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Top Five Manchester United Debutants & Where They Are Now

Manchester United were helped to a 3-1 victory over Hull city on Tuesday night thanks to a brace from 18-year old debutant James Wilson. After the match, interim manager Ryan Giggs spoke of giving the Old Trafford faithful a glimpse into the future. Here at Pundit Arena, we take a look at some of the other debut goals for Man United players, and compare them to where they are now.

5. Ruud van Nistelrooy

In the summer of 2000, Manchester United were all but set to capture the signature of exciting Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy until concerns over his fitness were confirmed when the PSV Eindhoven front man ruptured his cruciate knee ligaments in a training session. The move went ahead the following year with Man United paying £19million and van Nistelrooy wasted no time in getting on the scoresheet.

After a goal in the Community Shield against Liverpool, van Nistelrooy inspired a comeback from United against a spirited Fulham side at Old Trafford that also saw future Red Devils’ star Louis Saha bag a brace. Not to be outdone on his home league debut, van Nistelrooy latched on to an Andy Cole pass to open his account with United. Typical of what was to come of the penalty box predator, he secured a 3-2 win with a tap in after a goalmouth scramble.

Ruud went on to score 150 goals in 219 appearances for United until he fell out with Sir Alex Ferguson; apparently unhappy with the attention young Cristiano Ronaldo was receiving in terms of the team set-up. Van Nistelrooy was sold to Real Madrid in 2006 where he won two La Liga titles with the famous Spanish club. Subsequent moves to Hamburg and Malaga followed and the once talismanic forward retired in 2012.

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4. Wayne Rooney

The England wonderkid was signed from Everton at the end of the summer transfer window in 2004 and was one of the most exciting prospects in English football since Paul Gascoigne. The 18-year-old had impressed in Euro 2004 before an injury ended his tournament prematurely. Rooney returned from injury in September to make his senior home debut for Manchester United in the Champions’ League group stage against Turkish side Fenerbahce. In truly emphatic fashion, the former Everton striker announced himself on the European stage with a bang; netting a hat-trick in a 6-2 win at Old Trafford.

Rooney’s time at Old Trafford, although highly decorated with a Champions League winner’s medal and multiple league medals, has often been clouded with controversy with the England striker twice agitating for a move away from the 20-time league champions. He has recently signed an extremely lucrative contract that will see him at the club until 2019 with a reported £300,000 weekly salary.

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3. Paul Scholes

Now an Old Trafford legend, Paul Scholes was one of “Fergie’s Fledglings” and perhaps the most technically gifted of the class of ’92, and possibly his generation. Along with his fellow academy stars, their place at the heart of the Manchester United team of the 90s was made famous by their contradiction of Alan Hansen’s famous quote in 1995 that “you can’t win anything with kids”.

A year before this assertion was made by the Match of the Day pundit, an unassuming 20 year-old made his debut in a League cup game against Port Vale at Vale Park. In a team that included Gary Neville, David Beckham and Nicky Butt, Scholes (playing much closer to the goal in his earlier days) helped overturn a one goal deficit with a delicate finish over the goalkeeper, followed by a trademark headed finish. He scored in his league debut in a 3-2 defeat to Ipswich Town the following Saturday.

Scholes went on to become one of the most treasured midfielders in Manchester United’s history, not only for his actions on the field but for his manner off it. Always one to shy away from the limelight, Scholes’ contract negotiations were often juxtaposed with the modern day footballer; apparently Scholes never haggled over a contract and didn’t even have an agent. He can be currently seen behind Ryan Giggs as interim manager as part of his backroom team to take United into the final days of the 2013/14 season.

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2. Louis Saha

Often a forgotten man of Man United’s early 21st Century team, Louis Saha was bought in the January transfer window of 2004 to supplement a strike-force that included Wayne Rooney and Ruud van Nistelrooy. The French striker had made a habit of scoring against United for Fulham and his pace and movement offered Sir Alex Ferguson another option up front.

Saha made his debut for United at Old Trafford against Southampton on the last day of January 2004 and immediately made an impact after his deflected free-kick hit the wall and beat Southampton ‘keeper Antti Niemi. United went on to win the game 3-2 thanks to goals from Scholes and Van Nistelrooy.

Saha’s time at United was plagued with injuries but a great scoring run at the start of the 2006/07 season helped his side get off to a fantastic start in a season that saw Sir Alex’s side claim back the Premier League title for the first time since 2002/03. The Frenchman was moved on in 2008 to Everton, and had spells at Tottenham, Sunderland and Lazio. He announced his retirement in August 2013.

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And finally…

1. Federico Macheda

Towards the business end of the 2008/09 season, Manchester United and Liverpool were battling it out for the league title when United came up against a stubborn Aston Villa side at Old Trafford. Having not read the script, Villa scored two goals to cancel out Cristiano Ronaldo’s early strike through John Carew and Gabby Agbonlahor. In the 61st minute, Nani was replaced with an unknown 17 year-old Italian striker known as “Kiko” to the coaching staff of United. Ronaldo levelled matters in the 80th minute but United still needed all three points. Into stoppage time and Ryan Giggs played a neat ball to the feet of the young sub and after a clever spin on the ball, he unleashed an almighty strike that bent beyond Brad Friedel in the Villa goal. Martin Tyler’s exasperated scream of “MAAACHEDA!” helped the goal reach cult status and Old Trafford exploded in a frenzy of celebration.

Macheda went on to score the winner off the bench in United’s next league match against Sunderland and unfortunately, not a lot else has been written in the Italian striker’s history book for Man United. His time at United has mostly been spent out on loan to Championship or Italian teams and it is unclear how much he will figure in Louis van Gaal’s plans for the future, if at all. However, United fans will always be grateful for that exquisite finish against Villa in 2009 that helped clinch them their record-equalling 18th league title.

Here’s a compilation of Manchester United debut scorers for those fans that are hungry for more:

John O’Connor, Pundit Arena.

Featured Image By Allison Pasciuto [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

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