The curtain came down on Anderson’s Manchester United career this week. Following on from the Old Trafford flop, we look back at the case of Dong Fangzhou.
Local takeaways were left saddened this week by the departure of Brazilian midfielder Anderson from Manchester United’s ranks. While his hunger and propensity for deep fried foods cannot be questioned, Anderson joins a long list of unfulfilled talent that punctuates Manchester United’s hit-and-miss transfer policy.
Despite the majority of the Red Devils’ less-than-successful transfers being branded as flops, one such acquisition avoided this inevitability purely due to his Old Trafford stint being cast from memory in a vein similar to that of ex-Premier League stalwarts Giles Barnes and Daniel Pacheco. The man in question is Dong Fangzhou.
Despite a first name that said otherwise, Dong Fangzhou lacked penetration and struggled to make an impact at Old Trafford following his £500,000 move from Chinese side Dalian Shide in 2004.
Work permit issues prevented the Chinese striker from making his Manchester United bow, and he was sent out on loan to Royal Antwerp, a rite of passage for Stretford End legends such as Sylvan Ebanks-Blake and Craig Cathcart.
Dong initially struggled in Antwerp; injury and a failure to adapt to a new environment impeding his development. However, his second season would prove to be a fruitful one with the loanee hitting the net seven times in 22 games, a good record for a 20-year-old.
Dong began to fulfil his promise in his third year with the Belgian side, terrorising defences on his way to becoming the Belgian second division’s top scorer. It was starting to look like the extra £3 million promised to the striker’s former club due to an appearance clause may actually be activated in the not-so-distant future.
Dong continued his goalscoring form in his fourth and final season in Belgium (11 in 15) before finally receiving the much craved curly finger to return to Old Trafford midway through the 2006-7 season.
This was it, Dong’s big moment. He just needed to perform under pressure.
But then it happened; Dong flopped and his Premier League career came to a premature end.
At the time, Manchester United boasted a ferocious amount of firepower in their ranks; Rooney, Ronaldo, Larsson, Saha, Solskjaer, to name but a few.
Unsurprisingly, Dong failed to make an impact and appeared just once for Sir Alex’s Red Devils, before returning to China, Fergie deciding to leave him on the bench for the famous 7-1 annihilation of Roma in 2007.
This would prove to be the start of Dong’s trip around the world, with moves to Legia Warsaw (Poland),
Portimonense (Portugal), FC Mika (Armenia), Hunan Billows (China) and Hebei China Fortune (formerly Hebei Zhongji) following. There was no doubt about it, Fangzhou was the most well-travelled ‘Dong’ in world football.
The last spotting of Dong took place last April (2014) on the bench of Hebei. Judging by the snap, it looks like Dong has switched his focus from goals to girth.
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