Eight Man Utd flops who left Old Trafford and enjoyed great careers elsewhere

Manchester United is perhaps the trickiest football club for a player to succeed at.

Countless players and managers have been chewed up and spat out by the Red Devils machine, after finding the constant spotlight on events at the club just too bright to bare. United fans have great expectations of anyone who pulls on the famous red shirt but for some players, the pressure is just too much to handle.

That's not to say players who don't make it in Manchester are lacking the required talent to excel at the top level – far from it. In the case of United, the grass is often greener on the other side – as the following eight stars found out when they went on to have far greater careers after leaving Old Trafford.

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Diego Forlan

In his two-and-a-half years with United, Diego Forlan looked like a massive waste of £10million, netting at a ratio of roughly once every five appearances.

He went on to tear La Liga up for first Villarreal and then Atletico Madrid, scoring bagfuls of goals like a man possessed. More memorable, though, were his performances on the international stage for Uruguay.

Forlan inspired his nation to the semi-finals of the 2010 World Cup, finishing as joint-top scorer and being named player of the tournament, and a year later he helped them to Copa America glory.

Who have we missed off the list? Let us know in the comments section.

Danny Drinkwater

The last few years have been a nightmare for midfielder Danny Drinkwater, who after joining Chelsea for £35m in 2017 has faded into obscurity.

But being a part of the iconic Premier League-winning Leicester City team for the 2015/16 season means Drinkwater will always be able to say he's had a great career.

And it all started for him at United, failing to break through to the first team having joined their academy at the age of nine.

Dion Dublin

Homes Under The Hammer's Dion Dublin had a very unlucky break – quite literally – at United which meant his two years with the club flopped.

Suffering a fractured leg weeks after moving to Old Trafford, the striker then lost his place to new arrival Eric Cantona, who along with Mark Hughes kept him out of the team.

But his 1994 exit breathed new life into his career, with Dublin going on to join the Premier League 100 Club with his goals for Coventry City and then Aston Villa.

Tom Heaton

Like Drinkwater, goalkeeper Tom Heaton didn't make a senior appearance for the Red Devils after progressing through the youth ranks.

He was released in the summer of 2010 but didn't let that deter him, ending up getting promoted to the top flight twice with Burnley.

His performances in the Prem earned him three England caps before he returned to United last year following his release from Aston Villa, bringing his career full circle.

Gerard Pique

When Gerard Pique left United in 2008 after a lacklustre four years in the north west of England, no one would have imagined the success he'd go on to have for club and country.

Eight La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues with Barcelona, plus a World Cup and European Championship with Spain – the centre-back has won it all.

Having firmly established himself as one of the best defenders of all-time, it's safe to say Sir Alex Ferguson dropped the ball with Pique.

Memphis Depay

Memphis Depay became one of the victims of having to try and fill the void left by Ronaldo when he joined from PSV Eindhoven in the summer of 2015.

There was clearly potential there but he failed to find it at Old Trafford, registering just seven goals and six assists in 53 appearances before leaving for Lyon.

Depay was much more at home in Ligue 1 and attracted Barcelona's attention in 2021, while he's just eight goals away from Robin van Persie's record 50 strikes for the Netherlands.

Michael Keane

There's no denying United's academy has a proven track record of producing quality players as another who flourished elsewhere is defender Michael Keane.

He made his breakthrough at Burnley with Heaton backing him up, and Everton splashed in the region of £25m on him in 2017 to take him to Goodison Park.

Solid showings have made seen him retain his place in the Toffees side despite numerous managerial changes, and 12 England caps to date certainly makes for a great career.

Wilfried Zaha

Every transfer window seems like it could finally be the time Wilfried Zaha moves on from Crystal Palace to join a top six club.

But he's been there and done that with United, for whom he made a measly four appearances between 2013 and 2015.

It didn't work out for one reason or another, but Zaha has cemented a legacy for himself at Selhurst Park as a club great with 87 goals for the London side.


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