Manchester United's Adnan Januzaj

Where are they now? Man Utd’s 16 wonderkids from Football Manager 2014

As we now approach the 10-year anniversary of Football Manager 2014, we thought it would only be right to check in on Manchester United’s 16 wonderkids from that game and see where they are now.

United were going through a huge transition around the release of the game as Sir Alex Ferguson had just stepped down as boss for David Moyes to take the hot seat.

While United did have an ageing squad at the time, they also had plenty of exciting youngsters coming through the ranks. Here are Man Utd’s 16 wonderkids from Football Manager 2014 and where they are today.

Sam Johnstone

As an up-and-coming goalkeeper, it was always going to be tough for Johnstone to make an impression at Old Trafford as David De Gea was firmly ahead of the rest in the pecking order.

The goalkeeper had eight separate loan spells away from Man Utd before he finally left the club on a permanent basis in 2018 to join West Brom. Fast forward a few years and he is back in the Premier League with Crystal Palace.

Dean Henderson

Henderson’s career path has been remarkably similar to that of Johnstone and they’ve ultimately both ended together up at Crystal Palace. For a while, it had seemed as if Henderson was in line to become the next number one at Old Trafford, but this never really materialised in the end.

The 26-year-old racked up 29 senior appearances for Man Utd, but probably showcased his best form while out on loan. His permanent switch to Selhurst Park should do his career well.

Michael Keane

Another Man Utd youth product who has forged a career for himself away from Old Trafford. The defender was only handed a handful of opportunities at United and his career properly took off when he joined Burnley in 2014.

Keane then joined Everton in a deal worth up to £30million back in 2017 and that’s where he still plays to this day.

Tom Thorpe

Thorpe captained a Man Utd academy squad that included the likes of Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard. The defender was highly rated in his youth days but found first team opportunities hard to come by.

He recently took a five-year break from football due to mental health issues before returning in 2022 to play for Macclesfield. “Going back into the changing room, I was overjoyed,” Thorpe told BBC Sport upon his return to action.

“Initially it was a case of ‘I don’t want to play again’,” Thorpe said. “I was done and I was more than happy to just walk away. There was never a time period of seeing how I feel to get better. There was no aim of getting back into football.

“But there was the stress of: ‘If I’m not going to play football, what else am I going to do?’ That in itself was enough to fill me with anxiety. I was fortunate that somebody from Macclesfield contacted me and things went from there joining them.”

Saidy Janko

The Swiss defender was one of only three signings made by Moyes in the summer of 2023. Janko won the Reserve Player of the Year award in his first season at the club, but only went on to make one senior appearance.

After short spells in France, Portugal, Spain and Germany, the defender is now back in his native country of Switzerland playing for Young Boys.

Ben Pearson

If you are looking for the ultimate wind-up merchant then look no further. Pearson won the Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year award in 2012–13 but found first-team opportunities hard to come by.

He spent a large chunk of his career with Preston North End where he quickly garnered a reputation for himself as a tough tackling holding midfielder. He eventually got his chance in the Premier League with Bournemouth before linking up with former Preston manager Alex Neil at Stoke.

Still only 28, Pearson has plenty of years of shithousery ahead of him.

Joe Rothwell

Rothwell joined United as a six-year-old but never managed to make a senior appearance. His talents became clear while playing for Oxford United in League One and he then took his game to the next level with Blackburn Rovers in the Championship.

The 28-year-old is a smooth operator in the middle of the park and now turns out for Bournemouth in the Premier League.

Demetri Mitchell

Mitchell advanced through the Man Utd youth ranks as a left-back, but he’s become a more advanced player since leaving the club in 2020.

The 26-year-old played a noteworthy role in Blackpool’s promotion from League One in 2020-21 and he’ll be looking to achieve the same with Exeter City this year.

Wilfried Zaha

The move to Old Trafford perhaps came too soon in Zaha’s career. After ripping things up for Crystal Palace in the Championship, United snapped the youngster up on a five-and-a-half-year contract.

Zaha played with a swagger and personality at Selhurst Park that he couldn’t quite replicate at United. Following an uneventful loan spell to Cardiff City, he eventually rejoined Palace where he went on to spend the best years of his career.

After racking up over 450 appearances for his boyhood club, Zaha opted to leave upon his contract expiring this summer to join Galatasaray for a fresh challenge.

Adnan Januzaj

The hype surrounding Januzaj went into overdrive around 2014. Given the winger’s technical skills, it was hard not to get carried away.

After a noteworthy breakthrough season in 2013–14, the Belgian youngster started to slip down the pecking order under Louis van Gaal and he was subsequently sent out on loan.

While he didn’t prove to be the star Man Utd fans had hoped for, he has crafted a successful career since leaving England. Januzaj enjoyed a successful spell with Real Sociedad and now plays for Sevilla.

Nick Powell

Man Utd saw enough in Powell as a youngster to splash £6million on him back in 2012. “We hope Powell fills Paul Scholes’ boots. For an 18-year-old boy it has been a terrific day,” Ferguson said after the midfielder scored on his United debut.

In the end, the midfielder struggled to live up to those lofty expectations and he instead spent the majority of his career playing in the EFL. After a four-year stint with Stoke City, he now plays for Stockport County in League Two.

Andreas Pereira

The Brazilian playmaker was often a bit-part player at Old Trafford, but he did manage to get a regular run of games in 2019–20. Following several loan spells, Pereira made a permanent exit from Man Utd in 2022 to join Fulham.

From Pereira’s perspective, the switch to Craven Cottage was a wise decision. Marco Silva has got the best out of him and he seems to be enjoying his football more than ever.

Jesse Lingard

One of the few names from this list who enjoyed a lengthy career at Old Trafford. The attacking midfielder joined United as an eight-year-old and spent 22 years with the club.

In that time, he racked up over 230 appearances, scored 35 goals and won four trophies. He spent last season with Nottingham Forest and is now on the hunt for his next club.

Angelo Henriquez

“Angelo fits the profile of a United player – skilful, attacking and someone who plays the game with real flair,” Ferguson said of Henriquez when he signed for the club in 2012.

The forward didn’t manage to make much of an impact in English football though as all eight of his appearances in England came while out on loan with Wigan. These days you can catch the 29-year-old forward playing in Russia for Baltika Kaliningrad.

Will Keane

Keane was as prolific as they come in the United youth ranks, but his opportunities at senior level were fairly few and far between. After several loan spells out to the Championship, he eventually joined Hull City on a permanent basis in 2016.

His most successful spell came with Wigan Athletic where he scored 50 goals in just 128 matches. Preston North End snapped him up this summer and it’s not taken him long to find his scoring touch at Deepdale.

James Wilson

Wilson burst onto the scene by scoring two goals on his Premier League debut. The hype quickly went into overdrive, but Wilson’s Man Utd career eventually fizzled out. He’s instead enjoyed his days playing in the Football League and now turns out for Port Vale in League One.

“If people want to say I am a failure, they can have that opinion, but all that I can say is that I am working so hard week in, week out to try to get my career back to what it was,” Wilson told the Daily Mail in 2022.

“If I had advice for my younger self, it would be to enjoy your football. I didn’t realise it at the time as I came through so young.”

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