The 17 fringe players sold by Man Utd for a fee since the start of 2016-17

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Chris Smalling playing for Roma against Genoa in March 2021.

One of Manchester United‘s biggest problems in recent years has been an inability to get rid of the deadwood, but they haven’t always failed in that regard.

Sure, the club’s outgoings far outstrip the money they have brought in for… let’s call them ‘non-essential players’. However, there have been a few players who have helped line the club’s pockets when they didn’t have a great deal to offer on the pitch.

Here’s what has happened to the 17 fringe players to move on for a fee since the start of the 2016-17 season.

Daniel James

The most recent departure, James made just 11 league starts for United in 2020-21 and, with the arrivals of Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho, his playing time would have been reduced further still had he stayed on for the 2021-22 campaign.

To avoid such a situation, James was moved on, signing for Leeds United for a reported £25million initial fee in one of those rare transfers that seems the best outcome for all parties.

United made a profit, Leeds finally got their man after chasing the former Swansea player for over two years, and James will be a first-team regular on t’other side o’t Pennines.

Timothy Fosu-Mensah

There were high hopes for Fosu-Mensah whne he burst onto the scene under Louis van Gaal in 2015-16, but the Dutch defender could never make the definitive step up to the first team.

In January 2021, having turned 23, he decided it was time to look for pastures new. Bayer Leverkusen came in with a reported £1.8million offer and Fosu-Mensah was off.

He played six times in the second half of the 2020-21 season, helping his new side to a sixth-place finish in the Bundesliga.

Chris Smalling

After falling out of favour under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Smalling was sent on loan to Roma for the 2019-20 season before joining them permanently in the summer of 2020 for €15million.

Unfortunately, his second year in the Italian capital was blighted by injury and then his former United boss Jose Mourinho became Roma manager before the start of the 2021-22 campaign.

Ashley Young

Young joined former United team-mates Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez at Inter Milan after completing a £1.5million move in January 2020.

United’s one-time captain racked up more than 200 games for the club but made just two starts in the Premier League after November 2019 and was likely to move on at the end of the season regardless of the Serie A interest.

The move to Inter proved inspired as Young helped Inter break Juventus’ dominance in Serie A, lifting the 2021 Scudetto before returning to England for a swansong at Aston Villa.

Matteo Darmian

It’s weird to think Darmian was still a United player as recently as the summer of 2019, but there you go.

The Italy international was another Serie A departure, making a £1.4million move to Parma where he linked up with former Premier League faces Gervinho and Andreas Cornelius.

After a fine first season back in Italy, Darmian earned a move to Inter to re-join former team-mates Young, Lukaku and Sanchez and, as well as winning the title, he turned from plodding full-back to goal machine…

READ: Look away Man Utd fans, Darmian is now Inter’s title-winning goal machine

Daley Blind

United essentially got their money back for Blind when he returned to Ajax, setting the Dutch side back £14.4million.

After playing just seven league games in his final United season, the Netherlands international defender was a regular as Ajax made it within a minute of making the Champions League final.

He even scored his first career hat-trick, while his season-long tally of six goals matched the number he netted in four years at Old Trafford.

In 2021, Blind added another Dutch league title to his collection and is still going strong.

Sam Johnstone

United had a glut of good goalkeepers, with Dean Henderson and David de Gea vying for the No.1 shirt at Old Trafford.

This meant someone had to go permanently, and that someone was Johnstone. He joined West Brom for £6.5million after impressing on loan at Aston Villa in the Championship.

He never played a senior game for United, but the Englishman excelled under Slaven Bilic and then Sam Allardyce at the Hawthorns, earning rave reviews and a place in the England squad at the Euros, despite the Baggies’ relegation.

Marouane Fellaini 

One of the first players moved on by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Fellaini jetted off to Shandong Luneng in the Chinese Super League after playing just 31 minutes under the Norwegian.

The midfielder, who moved for just north of £6million according to reports, has been scoring at a rate of one goal every three games in China.

That form even prompted talk of a Premier League return, with David Moyes’ West Ham United mentioned as a possible destination.

READ: Marouane Fellaini was the glue holding the Premier League together

Adnan Januzaj 

Januzaj’s breakthrough 2013-14 season feels like such a long time ago.

After a disappointing time under Louis van Gaal, with just five league appearances in his last full season, Januzaj was loaned out and then sold by Jose Mourinho, joining Real Sociedad for just under £8million.

The Belgian did enough in his first season in Spain to earn a World Cup spot and has been solid if unspectacular since.

Morgan Schneiderlin

Schneiderlin was almost immediately exiled by Mourinho, playing just 11 league minutes under the Portuguese before moving to Everton in January 2017 for an initial £20million.

He started strongly at Goodison Park, but “a difficult moment in his personal life”, in the words of former Toffees boss Marco Silva, limited Schneiderlin’s involvement in 2018-19.

After one more season not playing all that often on Merseyside, he returned to his native France, joining a very ambitious project at Nice.

READ: OGC Nice: Can a British billionaire’s club challenge Messi’s PSG in Ligue 1?

Memphis Depay

United made a loss on Memphis, who joined Lyon for just shy of £15million after not fitting into the club’s plans once Louis van Gaal had moved on.

The Dutchman has returned to form spectacularly in France though, scoring 76 goals in 178 games.

Barcelona took him on a free transfer in the summer of 2021 and Depay has taken to the Camp Nou pitch like a duck to water, despite all of the institutional issues at the club.

Paddy McNair 

McNair saw a fair bit of action under Van Gaal, but when Sunderland came calling with the likelihood of more first-team football, the Ulsterman was off.

Sadly, two straight relegations meant the end of his time at the Stadium of Light, with Middlesbrough taking him back up to the Championship in 2018.

Since joining Boro, McNair has been able to return to midfield after being forced into defensive duties at Old Trafford. Oh, and he’s scored his first Northern Ireland goals in the interim.

 

Donald Love

Love moved to Sunderland at the same time as McNair, in a £5.5million double deal, and stuck around a little longer.

The Scottish under-21 international spent three years in the North East, but injury issues put paid to his chances and he left on a free transfer in 2019.

Love was picked up by Shrewsbury Town and was part of the team that came back to earn a draw with Liverpool in the FA Cup fourth round.

For the 2021-22 season, he’s returned to the Greater Manchester area, joining The Class of ’92’s Salford City.

Tyler Blackett 

Blackett never really recovered from his red card against Leicester in the 2014-15 season, at least not in Manchester United terms, but he’s bounced back a bit to become a Championship-level defender.

After a pretty meh loan spell at Celtic, Blackett moved to Reading for £1.8millon in 2016 and has racked up more than 100 games for the club.

This is despite the Royals changing manager so frequently that Blackett featured under four permanent bosses and one caretaker in less than four years.

After a single season at Nottingham Forest, where he saw another manager sacked, he’s now joined up with FC Cincinnati in MLS.

Will Keane

While brother Michael carves out a Premier League career, Will Keane is now a couple of rungs further down the football pyramid.

The striker left United for Hull for around £1million back in 2016, having played his third and final game for the club in a 3-0 FA Cup win at Shrewsbury, but never really caught fire at the KCOM Stadium.

After a spell at Ipswich, Keane joined Wigan in 2020, where his 11 goals helped the Latics avoid relegation to League Two by a single point.

 

James Weir

Weir made his Premier League debut on the same day as Marcus Rashford, coming on for Ander Herrera at the end of that 3-2 win over Arsenal, but that proved to be his only United game.

The midfielder moved to Hull on a cut-price deal in the summer of 2016 but didn’t earn a single league start in his three years on the Tigers’ books.

After a short spell at Bolton, he moved to Slovakia and then Hungary, a journey he told us all about earlier this year.

READ: The story of James Weir and his 60 second Manchester United career

Sean Goss

After featuring in some friendlies but never in a competitive game, Goss was moved on to QPR in 2016 for around half a million quid.

Things never really worked out for him in London, with Steve McClaren handing the midfielder minimal playing time before sending him out on loan for a second time.

He moved to Shrewsbury in 2020, joining Love in the starting line-up for that Liverpool game, before crossing the border to play for Motherwell in 2021.


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