Back in the Day: Ex-Red Devils John O' Shea and Phil Neville celebrate with United legend Ryan Giggs
Manchester United have indisputably been the biggest English club of the Premier League era. In this period, the Old Trafford faithful have been treated to the skills of some of the world's best players. Fans still remember and enjoy the success brought by the likes of Eric Cantona, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ryan Giggs,Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, and Ruud van Nistelrooy.
One of the hallmarks of this era of success has been Sir Alex Ferguson's willingness to part with old players and to bring in new ones in their stead. Rarely has a player moved from Manchester United to another English club and attained the same level of success. However, some of them have managed to enhance their reputations at their new clubs.
Here is a team made of 11 players who once plied their trade at United, but are currently playing elsewhere in the Premier League.
Tim Howard joined Manchester United in 2003 from the MetroStars of the MLS. He was the latest in a long line of goalkeepers trying to replace the legendary Peter Schmeichel, and replaced Fabien Barthez as United's first-choice goalkeeper.
Howard began his United career well, saving the decisive penalty in the Charity Shield match against Arsenal. Other highlights of his United career included the 2004 FA Cup final against Millwall and a home FA Cup victory over neighbors Manchester City.
However, the New Jersey native also made a few high-profile errors, which led to his demotion from the first team in favor of Roy Carroll. In March 2004, his poor parry led to a last-minute goal and United's elimination by FC Porto in the Champions League. The same goal also led to Jose Mourinho's now-immortal celebratory run down the touchline.
In his second season at United (2004-05), Howard and Carroll swapped places as the team's first-choice goalkeeper, but neither could put in consistent, error-free performances in goal. Finally, Manchester United signed the legendary Edwin van der Sar, and let Howard move to Everton.
At Everton, Howard has racked up a most impressive 278 appearances for the Toffees, and is in the middle of his seventh season for the Merseyside club. He has also emerged as one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League, known for his consistency and reliability.
The Salford-born Phil Bardsley spent nine years in the Manchester United academy (1994-2003), after which he was promoted to the first team. Between 2003-2008, he made 18 appearances for the Red Devils.
Bardsley's best season for Manchester United came in the 2005-06 season, when he made eight league appearances for the Old Trafford outfit. However, he never could hold down a permanent place in the first team, and subsequently moved to Sunderland in January of 2008.
At Sunderland, Bardsley has made 166 appearances in four-and-a-half seasons. He has also scored six goals for the club, some of which were long-distance screamers. The high point of his Sunderland career came when he was awarded the Sunderland A.F.C. Player of the Year award for the 2010-11 season.
Bardsley began the current season on the sidelines with injury, but he remains in manager Martin O'Neill's plans for Sunderland. His past performances for the Black Cats, though, are enough to earn him a place in this 11 at right-back.
In March 2007, John O'Shea lived the dream of Gary Neville and every other rabid Manchester United fan by scoring an injury-time winner against Liverpool at the Kop End. Even if he had done nothing else in his United career, THAT goal made O'Shea's place in the affections of the United faithful immovable.
However, O'Shea did a lot more than just score against Liverpool. In his 12 years at Old Trafford, he emerged as one of the most versatile and dependable players at United. He made 393 appearances for the Red Devils, playing in all positions across the pitch—right-back, left-back, centre-back, central midfield and even once as the goalkeeper. And yes, he even nutmegged Luis Figo!
During his time at United, O'Shea emerged as the ultimate team player, willing to sacrifice personal glory for the team's cause. His glittering medals tally from the time includes five Premierships, one FA Cup, three League Cups and one FIFA World Club Cup. He was also a part of the club's 2007-08 UEFA Champions League-winning campaign.
The best tribute to O'Shea was given by Sir Alex Ferguson, who said (via ManUtd.com),
John has won so many medals and has deserved every one of them. He epitomises our club’s approach as a team.
His search for first-team football took O'Shea to Sunderland at the start of the 2011-12 season. At Sunderland, he has formed a centre-back pairing with another ex-United player, Wes Brown. In just more than a season, O'Shea has become a fixture in the Black Cats' back line and finally got rid of the tag of utility player that he earned at United.
Shawcross made two first-team appearances for United, with his debut as a substitute in a League Cup tie at Crewe Alexandra. He made 10 appearances for United's reserve side, which won the treble of the Manchester Senior Cup, FA Premier Reserve League North and FA Premier Reserve Play-off in the 2005-06 season.
Shawcross' career really took off after his permanent transfer to Stoke City in 2007 (following a one-year loan spell at the same club). He has been a big part of Stoke's promotion to the Premier League in 2008 and their mid-table respectability in the Premier League since. He has made a total of 208 appearances for the Potters and scored 18 goals.
Shawcross' recent form has seen him earn a call-up to the England squad for the forthcoming qualifiers against San Marino and Poland.
Kieran Richardson made 81 appearances for Manchester United between 2002-07. He first came to attention as part of United's 2003 FA Youth Cup-winning team.
After a couple of loan spells away from the club, Richardson was given an opportunity to establish himself in the first time in the 2005-06 season. He made a total of 36 appearances that season, scoring six goals in the process.
However, Richardson never achieved the required level of consistency in his performances for United, and was sold to Sunderland in 2007. He went on to make 149 appearances for the Black Cats (both at left-back and on the left wing) and scored 15 goals for them.
Probably the closest to a United legend in this list, Phil Neville grew up at Manchester United as one half of the Neville brothers. In his 11 seasons at Old Trafford, he made 386 appearances and won six Premier League titles, three FA Cups and the Champions League (as part of the historic treble in 1999).
Unlike his brother Gary, who mostly played at right-back, the younger Neville was more versatile. He could play in defence or midfield, although he was often used as a full-back. He was Sir Alex Ferguson's original utility man as his solidity and commitment gave other, more skilled players the platform to work wonders for United.
An integral part of the crop of youth players called Fergie's Fledglings, Phil Neville also won 59 caps for England between 1996 and 2007.
His desire for more games resulted in a transfer to Everton, where he went on to become the club captain. On 29 November 2006, Phil and Gary Neville became the first siblings to captain their respective clubs in the Premier League, when Everton visited Old Trafford. Over the years, Neville has emerged as the heartbeat of David Moyes' Everton side, having made nearly 300 appearances for them.
Darron Gibson was possibly the most polarizing figure during Sir Alex Ferguson's stewardship of Manchester United.
On the one hand, he was an academy product and fans desperately wanted to see one of the kids succeed. On the other hand, his tendency to score long-distance screamers was offset by a lack of an extra edge in his movement and passing.
Gibson made 60 appearances for United over four-and-a-half seasons at the club. However, he never managed to hold on to his place in the first team during that time. The low point of his Manchester United career came in 2011, when he had to shut down his Twitter account in less than two hours, owing to fans' abuse.
The Irishman moved to Everton in January 2012, becoming the fourth ex-United player in David Moyes' squad (the others being Neville, Howard and Saha). Later that month, he briefly became the most popular man at Old Trafford after scoring the winning goal in Everton's 1-0 win over Manchester City.
During his brief stint at Everton, he has become a regular fixture in central midfield for Everton—a fact that earns him a place on this team.
Gabriel Obertan was a surprise signing from Bordeaux back in the summer of 2009. In retrospect, it was one of those cheap gambles (if £3 million is to be considered "cheap") Alex Ferguson loves to take.
In his two seasons at United, Obertan failed to progress significantly. He ended up being one of the cup specialists for United as half of his 28 appearances for the Red Devils came in the cup competitions.
He moved to Newcastle United in 2011, but has failed to hold down a permanent place in Newcastle's first team so far.
Park Ji Sung, or "Three Lung Park" as United fans fondly remember him, made 205 appearances and scored 27 goals for Manchester United during his seven seasons at the club.
At United, Park established his reputation as a versatile, hardworking player who Ferguson always turned to for the big games. His tactical discipline and willingness to work hard for the team made him a fan favorite at Old Trafford.
He also showed a tendency to pop up with important goals, especially against Arsenal. During his time at the club, Park won four Premier League title, three League Cups, a FIFA World Club Cup and the Champions League in 2007-08. Sir Alex Ferguson called the decision to leave Park out of the Champions League final squad in 2008, the hardest decision in his managerial career.
At the start of the current season, Park moved to Queens Park Rangers, where he has linked up with United legend, Mark Hughes. Unfortunately for the South Korean, QPR have got off to a horrible start and are languishing at the bottom of the table.
Manchester United fans, however, will always look back fondly to Park's performances on the pitch for the club. That in itself, makes his position in this team well-deserved.
Probably the most controversial choice in this list, Carlos Tevez spent two years on loan at Manchester United from 2007-09. His time at the club coincided with immense success as United won consecutive Premier League titles and League Cups, along with victory in the 2008 Champions League final. They also reached the 2009 Champions League final, where they lost to Barcelona.
During his time at the club, Tevez endeared himself to the United faithful through his all-action approach to the game. He was part of a fabulous front three alongside Rooney and Ronaldo.
However, the manner of his departure to Manchester City and his behavior thereon have made him a persona non grata in the eyes of the Red Devils' supporters. His abilities as a footballer and his success at United notwithstanding, Tevez shall always be remembered as the worst kind of football mercenary by football supporters across the globe—a pity, given his standing as one of the game's best strikers.
Dimitar Berbatov was probably the second most polarizing figure in Manchester United's recent history after Darron Gibson.
On the one hand, he could be an artist with the football, wowing the crowd with his amazing array of touches and tricks. On the other hand, he had the tendency of going missing in the most important games.
Signed for a then British record of £30.75 million from Tottenham, Berbatov was seen as the final piece of the jigsaw featuring the all-conquering combination of Ronaldo, Rooney and Tevez. However, except for the 2010-11 season when he was the Premier League's joint top goal scorer, Old Trafford rarely saw the best of the moody Bulgarian.
The low point of his United career came in the 2011 Champions League final against Barcelona, when he wasn't even named among the substitutes. He barely figured in United's failed Premier League challenge in 2011-12, as Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck passed him in the pecking order.
Berbatov finally got free from his Manchester United agony when he signed for Fulham this season, under the tutelage of his former Tottenham boss, Martin Jol. His Fulham career began brightly, as he scored a brace in his full debut for the club.
For United fans, though, Berbatov will always be remembered for two things: (1) for his impersonation of Marlon Brando in the Godfather and (2) for being the frustrating genius, who promised so much, but ended up delivering so little.
And following the 11 starters for the ex-Manchester United Premier League team, here is a list of seven substitutes:
Ben Foster: Brought in as a possible successor to Edwin van der Sar, he made 23 error-strewn appearances for Manchester United. He subsequently moved on to Birmingham City, and is currently the first-choice goalkeeper for West Bromwich Albion.
Wes Brown: Despite being one of the most decorated Manchester United players, Wes Brown's career at the club will always be remembered for the injuries. Even though he won eight Premier League titles, two FA Cups, three League Cups and two UEFA Champions League medals in his 14 seasons at Old Trafford, he only made 362 appearances during that time. His best season was arguably the League- and European Cup-winning season of 2007-08, when he made a personal-best 52 appearances for the club. Sir Alex Ferguson was one of his most fervent admirers, once even calling him the most natural defender in England. Brown moved from United to Sunderland in 2011, where his injury problems have continued to plague him.
Marc Wilson: Current Stoke City player Marc Wilson began his youth career at Manchester United, but never played for the Red Devils' first team. He has established himself as a first-team player at the Potters, after a rather nomadic start to his career.
Louis Saha: Saha spent five injury-ravaged seasons at Old Trafford, during which time he scored 42 goals in 142 appearances. He then moved to Everton, where his injury problems followed him. He briefly played for Tottenham in 2012, before signing up for Sunderland at the start of the current season.
Michael Owen: It is fair to say that Michael Owen's best was behind him before he was signed for free by United in 2009. He spent three seasons at the club, scoring 17 goals from 52 appearances. However, he will always be remembered the winning goal in the Manchester derby. Owen was released as a free agent at the end of last season, and he recently signed for Stoke City on a rumored pay-as-you-play deal.
Fraizer Campbell: Another Manchester United youth-team product, Campbell made only four appearances for the Red Devils before spending the 2008-09 season on loan at Tottenham. He moved permanently to Sunderland in 2009, where injuries have curtailed his development.