Managers nowadays receive many a probing question for fielding particularly inexperienced sides, but nobody was going to argue with Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.
But even though Fergie’s Red Devils had sealed top spot of the second group stage of the 2002-03 Champions League, eyebrows were raised at the youthful makeup of the squad which travelled to Deportivo La Coruna for the final match before the quarter finals.
United lost 2-0, and were dumped out of the competition in the next round with a 6-5 aggregate loss to Real Madrid, but Fergie stated he was “satisfied with the effort” his young side put in.
Here, we look back at those that played that night…
The Spaniard’s three-year United career – and probably his whole career in general – went a bit unnoticed.
He joined the club in 2002, at 30 years of age, but struggled behind Fabien Barthez and Roy Carroll, despite vowing he could go on to be the saviour in January 2005.
The most recently trackable whereabouts of the twice-capped Spanish international was a year-long stint as the goalkeeping coach for Japan’s national side – which came to an abrupt end in the midst of a match-fixing investigation.
Deployed on the right-hand side of the three centre backs, Roche was hooked at half-time as Ferguson opted for a change in formation.
It would be his last appearance for United. He went on to play for Burnley, Wrexham and Droylsden before hanging up his boots in 2011 aged just 30, and after a spell fitting cavity wall insulation he is now a coach at Bury.
Stewart also never played for United again and retired at 30, going on to run for parliament in 2015 but, after losing, choosing to follow the herd and become a pundit.
The 37-year-old’s career was drawing to a close, but ‘Le President’ was drafted in to oversee the youthful side.
Blanc’s most recent managerial job saw him leave PSG with a reported 22 million euro pay-off, so he’s probably sat on a yacht somewhere sunny while the media link him to the USA job.
One of few success stories of this United side, O’Shea continues to feature for Sunderland and the Republic of Ireland. He made 393 appearances for United.
Lynch, making what was unknowingly his first and last appearance in a United shirt, scored a second-half own goal which sealed the victory for the hosts.
He went on to have a marauding and spectacularly unimpressive career, which culminated at Altrincham where he retired in 2012 just 30 years old.
It looks like these days he doesn’t get up to much, posting boring things about fitness and climbing mountains on his Instagram page. Who knows whether Lynch has a real job or not, but football maybe just wasn’t for him.
Another who went on to be a mainstay at Old Trafford, Fletcher made 340 appearances for United, which would have been more had an unfortunate illness not decimated his final few years at the club.
In perhaps one of the most remarkably boring transfers of the summer, the Scot moved from West Brom to Stoke City, before this year becoming just the eighth outfield player to start 100 consecutive matches in the Premier League.
• • • •
• • • •
We’re on a roll. Gary’s brother anchored the midfield in the north of Spain, and was perhaps unsurprisingly the only United player booked on the night.
Currently a pundit, of course, he has attempted to foray into coaching but these days focuses on running the Class of ’92’s ambitious project at Salford City – while son Harvey continues to make waves in the youth team at Valencia.
Completing what wasn’t a bad midfield trio on reflection, Butt went on to make 387 appearances for United and 173 for Newcastle.
Now also a co-owner of Salford and the head of youth coaching at Old Trafford, the no-nonsense midfielder hung up his boots in 2011 after a bizarre spell at South China in the Hong Kong first division.
The Deportivo match fell in the midst of a handful of United appearances for the young left-back.
Going on to be described as an excellent professional by Tony Pulis was undoubtedly the pinnacle of his career, and Pugh now captains League Two strugglers Port Vale.
“He came from Uruguary, and made the Scousers cry” is an affectionate chant attributed to Forlan’s brace in a 2-1 victory over Liverpool in December 2002.
After not reaching the levels hoped for him at Old Trafford, the striker went on to score 96 goals in 196 appearances for Atletico Madrid, and earned the Golden Ball as he was crowned the best player at the 2010 World Cup.
Richardson, meanwhile, is currently without a club and was most recently seen of when he turned up for a trial during Tony Adams’ failed British revolution at Granada.
One world class legend toppled another recently when Gareth Barry snatched Giggs’ accolade of the most Premier League appearances ever.
After a short-lived stint as interim manager at United, fans of most clubs seem to be saying “give it Giggsy ’til the end of the season” as he continues to be linked with every managerial vacancy from West Ham to Bury.
Webber, meanwhile, last turned out on the football pitch for Giggs’ Salford City, and has most recently been spotted training with amateur club Egerton – who are managed by ex-Bolton and Aston Villa man Jlloyd Samuel.
Oh, and of course both Giggs and Webber are lining their pockets with a spot of punditry here and there.
Iniesta showing us he’s still got it.
Two world-class stops.
Was Kyle Walker your man of the match?
It’s nine years since he played for United.
Tevez & Mascherano’s arrival was a lot of fun.
Chris Hughton tells us about pressure at the top.
Watch out for CR7.
Lee Bowyer is now Charlton’s caretaker.
Also featuring Diego Costa being nice.