5 Stars Manchester United Wish They Had Not Sold
Manchester United are fighting to keep hold of David De Gea, offering him a £200,000-per-week contract, according to Mark Ogden of the Telegraph. If he ends up leaving, he is likely to be a player added to the relatively short list of players whose departures United end up living to regret.
Generally, when players move on from Old Trafford, it is on the club's terms. However, there have been a few instances when that has not been the case. Even when it was, it sometimes turns out to be a mistake.
Let's take a look at five players United would have done well to keep around a little—or, in some cases, a lot—longer.
The obvious first choice here is a man who has averaged more than a goal a game since his transfer to Real Madrid. He has somehow managed to make a transfer fee that seemed incomprehensible at the time look like one of football's great bargains.
When his vacant No. 7 shirt was filled by Michael Owen, arriving on a free transfer, it became almost immediately clear just how much United would miss Cristiano Ronaldo. There were no splashy signings to fill the void left by his departure; there was just essentially the same team without Ronaldo.
It is easy to speculate on what might have been if Ronaldo had remained at the club. Perhaps there would have been another Champions League final or two, given the crucial goals he scored against the Red Devils in Sir Alex Ferguson's last European campaign.
In Ferguson's last seven seasons in charge, United won five domestic leagues and lost the other two by a point and on goal difference. They would probably have won those too had they held on to Ronnie.
He has thrived at Real and added another Champions League winners' medal to his collection, but it is easy to wonder whether Ronaldo too has some regrets about leaving. There would probably have been more silverware for him at United than there has been in Madrid.
Whatever the player himself feels, though, Ronaldo is simply too good for United not to regret his moving on.
Paul Pogba's role as the one that got away is somewhat different to Ronaldo's. At least United had the Portuguese superstar for the first part of his prime. Pogba, on the other hand, left before he blossomed into the superb player he has become.
Those who watch United football at youth level raved about the side in which Pogba featured, as they swept all before them and won the FA Youth Cup. However, for the player himself, his lack of first-team football saw him look elsewhere to develop his career.
Given that United have needed an energetic goalscoring midfielder for some time now, letting a player such as Pogba go seems to border on negligence.
Given Jason Burt of the Telegraph reported in March that United are considering a £60 million bid for the player, it is clear that, in the long run, they would rather have kept him.
In a 2013 interview with MUTV (h/t the Mail), Sir Alex Ferguson admitted: "When I think of disappointments, obviously Jaap Stam was always a disappointment to me. I made a bad decision there."
The imperious defender was hard to replace. Having dominated United's defence during their glorious treble-winning 1998/99 season, his absence was felt in a big way. A past-his-prime Laurent Blanc was brought in to fill Stam's boots, but he was in no position to do so.
It was not until the partnership of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic was assembled that Sir Alex finally filled the hole left by the big Dutchman's departure.
His name is still sung wherever United fans gather. The club certainly made a mistake in letting him go.
Perhaps a slightly more controversial call than any of the first three. There are those among United's fanbase who would argue that the club were right to sell David Beckham when they did.
However, it is hard to disagree that his absence was not felt. His departure in June 2003 came after United had won yet another league title. They would not win another until May 2007.
From when Sir Alex began winning league titles in 1992/93, the mid-2000s gap was the longest he endured. Losing Beckham came as a distinct blow as United looked short of quality in midfield. Beckham's delivery was still superb, as he had proved during his final season at the club.
Whatever the reasons for his departure, he was missed on the pitch in the years that followed.
United have had plenty of difficulties in the centre of defence over the past few seasons. Between injury crises and a dip in quality following the departure of Ferdinand and Vidic, it has been hard not to throw the odd jealous glance in the direction of Catalonia.
Of course, for Gerard Pique, things have not turned out too badly, given the medal collection he has accrued and the fact that he played for one of the finest club sides ever assembled.
For United, though—especially this season—an additional classy, ball-playing central defender would have fit the bill perfectly.
It would always have been hard to hold onto Pique in the face of interest from Barcelona, given his ties to the club. Nonetheless, it is a shame for United that Pique played so few games in red.