The 17 Man Utd debut scorers in the PL era & how they fared afterwards

Quick Reads

Manchester United have a long history of world class footballers but only a select few players have scored on their debut for the club.

Some players build on that moment and have a long and successful United career, while others struggle to replicate it and fall by the wayside.

We’ve looked back at the 17 players who scored on their competitive United debut in the Premier League era and noted how they subsequently fared.

Paul Scholes

Scholes was part of the famous class of 92 at Old Trafford but concerns over his size meant that he didn’t make his first-team debut until September 1994.

The midfielder started against Port Vale in the League Cup and scored twice in a 2-1 win before scoring on his league debut against Ipswich Town three days later.

He never really looked back after that and won 11 Premier League titles over the next 19 years, scoring 155 goals in 718 appearances.

READ: Gary Neville: If someone said Scholes would be a footballer I’d say ‘How?’

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer 

Solskjaer was signed from Molde in 1996 but had to wait until United’s third league game of the season to make his debut.

The Norwegian was subbed on in the 64th minute against Blackburn Rovers and found the back six minutes later to secure a 2-2 draw.

He continued to score goals as a super sub throughout his United career, most notably the winner against Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions League final. Dunno what he’s up to these days.

Ruud Van Nistelrooy

United were set to sign Van Nistelrooy in 2000 only for injuries to delay the move. They finally got their man a year later and it was definitely worth the wait.

The striker made his competitive debut in the 2001 FA Charity Shield, although his second-half goal wasn’t enough to stop United losing to Liverpool.

He followed that up with a double on his league debut and continued to impress by scoring 150 goals in 219 appearances before joining Real Madrid in 2006.

Louis Saha 

United opted to boost their firepower in 2004 by signing prolific Fulham forward Saha during the January transfer window, and he was thrown in from the start against Southampton.

He scored the opener after 18 minutes when his free-kick from the edge of the area took a wild deflection and hit the back of the net.

The striker bagged another six league goals that season but started to struggle with injury problems and joined Everton in 2008 after losing his place in the team.

Wayne Rooney

United spent £27million to bring Rooney to Old Trafford but fans had to wait for a glimpse of their new signing while he recovered from a broken metatarsal that scuppered England’s chances at Euro 2004.

Rooney finally made his much anticipated debut against Fenerbahce in the Champions League group stage and didn’t disappoint.

He grabbed a remarkable hat-trick but that was just the start. Rooney scored another 250 goals for the club over the next 13 years to become their top goalscorer of all time.

Gabriel Heinze 

Heinze joined United from PSG in 2004 but missed United’s first four league games of the season due to his participation in the Olympics with Argentina.

The defender made up for lost time by scoring against Bolton on his debut and his performances saw him win the United’s Players’ Player of the Year award in his debut season.

But Heinze later angered United supporters by trying to force a transfer to Liverpool in 2007 and was eventually sold to Real Madrid instead.

Kieran Lee 

The midfielder progressed through United’s academy and came off the bench to score the winner against Crewe Alexandra in the League Cup on his first-team debut.

Lee only ever made one appearance in the Premier League, receiving a guard of honour from the Chelsea players after United had won the league in 2007.

Now 31, he left for Oldham on a free transfer in 2008 and has spent the last seven and a half years at Sheffield Wednesday.

Federico Macheda 

With United losing 2-1 against Aston Villa in April 2009, Ferguson decided to take a gamble and brought on an untried 17-year-old.

Cristiano Ronaldo got the equaliser before Macheda conjured up a stunning 92nd-minute winner to swing the title race back in United’s favour.

“To this moment, it remains the best football day of my life,” Macheda told ESPN in 2017.

“I woke up and I was on the front page of newspapers all around the world. My friends were calling me from Rome and crying down the phone. I went into training and all the staff were high-fiving me and saying well done.

The striker was unable to hit those same heights again and left the club in 2014 having made only 36 first-team appearances.

Alexander Buttner 

United identified Buttner as Patrice Evra’s long-term replacement, and it seemed like they had got a bargain when he went on a mazy run to score on his debut against Wigan.

However, that was about as good as it got for the left-back, who went on to make another 12 Premier League appearances before joining Russian side Dynamo Moscow in 2014.

Nick Powell

Just like Buttner, Powell also scored on his debut against Wigan, and he didn’t fare much better either.

“Nick Powell is going to be a really good player,” Ferguson said after the game against Wigan. “He has a great temperament, is two-footed and quick. He is a good physical specimen and has terrific vision.

“We hope Powell fills Paul Scholes’ boots. For an 18-year-old boy it has been a terrific day.”

However, that would be his only goal in a United shirt during four years at Old Trafford as the midfielder was eventually released in 2016.

James Wilson

Wilson was a highly-rated young talent and was handed his debut by Ryan Giggs in United’s penultimate game of the 2013-14 season.

The striker scored twice against Hull City, but his progression was hampered by a serious knee injury, and he recently joined Salford City after failing to live up to that early promise.

Anthony Martial

Martial was thrown into the deep end after his big-money move from Monaco, coming on for Juan Mata in the second half of a tense meeting with Liverpool in September 2015.

With score at 2-1 with five minutes remaining, the forward scored a brilliant goal to clinch the victory and became a cult hero at Old Trafford.

“That was a very big game, both for me and the team,” Martial told United Review in 2018.

“I think it’s my most important goal so far. It’s the goal that really announced my arrival and the goal that gave me that strength to be able to establish myself at United from the word go.”

Despite struggling under Jose Mourinho, the Frenchman has put his inconsistency behind him to become a key player for United.

Marcus Rashford

Rashford was set to be on the bench against FC Midtjylland in 2016, but was elevated to the starting XI after Martial was injured in the warm-up.

He made the most of the opportunity by scoring twice and then got another double on his Premier League debut against Arsenal three days later.

The 22-year-old has since developed into one of the best forwards in the league and has already scored 64 goals for his boyhood club.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Ibrahimovic joined on a free transfer in the summer of 2016 and made an instant impact, scoring an 83rd minute winner in the Community Shield against Leicester City.

The striker was a revelation in his debut season in England, scoring 28 goals in 46 appearances as the Red Devils won the League Cup and the Europa League.

However, a serious knee injury curtailed his United career and Ibrahimovic signed for LA Galaxy in 2018.

Josh Harrop

Harrop made his United debut against Crystal Palace in 2017 as the team prepared for the Europa League final and scored the opener in a 2-0 win.

That proved to be his one and only appearance for the club as the 24-year-old rejected a new deal and signed for Preston immediately afterwards.

Romelu Lukaku

Lukaku had an amazing start to his United career and scored 11 goals in his first 10 appearances in 2017-18, including a debut strike against Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup.

The striker scored 42 goals in 96 appearances for the club but fell down the pecking order under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and was sold to Inter Milan in 2019.

Daniel James

James was a surprise signing from Swansea City in 2019, but he answered any critics by coming off the bench and scoring United’s fourth goal in an emphatic 4-0 win over Chelsea.

“I don’t think you could write it, really,” James said after the full-time whsitle.

“As soon as I signed here, I dreamed of something like that to happen and it did today. To score on my debut and to win 4-0 at Old Trafford in the first game, no, I don’t think you could (imagine that).”

The winger then scored two goals in his next three appearances but has not scored since.


More Manchester United 

A tribute to young Paul Scholes (he scores goals) at Manchester United

Revisiting Federico Macheda’s title-deciding Man Utd debut in 2009

Can you name every player Sir Alex Ferguson used in last Man Utd season?

10 brilliant stats to highlight Anthony Martial’s importance to Man Utd