The last five England U21 internationals signed by Man Utd & how they fared

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Wilfried-Zaha-Manchester-United

If reports are to be believed, Manchester United are pretty determined to sign Aaron Wan-Bissaka from Crystal Palace.

United have had a £40million bid for Wan-Bissaka rejected by Palace but could improve their offer for one of the hottest prospects in the Premier League, who is currently on international duty ahead of the European Under-21 Championship.

We’ve taken a look back at the last five players Manchester United have signed who were England Under-21 internationals but had yet to break into the senior side.

Wilfried Zaha

It just so happened that the last England Under-21 international Manchester United signed also happened to be from Crystal Palace.

If the Red Devils do land Wan-Bissaka, the right-back will hope to fare better at Old Trafford than Zaha, who played just four times in all competitions for United following his £15million transfer from Selhurst Park.

“There were rumours that the reason I wasn’t playing for United was because I slept with David Moyes’s daughter, and no one attempted to clear that up,” Zaha told ShortList in 2018. “So I was fighting my demons by myself, these rumours that I knew weren’t true.

“I was dealing with this at 19; living in Manchester by myself, nowhere near anyone else, because the club had a hold over where I lived.

“They hadn’t given me a car, like every other player. Nothing. I’m living in this hell by myself, away from my family, and I thought, ‘If this doesn’t make me stronger, what will?’”

READ: Wilfried Zaha: Not good enough for Man Utd then, but truly special now

Phil Jones

It can be hard to look past the banter and the gurning and remember Jones was indeed a brilliant prospect when United paid Blackburn Rovers £16.5million to sign the then-19-year-old.

Jones had already broken into the England Under-21 set-up by that point and completed his medical ahead of the transfer just days before linking up with the squad for the 2011 UEFA European Under-21 Championship, in which he captained the side for the final group match.

Later that summer, he was called up to the senior squad for the first time, eventually making his debut in October 2011.

He’s still a regular figure with Manchester United, less so with England.

Chris Smalling

He’s still a regular figure Manchester United, less so with England.

Alongside Jones, Smalling – whether fairly or not – has come to represent how United have stood still since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson.

Ferguson was convinced to sign Smalling after the defender had made just nine first-team appearances for Fulham, having made the step up from non-league Maidstone with ease.

He had earned England Schoolboy honours with Maidstone and quickly progressed through the age groups once he had joined Fulham.

READ: Seven players Man Utd signed from the Football League in the past decade

Fraser Digby

Okay, we’re scraping the barrel a bit here, but Nick Powell made his England Under-21 debut a couple of months after moving to Old Trafford while Paul Ince’s delayed transfer from West Ham was completed four days after he had made his senior bow against Spain.

And so we’ve had to go all the way back to Digby, who rejoined United on a loan deal from Swindon Town in 1992 as cover for Peter Schmeichel.

Having come through the youth ranks with the Red Devils before leaving without making a senior appearance, it was fitting the goalkeeper again failed to make it onto the pitch the second time around.

His England Under-21 honours came during his more successful spell with Swindon, who he helped win promotion to the Premier League.

Garth Crooks

Yes, before Crooks was renowned for turning his BBC Team of the Week column into a psychedelic rant, the former Tottenham player had a brief spell on loan at United in 1983-84, scoring twice in seven First Division appearances, three years after he had made his final appearance for England’s Under-21s.


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