a cliff, he was sent off for grabbing Michael Oliver’s shirt in an FA Cup defeat to Arsenal and rarely started a match after this point. Not to mention the fact that his house was burgled and he never acclimatised to Manchester in his year stay. He caused controversy after refusing to go on pre-season with United and was sold soon after to PSG for a £44m fee. Despite scoring four times for United and notching 12 assists, Di Maria was ranked the worst signing of the season by Sky Sports pundits. Since moving to PSG his trophy cabinet has expanded substantially with 12 trophies in five years and while they have had no European success yet, his stats of 80 goals and 90 assists in 217 appearances demonstrate a player of exceptional ability that is truly shining again. At the age of 32 he is still a shoe-in at PSG having scored 11 goals and creating 21 more this season. His United career may have been a disappointing and short one but he is certainly still one of the best players around.
Honorable Mention: Shinji Kagawa
LEFT WINGER: CRISTIANO RONALDO
Who else? The man was a legend at Old Trafford and during his six years at the club he became a world class player, a prolific trophy winner (9) and most importantly, CR7 after scoring 118 goals and assisting 69 more in 292 appearances. After his £80m move to Real Madrid in 2009, he only rose further and became one of, if not, the best player in the world. 438 appearances, 450 goals, 131 assists, 15 trophies and four Ballon D’Ors later, Ronaldo made the hard decision to leave Madrid for Juventus in 2018 for a fee of £97m and even though the man was 33 at the time, now 35, he has scored an impressive 53 goals and set 14 more up in 75 games in Turin, winning two trophies last season. Undeniably one of United’s best players in their history and one of the best in the world for the last two decades.
Honorable Mention: Memphis Depay
RIGHT STRIKER: ROMELU LUKAKU
After a £75m move from Everton in 2017, United fans were split over Romelu Lukaku. While his debut season provided United with 27 crucial goals and 9 assists in the 2017/18 season, he still had his doubters. The next season was worse for Lukaku and while he still scored 15 goals and made 4 assists, he had a lot of criticism due to his inability to turn up for the big games, his first touch and at times, his finishing. After missing Solskjaer’s first games in charge, Lukaku found himself behind both Rashford and Martial in the pecking order and often found himself on the right hand side as a wide forward which he did not like and reportedly knew his time was up and while he played the rest of the season in a professional manner, he refused to play in pre-season and behaved truly unprofessionally at the end before leaving for Inter Milan for £70m last summer. He has been excellent for Antonio Conte’s side since leaving United and has scored 23 goals and created 5 more in 35 appearances. He may have ended his United career short but there was never really any doubt over his goalscoring talent having scored a career total of 210 goals in 448 appearances and undoubtedly is a top striker and unplayable on his day.
Honorable Mention: Radamel Falcao
LEFT STRIKER: ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC
Zlatan Ibrahimovic was a hero at Manchester United and scored 28 goals in his debut season at Manchester United and had he not got injured against Anderlecht, he would have easily scored so many more. He joined United on a free from Paris Saint-Germain after the 2016 Euro and made an instant impact with a winner against Leicester City in the Community Shield. After his injury, his United career looked over but he managed a remarkable recovery and made a handful of appearances for United with the number 10 shirt on his back but was never the same. Around the time Sanchez arrived at United, Ibra left for LA Galaxy and blew the MLS out of the water with 53 goals in 58 appearances in two seasons. He decided to lave the Galaxy and return to AC Milan this season and while he hasn’t quite made the same impact, 4 goals in 10 games at the age of 38 still remains an impressive feat. 31 trophies, 478 club goals, Zlatan is a legend and is still a very capable striker that could leave AC on a free this summer.
Honorable Mention: Josh King