The 13 Man Utd players let go by Solskjaer and how they’ve fared since

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Despite his ‘Mr. Nice Guy’ reputation, Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has shown that he has a ruthless streak. 

The United squad was in need of an overhaul when Solskjaer took over, and he hasn’t been afraid to get rid of some big names at Old Trafford.

We’ve taken a look at the 13 players to leave the Red Devils on a permanent basis since Solskjaer took over to see how they have subsequently fared. Note: we’ve only included players who have made five or more first-team appearances for United.

Marouane Fellaini

Fellaini was a regular in the team under Jose Mourinho but was sold to Shandong Luneng in February 2019 after playing just 31 minutes under Solskjaer.

The midfielder has scored 11 goals in 34 Chinese Super League appearances. including a hat-trick of headers in eight second-half minutes against Dalian Pro.

He also played in the 2020 Chinese FA Cup final, helping Shandong Luneng beat Jiangsu FC 2-0.

Ander Herrera

Herrera was a fan favourite at Old Trafford but called time on a five-year stay at the club when his contract expired in 2019.

The Spanish international joined PSG on a five-year deal in 2019 but Injury problems limited him to just eight Ligue 1 appearances in his debut season.

He’s had a much more prominent role this season and returned to Old Trafford in PSG’s 3-1 win over United in the Champions League group stage.

Antonio Valencia

Despite being club captain, Valencia only made two appearances under Solskjaer and was released by United at the end of the 2018-19 season.

He moved to LDU Quito on a free transfer and helped them win the Copa Ecuador and the Supercopa Ecuador.

The 35-year-old agreed to terminate his contract with the club due to their economic issues and joined Mexican side Queretaro in November 2020. 

READ: A tribute to Antonio Valencia, the winger turned world-class right-back

James Wilson

After spending the 2018-19 season on loan at Aberdeen, Wilson joined the Scottish side on a permanent deal at the expiration of his United contract.

The striker didn’t score a single goal in the opening half of the season and joined Class of 92 owned Salford City in January 2020.

Since joining the League Two side, he has scored 10 goals in 30 appearances in all competitions.

Romelu Lukaku

Lukaku found himself in and out of the team following Solskjaer’s appointment and joined Inter Milan for £74million in 2019.

He has proved his doubters wrong in Italy, by scoring 58 goals in his first 84 appearances in all competitions and is currently spearheading Inter’s pursuit of the Serie A title.

“I think I had to rediscover myself,” Lukaku told Sky Sports in January 2020. “Last year was difficult for me on the professional side, because stuff was not going how I wanted and I was not performing as well.

“So I had to find it within myself what was lacking and came to the conclusion that it was time for me to change environment.

“I made my decision around March, and I went to the manager’s office and told him it was time for me to find something else.

“I wasn’t performing and I wasn’t playing. I think it was better for both sides to go separate ways. I think I made the right decision.”

READ: Unprofessional? Lukaku continues to show Neville he just needed some TLC

Matteo Darmian

Darmian never established himself as a first-team regular during his four years at United and was sold to Parma for just £1.4million in 2019.

The right-back is now on loan at Inter and they have an obligation to make the transfer permanent for £1.8million at the end of the season. 

Ashely Young

Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s arrival saw Young fall down the pecking order under Solskjaer and the full-back joined Inter Milan on an initial six-month contract in January 2020.

The 35-year-old registered four goals in his first 18 Serie A appearances and did enough to earn a one-year contract extension at the San Siro.

He’s become a valuable squad player for Antonio Conte’s side but could return to England at the end of the season.

“If I could go back and play there [at Watford] again, I would walk from Italy right now because it’s what I know, it’s where I come from and it’s what allowed me to be who I am and get where I am,” Young told the Watford podcast in October 2020. 

“For me, at my age now, and you can ask my family, you can ask my agent, if I had the opportunity to go back and finish my career at Watford, I would jump at the chance.”

Angel Gomes

After struggling to establish himself in the first team under Solskjaer, Gomes rejected the offer of a new United contract in 2020.

He joined Ligue 1 side Lille following the expiration of his deal at Old Trafford and was immediately sent out on loan to Portuguese side Boavista.

The 20-year-old has four goals and six assists in 21 appearances this season, including a sensational David Beckham-esque goal against Moreirense.

Cameron Borthwick-Jackson

Having made 14 appearances during the Louis van Gaal era, Borthwick-Jackson never featured under Mourinho or Solskjaer.

After his United contract expired at the end of the 2019-20 season, he returned to Oldham Athletic on a permanent deal following a brief loan spell with the League Two side. 

Writing on Instagram, he spoke of his pride at representing the Red Devils but added: “I’ve had many negative experiences which in turn have become lessons, especially in recent years.

“It’s revealed some truths in football most people won’t ever see (in due time).”

The full-back has been one of the first names on the Oldham teamsheet this season, making 26 appearances in all competitions.

Alexis Sanchez

After a disastrous 18 months at Old Trafford, Sanchez decided to join Inter Milan on loan in 2019 in an attempt to revive his career.

Desperate to forget about the whole thing and get his wages off the books, United then allowed him to join the Serie A side on a free transfer in 2020. 

The Chile international is behind Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez in the pecking order but has still scored five goals in 19 Serie A appearances this season.

Chris Smalling

Deemed surplus to requirements by Solskjaer following Harry Maguire’s arrival, Smalling joined Roma on a season-long loan deal in 2019.

The England international has rediscovered his best form in Italy and made the move permanent in 2020, bringing an end to his 10-year spell at United.

Timothy Fosu-Mensah

Fosu-Mensah failed to build on a promising debut season at United and joined Bayer Leverkusen in a £1.8million deal in January 2021.

“It was difficult because I ruptured my ACL after my loan spell at Fulham,” Fosu-Mensah said after joining Leverkusen. “I was out for a long time. I came back, [Ole Gunnar] Solskjaer gave me the minutes, they triggered the option in my contract.

“Solskjaer’s been good to me but at the end I was not playing a lot and obviously, when you’re 22, 23, 24 you need to be playing.

“I didn’t play much and I wanted to play, and I think it was the best decision in the end for me to go somewhere else where I would get more minutes.”

During his sixth Bundesliga appearance, he suffered another anterior cruciate ligament injury and will have a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

Marcos Rojo

Rojo’s reckless defending saw him become an increasingly peripheral figure at Old Trafford, and he spent the second half of last season on loan at boyhood club Estudiantes.

The centre-back returned to Argentina to sign for Boca Juniors on a permanent deal in February 2021 but is yet to make his debut for the club. 


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