10 players who wanted out of Man Utd – & what happened next

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Cristiano Ronaldo during Manchester United's win over Arsenal, Old Trafford, December 2021.

Manchester United are among the very few clubs in the world that don’t normally have an issue with players asking for transfers away from the club – but Cristiano Ronaldo has bucked the trend.

Ronaldo, who previously left United in 2009, is reportedly unhappy about United’s lack of ambition in the summer transfer window and wishes to play Champions League football next season.

We’ve taken a look at 10 players who expressed their desire to leave the Red Devils to see if the grass can be greener after departing the club.

Gabriel Heinze 

The defender did not make himself the most popular man among the red side of Manchester when he demanded the opportunity to join Liverpool in 2007.

United had given Heinze permission to find a new club, but Sir Alex Ferguson insisted that he would not at any point be allowed to sign for their arch rivals.

Both sides ended up bringing in lawyers and a Premier League arbitration panel eventually concluded that the permission to seek a new club “was unambiguous in that it envisages only an international transfer”.

Heinze did eventually get a move that summer, but he joined Spanish giants Real Madrid, not Liverpool, where he won La Liga.

READ: An amazing Xl of players Sir Alex Ferguson allowed to leave Man Utd

Morgan Schneiderlin 

Not the first player to ask for a move away in the Jose Mourinho era, Schneiderlin expressed his desire to leave in the 2017 January transfer window.

After moving to Manchester in a £24million move in the summer of 2015, the former Southampton man never really recaptured the form he had shown on the south coast.

“He opened his heart to me a couple of times and my answer is simple,” Mourinho said. “If he was playing regularly with me, I have the right to say no way. But if he is not playing, I have no right to say you are going nowhere.

“My answer was that, if the offer is right and the board thinks it’s a good offer in relation to quality of a very good player like Morgan, I wouldn’t stop him going.”

Schneiderlin went on to rejoin former manager Ronald Koeman at Everton for a fee of just over £20million, but he similarly failed to find his best form in Merseyside and joined Nice in 2020.

READ: The 15 Man Utd players sold by Jose Mourinho and how they’ve fared since

Anthony Martial

Martial famously did not see eye to eye with Mourinho and found life at Old Trafford increasingly frustrating during the Portuguese’s time at the club.

The forward missed out on France’s World Cup-winning squad in 2018 and then tried to leave the club in search of regular first-team opportunities.

“After thinking about all the factors and possibilities, Anthony wants to leave Manchester United,” Martial’s agent Philippe Lamboley told RMC Sport.

“There are lots of factors, and right now it’s too early to talk about them. Manchester United want Anthony to extend his deal and do not want him to leave but we have not reached an agreement for several months.”

United were unwilling to listen to offers for Martial and eventually sacked Mourinho after a poor start to the 2018-19 season. According to reports, Mourinho suspected that the decision not to sell was made by Joel Glazer because Martial was his favourite player.

The France international signed a new contract following Mourinho’s departure and rediscovered his best form under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, scoring 23 goals in 48 appearances in 2019-20.

But he’s failed to maintain that form over the last two seasons and has reportedly been deemed surplus to requirements by United boss Erik ten Hag.

United probably should’ve listened to Mourinho on this occasion.

Paul Pogba

While Mourinho’s departure convinced Martial to commit his future to United, Pogba still wanted to leave the club n the summer of 2019.

“There is a lot of thinking [going on],” Pogba said. “I have been three years in Manchester and have been doing great – some good moments and some bad moments, like everybody, like everywhere else.

“After this season and everything that happened, with my season being my best season … it could be a good time to have a new challenge somewhere else.”

But the midfielder didn’t get his dream move to Real Madrid as United rejected a bid of £27.6million plus James Rodriguez.

Pogba ultimately spent another three seasons at Old Trafford before leaving at the expiry of his contract and returning to Juventus. 

Wayne Rooney

How can anyone forget the famous Rooney outburst back in 2010 when he looked certain to be leaving Old Trafford?

The forward at the time had 18 months left on his deal when he released a statement outlining his reasons for wanting to leave United.

Rooney paid homage to manager Sir Alex Ferguson but suggested the club were unable to match his ambitions.

“I met with David Gill [United’s chief executive] last week and he did not give me any of the assurances I was seeking about the future squad,” he said. “I then told him that I would not be signing a new contract.”

Two days later, Rooney had signed a new five-year deal making him the best-paid player in the club’s history.

Ruud Van Nistelrooy

One of the greatest strikers to grace the Premier League made his decision to leave United clear after a bust-up with Sir Alex Ferguson back on the final day of the 2005-06 season.

The former Netherlands international reacted badly after being overlooked for the encounter by Giuseppe Rossi. Van Nistelrooy was immediately banished from the team hotel and stopped from playing in Roy Keane’s testimonial.

Van Nistelrooy had already developed a feud with Cristiano Ronaldo at Old Trafford, and this was the final straw.

Real Madrid swooped in, and Van Nistelrooy went on to score 64 goals in 96 games for the Spanish giants, winning two La Liga titles.

READ: A tribute to Ruud van Nistelrooy and the playground art of goalhanging

Memphis Depay 

One player that never quite made that adjustment to the Premier League for one reason or another – Depay made his intentions clear to Mourinho that he wanted to leave the club in December 2016.

The winger made only four substitute appearances in the first half of the 2016-17 season and Mourinho revealed he had overlooked the player as he knew he wanted away.

“In the past couple of months, my decisions in relation to Memphis were influenced by the feelings and information that he would like to leave in January and that we were going to have a real offer that we would be willing to accept,” he said.

After leaving United, the Netherlands international starred for four-and-a-half years at Lyon and then joined Barcelona on a free transfer in 2021.

Romelu Lukaku

After being brought to United by Mourinho, Lukaku fell down the pecking order following Solskjaer’s appointment in December 2018.

“Solskjaer has my eternal respect. He understood me when I said in March that it was time for me to leave England,” Lukaku told Het Belang van Limburg.

“I have been in the Premier League as an 18-year-old boy and now I am 26. Solskjaer wanted to keep me, but I was ready for something new.”

The striker was fined by United for refusing to return for pre-season training and eventually completed a £74million move to Inter Milan in 2019.

He scored 64 goals in 95 appearances over the following two seasons before moving to Chelsea, but he is now back at the San Siro after failing to justify the £97.5million price tag at Stamford Bridge.

Andrei Kanchelskis

The Russian winger became a cult hero for United back in the 1990s before leaving for fellow Premier League club Everton in 1995.

Despite being a fan favourite, Kanchelskis said he felt under-appreciated by manager Sir Alex Ferguson on numerous occasions, which inevitably played the biggest part in him wanting to leave.

Only a year after signing a new four-year deal in 1994, Kanchelskis said: “My heart is with Manchester United, but I cannot stay for one reason and that is the manager. Our personal problems are just too big.”

He finished the 1995-96 season as Everton’s top scorer with 16 Premier League goals but moved to Italy with Fiorentina in January 1997.

READ: The incredible story of Andrei Kanchelskis and his time in England

Cristiano Ronaldo 

Ronaldo was regularly linked with a move to Real Madrid before Los Blancos finally landed their man in 2009.

Football’s moral compass Sepp Blatter accused United of “modern slavery” for refusing to allow Ronaldo to leave.

“I agree with what he said,” Ronaldo admitted in 2008. “It’s true. I agree with what the president of FIFA said. I know what I want and what I would like. We have to see what happens. I do not know where I will begin next season.”

The attacker eventually stayed at Old Trafford for the 2008-09 season, but that move to Real Madrid did turn out alright in the end.

Ronaldo made his long-awaited return to Old Trafford in 2021 and signed a two-year deal but United’s failure to secure Champions League football for 2022-23 has led him to seek a departure after just one season.


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