Manchester United: 10 Most Underrated Players of Last Decade
Manchester United, the most successful club in England over the past decade, has had dozens of wonderfully talented players grace the pitch at Old Trafford during the span.
However it takes a whole squad effort to win league titles—so here is a look at the 10 most underrated players during the last 10 years of Manchester United football.
10. Diego Forlan
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Uruguayan striker Diego Forlan joined Manchester United in January 2002 from Argentinean club side Independiente.
Forlan, to put it simply, was not a success in Manchester but could be considered underrated for what he has gone on to achieve since leaving England in 2004.
In Forlan’s defence, he was effectively playing off the scraps of Ruud van Nistelrooy. Forlan managed just 10 goals in 63 games for United, which did not compare favourably to the highly prolific Dutchman.
Forlan signed for Villarreal in Spain in August 2004, the same month Wayne Rooney joined United. Forlan went on to have a very successful career there and then Atletico Madrid. He recently signed with Inter Milan.
Forlan has also been a key figure on a solid Uruguay national side over the past decade and has been capped 84 times, scoring 32 goals.
It didn’t work out for him at United, but a new environment with guaranteed first team football allowed him to flourish.
9. Michael Carrick
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Carrick was seen as a replacement for club legend Roy Keane in the heart of the midfield.
While he has never really stood out at United as a key player, it could be argued that his signing coincided with the club's return to the top after a period of Chelsea dominance.
He added a much needed consistency to the midfield with top drawer distribution skills and was often an undervalued member of a resurgent United squad. But he was criticised for his inability to contribute significantly in big games.
Carrick, now 30 and arguably past his best, has suffered from fluctuating form in recent times. However he is still an important member of the United squad and has racked up 152 appearances. He has also been capped 22 times for England.
8. Quinton Fortune
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South African Quinton Fortune was purchased by Manchester United from Atletico Madrid in August 1999.
Fortune was initially brought to Manchester as a left-sided midfield cover, but also showed sound defensive qualities and turned into a much underrated player who could cover a whole range of positions.
Such was his utility value that he was destined to spend his United career in mostly a squad rotation role because he never had the chance to nail down a spot in one particular position.
Although only a fringe player for United, Fortune went on to play for the club 76 times before leaving in '06.
Since then Fortune has enjoyed a solid professional career, moving around several clubs, but never really settled anywhere.
A popular player in his native South Africa, Fortune earned 46 times for his country.
7. Tim Howard
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Tim Howard joined Manchester United from the MLS side NY/NJ Metrostars in 2003, replacing Fabien Barthez as the club’s first-choice 'keeper.
He made an encouraging start to his United career but was prone to the odd error and, as such is the demand for excellence at United, was replaced by Roy Carroll on several occasions, never quite cementing his spot as a genuine No. 1 at Old Trafford.
When Edwin van der Sar was bought in 2005 it was effectively the end for Howard at United.
He went on loan to Everton in 2006, before making the move permanent, and has been there ever since.
He has enjoyed a long run as the undisputed first choice shot stopper in David Moyes' side and shown the potential and promise that was evident in glimpses at United.
Howard has also been capped 68 times for the US.
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Kleberson was scouted heavily by European clubs after playing a key role in Brazil’s World Cup win in 2002.
He joined Manchester United in August 2003 and was seen as a replacement for Juan Sebastian Veron in the United midfield.
However, he failed to have much of an impact, as he was injured in just his second game for the club and went on to make only 20 appearances in two seasons. But he was never really given an extended run in the United first team to show the potential that had brought him to the club in the first place.
He moved on in 2005 and had a solid club career at Besiktas in Turkey before returning home to play in Brazil.
It was a case of "what could have been" for United, and unfortunately he was never able to translate the form of his 32 caps for Brazil to his time in Manchester.
5. Juan Sebastian Veron
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Manchester United splashed the cash in July 2001 to secure the services of midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron from the Rome-based Lazio.
He was brought in as the major piece of the puzzle that would turn United into an attacking force. However, despite showing his obvious class at times, he struggled to fit into the United lineup and adapt to English football.
The Argentinean showed signs of settling down in his second season, putting in several impressive performances, however he was inconsistent and troubled by injuries.
Fans began to question his place on the squad, particularly considering the money the club had invested in him.
Sadly the fans never saw the best of him at all during his time in Manchester and he eventually moved on to Chelsea in 2003 after playing 51 games and scoring seven goals for United.
He enjoyed a long international career with Argentina and was capped 73 times, scoring nine goals.
4. Wes Brown
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Defender Wes Brown joined the Manchester United academy as a 12-year-old and stayed there until his departure to Sunderland a few months ago.
A gifted athlete, Brown was touted within the United setup as a defender with immense potential.
It seems a lot of people outside of United tend to forget what an amazing defensive talent he was as a youngster before those injuries hit.
He was a great servant for his club, making 232 appearances from 1996-2011. But sadly those games were so sporadic as he was rarely fully fit.
His talent is underlined by the fact he represented England on 23 occasions.
3. Phil Neville
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Phil Neville came through the Manchester United academy at the same time as the likes of David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and brother Gary.
While Phil never quite reached the heights of popularity of those names, he quietly carved out a very respectable professional career for himself.
He was probably not underrated so much by United fans but by the rest of England—particularly during the 59 caps he clocked up for the Three Lions.
He was not a flashy fullback but very reliable, consistent and played with minimal fuss. But he was always on the fringes of the United first team despite making 263 appearances between 1995-2005.
He joined Everton in 2005 seeking more regular football and has been a mainstay for the Toffees ever since.
2. Park Ji-Sung
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Park Ji-Sung, who joined Manchester United in 2005 from PSV Eindhoven, is another who quietly goes about his work.
Incredibly fit and hard working, the South Korean midfielder gets through a ton of work that goes unnoticed.
At a time he was underrated by United fans, but he has gradually become highly valued among the United faithful and it is perhaps outsiders who value him less than they ought to. This can be at their own peril as Park has the ability to pop up in the right places and create opportunities seemingly from nothing.
Park has gone on to play 120 times for United and scored 18 goals. He has slowly but surely turned into an integral part of the United squad.
A hero in his native South Korea he has been capped 100 times for his country and was a member of the South Korean team that finished fourth in the 2002 World Cup.
1. Darren Fletcher
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Midfielder Darren Fletcher joined Manchester United as an 11-year-old and has been with the club ever since.
There were big wraps on Fletcher when he made his first team debut in 2001 and, despite being a regular on the team sheet and playing steadily enough, he failed to make much of an impact.
Seemingly a favourite of Sir Alex Ferguson, Fletcher continued to get picked, and such was the manager's faith in him he was regularly called on for all the big games.
It took United fans quite a while to come around to Fletcher, but his consistent play eventually has led him to become the most underrated player on the squad.
Football fans began to appreciate his qualities and he has gone on to be ever-present in the United midfield over the past decade.
He has made 192 appearances for United as well as being capped 57 times for Scotland.