Manchester United's Dimitar Berbatov, Paul Pogba, Ji-Sung Park and Danny Welbeck celebrate at the final whistle after their victory during the Carling Cup, Third Round match at Elland Road, Leeds. September 2011.

The 10 players Man Utd let leave alongside Paul Pogba in 2012

Everyone knows how Paul Pogba’s career has panned out since he left Manchester United in 2012, but what about the other 10 players Sir Alex Ferguson let go that summer? 

Ferguson handed the teenage Pogba his debut in a League Cup match against Leeds United in September 2011, but further opportunities were few and far between for the academy graduate over the rest of the campaign.

After a season on the periphery of the United first-team, Juventus paid just £800,000 for Pogba following a tribunal. The midfielder went on to play in the Champions League final for the club and won the Serie A title in each of his four seasons in Italy before returning to Old Trafford as United’s record signing in 2016.

It’s safe to say that the others that left Old Trafford back in 2012 never quite reached those heights, but there’s an interesting and eclectic mix between the youngsters starting out their careers and grizzled veterans that were past their peak. Here’s how they all fared.

Ritchie De Laet

Belgian defender De Laet played alongside Pogba under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as United’s youth side won the reserve Premier League in 2009-10 and was even named their Player of the Year that season.

“Ole was a great guy,” De Laet later reminisced in an interview with The Athletic. “They were great training sessions. Everyone knew what was expected of them. Everyone listened to him because of his experience and history with the club. I am so happy for him it has worked out in his senior managerial career.”

He made six appearances under Ferguson for the first team but never quite broke through and was sold to Leicester following loans at Sheffield United, Preston, Portsmouth and Norwich.

De Laet went on to play a key role for the Foxes as they achieved promotion in 2014 and the great escape the following year. He fell out of favour under Claudio Ranieri but made enough appearances to qualify for a Premier League winner’s medal in 2015-16 and picked up a second piece of silverware after spending the latter half of that season on loan at Championship-winning Middlesbrough.

These days he’s back in Belgium turning out for Royal Antwerp.

Matty James 

Bacup-born academy prospect James never broke through to make an appearance for the first team before joining De Laet at Leicester.

He remained at the King Power until 2021, having made over 100 appearances for the club, although only a small fraction of those have come since 2015 amid injuries and loans away – he didn’t feature for a single minute of the title-winning campaign.

Nowadays he’s playing for Bristol City, working under Nigel Pearson once again.

Oliver Norwood

Northern Ireland international Norwood never got a chance to play for his boyhood club and left to join Championship side Huddersfield after a series of earlier loans away to Football League clubs.

He left the Terriers long before their brief stint in the top flight, but he did help Brighton and Fulham get promoted before finally getting trusted to feature in the Premier League with Sheffield United in 2019. He’s now into his fifth season at Bramall Lane, plying his trade back down in the second tier.

Zeki Fryers

Ferguson was not happy about homegrown full-back Fryers joining Tottenham in the summer of 2013, six months after they’d baulked at United’s £6million asking price and a half-season spell at Standard Liege.

“I’m disappointed in Tottenham. I think it’s a blatant manipulation of the situation,” he said at the time.

“I think the league should look into it and I think they should stop his registration until they examine it.”

In the end, Fryers never quite made it at Spurs, making just seven Premier League appearances before moving to Crystal Palace. A nomadic career path followed, and he’s now turning out for AFC Eskilstuna in Sweden.

Tomasz Kuszczak

Kuszczak was released in 2012 following a half-season loan at Watford and five years as a back-up at United, with 61 appearances before falling down the pecking order behind David de Gea and Anders Lindegaard.

The Poland international went on to play much more regularly in the Championship across stints with Brighton, Wolves and Birmingham before he retired in 2019.

Liam Jacob

Australian keeper Jacob had a short spell in the youth set-up at Carrington before he was released in 2012.

He went on to make a single brief cameo substitute appearance for Oldham Athletic before a couple of games back in Australia with Sydney Olympic but never quite made it and hasn’t played since 2014.

Joe Coll

A former Republic of Ireland Under-17 international, Coll – like fellow goalkeeper Jacob – never quite made it after being let go. He was picked up by Derry City six months after departing Carrington but never played for the club.

Michael Owen

Given the impact of his injuries and the fact he was a shadow of the ridiculously exciting teenager he was during his England and Liverpool peak, 17 goals in 52 appearances – including one special match-winner in the Manchester derby – isn’t actually too bad of a return for the Red Devils, even if that was spread out over three seasons.

The striker retired a year after being released by United, having scored one goal in eight substitute appearances for Stoke City.

READ: Remembering the brochure that got Michael Owen a move to Man Utd


Park Ji-sung

Park remains a fan favourite at United, but he failed to have the desired impact for QPR after moving for a £2million fee.

“He’s been a fantastic servant to the club over the past seven years,” Ferguson said after his departure was confirmed. “He is the ultimate professional and such a nice lad and he never let us down on the big occasions. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t give him the number of games he wanted.”

The South Korean – alongside big names like Jose Bosingwa, Fabio, Adel Taarabt, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Esteban Granero and Loic Remy – was unable to arrest QPR’s slide as they sank like a stone, finishing rock bottom during his one and only season at Loftus Road before spending the final year of his career playing under Phillip Cocu at PSV.

Dimitar Berbatov

Berbatov won two league titles and scored 56 goals across his four years at Old Trafford, but the writing was on the wall for his future after Ferguson left him out of the squad for the 2011 Champions League final.

The cool-as-f*ck Bulgarian spent his final season at the club as a peripheral figure, making just 12 Premier League appearances in 2011-12 before Fulham signed him for a £5million fee on transfer deadline day.

He rolled back the years with a brilliant tally of 15 goals during his debut season at Craven Cottage – a number he’d only bettered once in his seven previous seasons in the Premier League – but was unable to help them stave off relegation in his second year, better known as that Felix Magath season.

Stints with Monaco, PAOK and Kerala Blasters followed before his retirement in 2018. Berba’s now coaching back in Bulgaria.

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