A host of Manchester United’s cast-offs and youngsters headed elsewhere to further or get their careers back on the rails this campaign through first team action. But how did this plethora of players get on in their time away from Old Trafford?
18-year-old shot-stopper Milinković-Savićj lent his services to Sebian SuperLiga outfit, FK Vojvodina, for the term and was not only celebrating his milestone birthday but for keeping six clean sheets in 17 league appearances whilst conceding only 20 goals. I think it’s safe to say that the youngster is showing signs of potential for his tender years despite the SuperLiga not being the most reputable of leagues. No stranger to these shores, this is the club that United raided for his services and he also represented them in the Kup Srbije twice, in which opponents were only able to net twice, the loanee denying their rivals to maintain yet another clean sheet in this competition. In spite of this promising senior debut for the club, Milinković-Savićj was dislodged by a more experienced model in Srdjan Zakula, featuring only twice subsequent to this in the last 15 fixtures and warming the bench on one occasion but failing to come off of it. Aside from his duties to the club, the Serbian also represented his country – after being recognised this season – in a trio of performances for the Under-20s, missing the Europa League qualifier as a result.
Henríquez joined Crotian First League side Dinamo Zagreb and certainly served his purpose as their number nine, having finished the season as a 20-goal-striker, making 25 appearances for the club. His fine form has Juventus on red alert as they could taunt United even further should be follow the same route as Paul Pogba and go on to be a success story in Italy. Dinamo laid claim to the title this term and returns to England with not one but two match balls, recording two hat tricks in the space of two weeks! Although United could use this type of prolific frontman, the 21-year-old is yet to make a senior debut for the club.
The highlight of his season undoubtedly that 30-yard thump to stun Gil Vicente and this is just the beginning of his career revival. The tears shed on that day only hint at his dedication to get his football back on track, kitting his home out with its own gym and partaking in yoga now to prevent any further niggles. In fact, Sporting CP couldn’t have done without him, finding a way past opposition to score only twice without the wingers presence on the park. His side got the bronze medal as they finished the season third in the league ranking. You perhaps wouldn’t have expected the so winger to accomplish so much but Louis van Gaal still believes there is no place for Nani at Old Trafford, particularly with the Premier League being somewhat of a step up from the Portuguese setup – despite surely being an improvement on Valencia or Young – and will look to claim at least £5million for the player that once cost them £17million. Sporting CP have indicated they cannot afford the man in questions wages though so he would look likely to join one of the plethora of clubs expressing interest in him. Those who will have to battle it out include: Juventus, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Tottenham, and Valencia.
Another player returning to whence he came; Wilfried Zaha departed for the club that had once valued him so highly. And who says there is no such thing as second chances? Amassing 31 appearances, the winger seemingly saw this campaign as his last chance to shine in the Premier League following a disappointing spell with Cardiff last time out. Statistics of 40 shots taken on across his season indicate the former Red Devil (and he implied that he felt in hell during his time at Old Trafford) grabbed his chance with both hands with nothing to lose by this stage, on the scoresheet four times as a result with two assists also to his name. Reinstating his persona as the tricky type who can beat a man with some serious skills, dastardly dribbling and pacey promise, Palace’s number 11 is now facing the possibility of being called up to Gareth Southgate’s Under-21’s England squad. Perhaps some individuals only perform under certain clubs and the evidence is certainly here to support that theory as Zaha labelled the club as his ‘home’ in an interview. The London-based outfit were even spurred to make a successful move to bring the 22-year-old back where he belongs and it’s nice to see him valued once more as an asset to his team.
From one giant to another, Hernández departed for a season-long loan at the Bernabeu, with the Spanish side having the option to bring the striker to Real Madrid on a permanent basis. Alas, netting on seven league instances whilst wracking up 23 appearances was not enough to warrant an extended stay in the land of Flamenco and footballing greats. However, he himself was impressed by what the club had to offer, dubbing his move as ‘a dream come true,’ and is still pining for a return. One goal to remember during this spell has to be the strike that separated the La Liga outfit from their local rivals, Atletico Madrid, on an occasion none other than the Champions League quarter-finals. The Mexican had some boots to fill you could say, firstly, having been handed the number 14 shirt that Xabi Alonso once donned, then being introduced to the Spanish top flight in place of Karim Benzema when his side were in a losing position, and finally, being relied upon when taking the place of Gareth Bale on the 77th minute of a fixture. The 27-year-old may have bagged a brace on this cap, but with a final score line of 8-2 in Real’s favour, he never really had his moment to shine. This really epitomises Chicharito’s campaign, not necessarily given the opportunity to go on a run – with limited minutes on the pitch per match – as a forward may require. Though this was probably to be expected, as despite his talents the man in question wasn’t going to be comparable to the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Finally being presented with his chance to establish himself in the top tier with newly promoted Leicester City, the midfielder’s attitude was reportedly just one of the causes of an unsuccessful spell. The Foxes backroom staff were supposedly not only blue in the shirt but blue in the face by his lack of work ethic during his time. Perhaps being dubbed a ‘future England International’ by none other than Sir Alex Ferguson was too much for Powell who has now had two unsuccessful loans on the trot.
The first of the Keane brothers, Burnley wasted no time in delaying a permanent switch for their number 25 subsequent to an impressive loan spell. A fee believed to be around the £2million mark, the 21-year-old is tied down at Turf Moor. His surge to form has seen him capped for the England-Under-21’s also the Stockport-born boys future looks up. Making 21 league appearances for the Clarets, his defensive qualities saw his side – particularly towards the back end of Burnley’s maiden top flight season – keep a series of against Aston Villa and Hull to give them momentum going into pre-season. Additionally, Keane played the full 90 minutes in a 1-1 shock stalemate with Chelsea that will no doubt go down in the clubs folklore, renowned all the more thanks to a last gasp goal for the visitors.
A significant turnaround in Tom Cleverley’s career has seen him grab the opportunity with both hands and give Roy Hodgson a selection headache as the midfielder now stands a chance of representing his country once more. Tim Sherwood in particular transformed the 25-year-olds odds. He claimed his lack of criticism boosted his confidence as he started afresh with a new set of supporters, even removing himself from the social media known as Twitter to get his football back on track. The now-scoring Cleverley – who went on a run of netting three times in the space of five games under the new gaffer – also revealed that this has only served to toughen him up and make him a better player. Although Villa fans would have liked to have seen him return, the revitalised man completed a move to Everton after he joined so many on a list of released players. Perhaps the man who is now on the England managers radar just needed the right teammates to surround him, with Fabian Delph and himself able to venture forward in the knowledge that Kieran Richardson was doing his duties shielding the backline. Either way, it is good to see that the man in question is no longer subject to open fire from the Red Devils faithful
A season-long-loan to Real Madrid Castila, the Spanish outfits B side, saw the right-back go on to make 33 appearances and have praised heaped on him from Zinedine Zidane. Described this season by the footballing legend as ‘hard-working’ and ‘very serious’ with ‘a big future for sure,’ his whereabouts next season could lie with Real Madrid as the club have hinted that they would like to keep him. However, tipped to play understudy to Rafael da Silva, Varela could have a place in the Red Devils’ first team if he continues to impress, particularly with only 22 tender years notched under his belt.
Re-joining Doncaster Rovers after the club had grown fond of him due to a successful loan spell during the conclusion to the 2013/14 campaign, the goalie impressed once more, keeping four clean sheets in such a short period. However, with his time up in January, despite Paul Dickov’s desire for him to remain at the Keepmoat, he had caught the eye of Simon Grayson. Unable to resist the chance to become a Lilywhite and play for his boyhood club, Johnstone wished Rovers well and helped Preston North End to promotion. Although they did it the hard way at Wembley, the 22-year-old held his nerve on the big stage as his side breezed to victory at a 4-0 score line. However, released by his parent club, Johnstone will be in search of a new side and following his time at Deepdale, you’d expect North End to go back in for the now free-agent who’d be a bargain to say the least.
Eight appearances at the New York Stadium saw Reece James establish himself as a pacey full-back which we all know captures the heart of the fans. He justified his intentions to not only safeguard his right flank but to get involved in the final third when he was amongst the action in a 4-4 deadlock with Derby County as a Huddersfield player, scoring Town’s third directly from a corner! His potential was enough for United to draw up a new contract for the defender which he inevitably agreed to and signed on the dotted line. In summary, this game time was just what the doctor ordered with James’ last loan spell having been in the summer of 2013 where he returned only in September due to an injury setback.
Surprisingly, enjoying their time in Yorkshire is becoming a recurring theme for United’s shipped out players as Barnsley-bound Ben made 21 appearances for the club and became pivotal in their push for the play-offs under Lee Johnson – despite it being unsuccessful. His box-to-box style of play helped the 20-year-old to do ‘a proper man’s job’ during his stay. Even snubbing interest from the Championship, the midfielder’s maturity was reinforced by his natural adjustment to a change in management.
Featuring heavily for Sheffield Wednesday, Will Keane showed a glimpse of his former self as he found himself on the score sheet three times on 11 Owls outings. Although at one point it looked like the same old story as the striker was plagued with a knee niggle once more, he resiliently reclaimed his place in the match-day squad. Furthermore, the ex-England Under-21’s International divulged his contentment at the South Yorkshire outfit with a return to the club not ruled out as he could fulfil his former potential there having convinced the fans he’s up to the task with new owners making designs for the Premier League.
Joe Rothwell epitomised a miserable season for Blackpool as his deal that was due to expire at the end of the term was cut short. Featuring only on a trio of occasions – two of which saw the Seasiders fall a whopping 4-0 – suggests the attacking minded man wasn’t proving his worth as the club only found the back of the net once in his duration.
Bolton was the-place-to-be for United’s promising (or in this case, once promising) graduates. In Adam Bodgan’s and Andy Longergans’ absence due to injury, Amos stepped up to the plate and earned a permanent deal under Neil Lennon following his unsurprising release from the Reds in close season. Wanderers Player of the Month during March scooped 46 per cent of votes from the supporters following his performances that saw the shot-stopper concede no more than two goals when completing 90 minutes in Bolton colours. This included holding high flying Ipswich at 1-0 and nulling the threat of Patrick Bamford and co when making the trip at Boro, it was the same score line that day. Nottingham Forest who you’d expect to be hoping to make the promise land next term were also interested in having the ‘keeper between the sticks. Perhaps Amos is peaking once again.
At the top of the table in another division, Jesse Lingard was unfortunate to see Derby County miss out on a play-off spot. However, his efforts cannot be faulted as Steve McClaren now wishes to take the 22-year-old to the next level and work with him once more at Newcastle United during the 2015/16 campaign. A calm-headed and collected finisher, Lingard proved this on two occasions at he netted twice for the Rams and showed a blend of power and accuracy as he stung many a goalkeepers palms from outside of the box. Additionally, no beating about the bush, the wingers quick feet took his side from one end of the pitch to another like that, Derby’s somewhat youthful midfield were thankfully able to keep up as he skipped his way through at least two of the opposition at once on several instances. Effortlessly, our academy product showed great vision for passing to suggest the new Toon boss is right in thinking he can make the cut in top flight.
Making a good impression early on at the Macron Stadium, the Swiss winger only went and bagged Bolton Junior Goal of the Season with a whopping strike from the angle of the edge of the area, sweetened by the underside of the crossbar as it kissed it on its way in. But this wasn’t where his contribution to his side’s effort stopped. Only earlier on in the contest he set up Eidur Gudjohnsen’s opener to get Bolton in the mood. Andy Kellett went the other way in a deal that saw the two youngsters switch places in January, and the Wanderers set of results post the 19-year-olds arrival, in which they triumphantly beat Fulham and Cardiff, and put up a fight against promotion pushing Watford, Boro, Norwich, and Brentford. The loanee even claimed Man of the Match in the clash with league leaders Watford who could only edge the Northern outfit by a four goals to three. Proving his worth going forward, Janko will be hoping to extend his future at Old Trafford as his renowned crossing of a ball developed during his spell away from the club suggests he could be part of a Red Devils squad a few years from now!