3 Former Manchester United stars who returned to haunt their former club
- Wayne Rooney returns to face Manchester United this week, but can he haunt them as these 3 former United stars did?
This Thursday sees a fascinating clash in the fifth round of the FA Cup, as EFL Championship side Derby County play host to Premier League giants Manchester United. Usually, a cup tie like this wouldn’t mean a lot, but this game has a lot of added intrigue for one simple reason.
Former United star and their all-time top scorer Wayne Rooney seems likely to face his old club for the first time since the 2017-18 campaign, and after starting life with the Rams in great form, he’ll be looking to get one over on the Red Devils and send his side into the quarter-finals.
If Rooney pulls it off, the result could be the biggest upset of the fifth round, but it won’t be the first time a former star has returned to punish United. Here are 3 other former Red Devils who returned to haunt their old club.
#1 Cristiano Ronaldo
During the course of his six seasons at Old Trafford, Cristiano Ronaldo became a hero to Red Devils fans, as he scored an incredible amount of goals and helped them to win numerous trophies, including three Premier League titles and the 2007-08 Champions League. But after scoring another 26 goals in the 2008-09 campaign, a protracted move to Real Madrid finally went through, with the Spanish giants paying a world-record £80m for the Portuguese superstar.
United fans were obviously thankful that CR7 had moved to a club in Spain rather than a Premier League rival, and most of them were happy when he became a huge hit for Los Blancos, scoring an insane 146 goals in his first three seasons at the Bernabeu. But when the Red Devils were drawn against Real in the round of 16 in the 2012-13 Champions League, it seemed inevitable that he’d come back to haunt them.
Sure enough, the Portuguese international scored Real’s equaliser in the first leg, securing a 1-1 draw for his side, and in the second leg at Old Trafford, he popped up to score the winning goal in a 1-2 victory, sending United crashing out. Even Ronaldo’s refusal to fully celebrate his goal couldn’t stop Red Devils fans from hurting after the loss.
#2 Danny Welbeck
Despite playing for Manchester United for seven seasons, making 142 appearances and scoring 29 goals, few fans would’ve batted an eyelid when Danny Welbeck was sold to Arsenal for a fee of £16m in the summer of 2014.
The England international had always been a peripheral figure at Old Trafford, and with Louis van Gaal installed to make wholesale changes following the disastrous 2013-14 season at United, Welbeck felt like one of the obvious fall guys.
Few fans could’ve imagined him returning to haunt his old club, but that’s exactly what he did in his first season for the Gunners, as the old rivals were drawn against one another in the quarter-finals of the 2014-15 edition of the FA Cup.
The first half of the game at Old Trafford ended 1-1, with Wayne Rooney’s goal cancelling out Nacho Monreal’s opener, but after just over an hour of the match had gone, it was Welbeck who stepped up to the plate for Arsenal. Latching onto a weak back-pass from Antonio Valencia, the England forward slipped the ball around David De Gea before sliding it into the empty net.
The goal proved to be the winner – sending Arsenal through into the semi-finals and handing the Gunners their first win at Old Trafford since 2006. Arsene Wenger’s side went onto lift the cup two months later – but Welbeck was absent following an injury.
The forward’s Arsenal career never quite took off in the way that he’d hoped – he’s now at Watford – but his performance and goal against his boyhood club made it all worth it.
#3 Angel Di Maria
When Angel Di Maria signed for Manchester United in the summer of 2014 following a starring role in Real Madrid’s Champions League triumph a few months beforehand, he was expected to usher in a new era at Old Trafford. The Red Devils parted with a British record fee of £59.7m for the Argentine, but unfortunately, despite a strong opening to the 2014-15 season, the move quickly went sour.
Di Maria’s form dropped off a cliff after a hamstring injury, and after hitting rock bottom when he was sent off in an FA Cup quarter-final against Arsenal for diving and grabbing the referee, it was clear that his time at United was going to be a short one. When the season ended, he was widely considered the biggest flop of the campaign, and it came as no surprise when he was jettisoned to Paris St-Germain that summer.
Unfortunately for Red Devils fans, the Argentine winger would return to haunt the club who’d largely rejected him four seasons later in a Champions League clash. PSG and United were drawn against each other in the 2018-19 edition’s round of 16, and in the first leg at Old Trafford, Di Maria tormented United’s defenders, setting up both of the French side’s goals in a 0-2 victory despite taking a brutal tackle from former teammate Ashley Young.
United ended up having the last laugh, defeating PSG 1-3 in the return leg at the Parc Des Princes to head into the quarter-finals via the away goals rule, but Di Maria had certainly proven the Old Trafford faithful – who believed he was overrated and a product of too much hype – painfully wrong with his first leg showing.Published 03 Mar 2020, 16:43 IST