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10 Manchester United Trainees Who Made Their Breakthrough Elsewhere

Scott RomFeatured ColumnistFebruary 14, 2014

10 Manchester United Trainees Who Made Their Breakthrough Elsewhere

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    Sir Bobby Charlton, Ryan Giggs, George Best, David Beckham, Duncan Edwards, Paul Scholes, Brian Kidd, Mark Hughes...

    The list of household names in football who started their careers in the youth teams of Manchester United goes on and on.

    But what about the players who learned their trade at The Cliff or Carrington but made a name for themselves elsewhere?

Danny Higginbotham

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    Danny Higginbotham was born in Manchester in 1978 and went to watch local sides Manchester United and Altrincham play on a regular basis.

    He joined the youth team at United and spent six years at the club after signing professional terms but only played in seven games for the first team.

    Higginbotham spent the following 14 seasons playing Premier League football for the likes of Derby County, Southampton, Stoke and Sunderland.

    He made his international debut at the age of 34 for Gibraltar last year.

Phil Bardsley

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    Phil Bardsley is a lifelong Manchester United from Salford who joined the ranks at United when he was just eight years old.

    Having spent several years on loan at various clubs, such as Rangers, Aston Villa and Sheffield United, Bardsley signed a contract with Sunderland.

    Bardsley has gone on to play close to 200 games for the North East club and recently was part of the team that knocked United out of the League Cup.

Robbie Savage

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    Robbie Savage joined United as an apprentice when he was a teenager and was a part of the famous 1992 FA Youth Cup-winning side.

    However, Savage didn't make a single appearance for the first team after Sir Alex Ferguson didn't offer him a contract.

    In his autobiography, Savage has since reflected on how he felt about leaving United:

    On the day he ended my Manchester United dream, Sir Alex Ferguson told me I would come back to haunt him. Perhaps I took his words too literally – I went straight out and crashed my car, ending up in hospital.

    I’d thought I would get a 12-month deal, but that didn’t stop the butterflies as I walked towards the manager’s office. The lads were patting me on the back and telling me everything would be fine. I sat down. I was so nervous I could feel my heart pumping and I didn’t have any spit in my mouth.

    Ferguson was sitting behind his desk, wearing a red sweatshirt with ‘AF’ on it; I can see him sitting there now. He said: “Robert, you’ve done fantastic since you’ve been here.” And then I knew. “You aren’t ready for here, but you will make it somewhere. One day you’ll come back to haunt me.”

    As Ferguson’s words sank in, I felt ­physically ill, that feeling when you’ve had too much to drink and you lie in bed and the room starts revolving and you want to be sick as quickly as you can.

    Savage then started his career in Division 2 with Crewe Alexandra, before joining Leicester City where he won the League Cup. He also played Birmingham City then Blackburn in the Premier League, before moving down a division with Derby. 

    He represented Wales 39 times in his career.

Keith Gillespie

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    Like Savage, Keith Gillespie was also a member of the 1992 FA Youth Cup-winning team, but he went on to make 14 appearances for the first team.

    When he left United for Newcastle there wasn't much, if any, disappointment from the fans, as his exit ensured that Andy Cole moved in the other direction.

    He spent a few years at Newcastle before moving to Blackburn, where he won the League Cup. After stints at the likes of Leicester, Sheffield United and Charlton Athletic, Gillespie retired from football. He represented Northern Ireland 86 times in his career.

David Healy

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    David Healy joined United fairly late in his career, respectively, signing for them when he was 19 years old. He spent four years playing for the Reserves before being promoted to the first team.

    Healy only made three appearances for United, all three as a substitute, before being sold to Preston North End for £1.5 million.

    After scoring 45 goals in five seasons in the Championship, he was then sold to Leeds, where he played for three seasons. After being the club's top scorer, he then joined Fulham in the Premier League, before moving to Sunderland.

    Healy retired in December last year. He played for Northern Ireland 95 times.

Ryan Shawcross

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    Ryan Shawcross had a trial at United when he was 15 years old and was offered a place at the academy. Shawcross did well at every level, playing for the Under 17s, Under 18s then the Reserves.

    He made just two appearances for the first team before being sold to Stoke £2 million, although United included a clause in his contract that meant they had first refusal on him.

    Aged just 23, Shawcross became Stoke's captain and has played close to 300 games for them. He has also made one appearance for England.

David Platt

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    David Platt signed as an apprentice for United after leaving school in 1984 but was later released without having ever appeared for the first team.

    Platt joined Crewe Alexandra in the Fourth Division and spent over three seasons there before signing for Aston Villa. They were promoted at the end of that season and he stayed there for a further two seasons, before becoming one of the rare players from England who ply their trade abroad.

    He joined Bari in the Serie A, before moving to Juventus then Sampdoria. During his time in Italy, he won the UEFA Cup, the Coppa Italia and the Supercoppa Italia.

    Platt then returned to England to play for Arsenal then Nottingham Forest.

    During his career, he scored 27 goals in 62 games for England, helping his country finish fourth in the 1990 World Cup and reach the semi-finals in Euro 96.

Giuseppe Rossi

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    Giuseppe Rossi joined United's youth team when he was 17 and was immediately popular with the fans. He was named the Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year in 2005 and the Denzil Haroun Reserve Team Player of the Year in 2006.

    He was loaned out to Parma the following season, where he scored and impressive nine goals in 19 appearances. United fans were shocked when the club opted to sell him to Villarreal for £6.6 million in 2007.

    Rossi went on to score 82 goals in 192 appearances for Villarreal, before being sold to Fiorentina. Unfortunately, he has suffered badly with injuries since then, missing his first season in Italy entirely. This year he has scored 15 goals in 20 appearances.

    Rossi has played for Italy 29 times and has scored seven goals.

     

Paul Pogba

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    Paul Pogba joined Manchester United's youth set up when he was 16 but the move was not free of controversy. His former club, Le Havre, went to FIFA for a complaint insisting that they had a contract for him, leading United to come to an agreement with the French side to sign him.

    Pogba played just seven times for the first team, much the the confusion of United fans, as it was clear he had great potential and played in a position United were weak in.

    The decision to bring Paul Scholes out of retirement was the final nail in the coffin for Pogba's United career, and he refused to sign a contract extension at the end of the season, instead signing for Juventus.

    Pogba has won the league in his first season and has won the Supercoppa Italia twice. He was also given the Golden Boy award last year.

Gerard Pique

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    Gerard Pique started his career at Barcelona but joined Manchester United when he was a teenager. After a year in the youth team he went on to play 23 times for the first team.

    However, his heart was always in Spain, so when he was given the opportunity to return, United agreed to a £5 million deal.

    "I am very happy to be back, I didn't think I would be here again but this is very good for me," he said upon his return, as quoted by Sid Lowe in The Guardian. "Manchester United is a great club and I enjoyed winning things. To play with world class players has helped me and now I want to continue this at Barça."

    Pique has gone on to play for his boyhood club more than 250 times, winning four league titles and two European Cups, among many others. He has also represented Spain 59 times.

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