Where are they now? The 23 Man Utd players to make one PL appearance

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Manchester United are renowned for giving young players a first-team opportunity – but many fail to become mainstays at Old Trafford. 

Sir Alex Ferguson, for one, may have been happy to give youngsters a chance, but establishing themselves at the club was a much more difficult task.

We’ve taken a look back at the 23 players to have made just one league appearance in the Premier League era for the Red Devils. Note: We’ve not included Lee Martin and Neil Webb – players who had extended United careers prior to the rebranding of the First Division.

Josh Harrop 

Harrop is the only player on the list to have scored on his solitary appearance, becoming the 100th player to score for Manchester United in the Premier League when he netted against Crystal Palace in 2017.

Later that summer Harrop rejected a new deal at Old Trafford, joining Preston North End in order to play more first-team football, but he has missed the majority of the current season due to a serious knee injury.

Joel Pereira

No relation to current United midfielder Andreas Pereira, the pair have fooled many with how famously they get on, but are only – in their own words – “brothers from another mother“.

Joel, a goalkeeper, is currently on loan at Belgian side Kortrijk. His one Premier League appearance came against Crystal Palace in May 2017, the same 2-0 win in which Harrop scored.

Demetri Mitchell 

Mitchell made his Premier League debut alongside Harrop in 2017 as Jose Mourinho rested the majority of the first team for the match prior to their Europa League final victory over Ajax.

The 22-year-old is still technically on the books at United but has been sent on loan to Hearts in the last two seasons.

Bojan Djordjic 

Much was expected of Djordjic when he won the Jimmy Murphy Player of the Year Award 2000, but he embarked on a nomadic career after eventually leaving Old Trafford for Rangers five years later.

Since retiring, Djordic’s career has come full circle as has become a successful pundit in Sweden and for MUTV.

READ: The Premier League one-game wonders we simply couldn’t track down

Ben Amos 

Another goalkeeper to make the list, Amos kept a clean sheet in a 2-0 victory against Stoke City on his only Premier League appearance.

He currently plies his trade at Millwall but has spent the majority of the current season as second choice.

Colin McKee 

Having made the starting line-up in the FA Youth Cup final against Crystal Palace in 1992 alongside Gary Neville, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs and David Beckham, McKee failed to make an impact in the first team and returned to his native Scotland with Kilmarnock in 1994, playing for a further seven clubs north of the border, as well as a loan spell in Iceland with Víkingur.

Lee Martin 

Not to be confused with United’s former full-back of the same name, Martin was loaned out no less than six times during his spell at Old Trafford.

Now 32, the winger is still going strong with Exeter in League Two, although he still believes he was hard done by at the Red Devils.

READ: The story of the Man Utd starlet who had too many loans to make an impact

Michael Keane 

The England international made his first-team debut in the League Cup against Aldershot Town in 2011 but made his only appearance for the club in the Premier League just weeks before joining Burnley, where he made his name and eventually established himself as a reliable top-flight defender.

Nick Culkin 

Culkin enjoyed a remarkable rise when signed by United for £100,000 from York City, but the goalkeeper is best remembered for another peculiar quirk.

To this day, he holds the record for the shortest debut in Premier League history, replacing Raimond van der Gouw against Arsenal in 1999, only for the final whistle to be blown immediately after he took a free-kick.

And Culkin also became the first player to appear for both Manchester United and FC United of Manchester, the club formed in protest against the Glazer’s ownership of the 20-time champions.

READ: The story of Nick Culkin at Man Utd and the shortest ever Prem career

Tom Thorpe 

Thorpe was drafted into the first-team squad to help ease Louis van Gaal’s defensive injury crisis in 2014.

The England youth international replaced Angel di Maria in stoppage time against West Ham but was last seen being released by Indian outfit ATK.

Tom Lawrence

The Welshman made his Premier League debut by starting in a 3-1 win against Hull City, with Ryan Giggs – acting as caretaker manager following the sacking of David Moyes – subbing himself on for the youngster with 20 minutes remaining.

Lawrence has since carved out a decent career for himself in the Championship as the winger hopes to fire Derby County to promotion.

James Weir 

The midfielder came on as a stoppage-time substitute for the injured Ander Herrera in a 3-2 win against Arsenal.

He has since only played a handful of appearances for Hull City and Wigan Athletic due to terrible luck with injuries.

David Healy

Healy came through the academy but only made one league appearance for the club, as a second-half substitute in a 2-0 win over Ipswich in November 2000.

Northern Ireland’s all-time leading goalscorer enjoyed a remarkable goalscoring spell for his country between 2004 and 2007, peaking with a hat-trick against Spain in Euro 2008 qualifying.

But he was never quite as prolific in his club career, and he retired at the age of 33 after being relegated with Bury in 2013. He is now manager of Linfield.

Donald Love

The defender is one of many to make the well-trodden step down from Manchester United to Sunderland, making his own Premier League appearance for his boyhood club against the Black Cats, who beat them 2-1 in February 2016.

He has failed to make much of an impact on Wearside, a peripheral figure in successive relegations, failing to surpass his Grand Theft Auto namesake as the most notable Donald Love.

James Garner

One for the future, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer handed Garner his debut in the dying moments as United were beating Crystal Palace 3-1 in March 2019.

With so few minutes, his first appearance amounted to little, but there should be plenty more to come from the 18-year-old.

Lee Roche

Roche came up through the academy, spending six years in total at United between 1997 and 2003, but made just one Premier League appearance for the club, as a second-half substitute in a memorable 5-3 win over Newcastle in 2002.

He made nearly 200 career appearances at Burnley, Wrexham and Droylsden before retiring in 2011.

Manucho

A surprise signing in the 2008 winter transfer window, joining on a three-year contract from Angolan side Petro Atlético, it’s safe to say that the striker failed to make an impression at Old Trafford.

After one season, two loan spells, and one Premier League league appearance against Stoke, he was sold to Real Valladolid in the summer of 2009.

He now plays in the lower reaches of the Spanish footballing pyramid for UE Cornella.

Philip Mulryne

This one starts off a standard tale. Northern Ireland international, United academy product, one Premier League appearance against Barnsley in 1999 before dropping down a level to make over 150 appearances for Norwich City.

What happens next is altogether quite different. Retiring from football in 2008 after a short spell with King’s Lynn, Mulryne then became ordained as a Roman Catholic priest.

Fangzhou Dong

A cult figure, the China international had to deal with accusations that he was only brought to United for global marketing purposes, which he failed to refute with one Premier League appearance in four years at the club.

In his solitary outing, he partnered Solskjaer up front in a dead rubber against Chelsea in 2007, which turned out to be a goalless draw as both sides were heavily-rotated in preparation for that year’s FA Cup final.

He retired in 2014 after returning to China. In 2016 there were reports he had undergone plastic surgery to escape mockery after his underwhelming career.

Kieran Lee

The 30-year-old midfielder is still on Sheffield Wednesday’s books but hasn’t made any appearances due to terrible look with injuries.

A local Stalybridge lad, Lee was given his only opportunity in the same much-changed team that Ferguson named against Chelsea which featured Dong.

Make sure you get the I and E the right way round when googling him, mind.

Danny Pugh

After failing to break through at his boyhood club, Pugh made the switch to Leeds in 2004 as part of the deal that saw Alan Smith move in the opposite direction.

At the Red Devils, he played just five Premier League minutes as a late substitute against Tottenham in May 2004 but returned to the top flight with Tony Pulis’ Stoke in 2008.

His playing career is winding down at Port Vale, where he briefly stepped in as caretaker manager when Neil Aspin resigned.

Ricardo

The Spanish goalkeeper’s one opportunity in the Premier League was coming on for an injured Fabian Barthez against Blackburn in 2003. It was one to remember, as he gave away a penalty but saved it to deny David Dunn.

READ: The story of Ricardo’s three years at Man Utd and how it shaped his career

Paul Rachubka

Another goalkeeper to only appear due to a Barthez injury, Rachubka came in against Leicester in 2000 after the Frenchman was sidelined in the warm-up.

Later a lower league journeyman who appeared for more than 15 clubs, his biggest claim to fame was an infamous horrorshow for Leeds United as he made three mistakes against Blackpool before suffering the indignity of being hooked at half time, in a game that finished 5-0 to the Tangerines in November 2011.

He finally retired in 2018 after a spell with Indian side Kerala Blasters, where he played alongside Wes Brown and Dimitar Berbatov.

Tahith Chong

Another one set to be scrubbed off this list, the Netherlands Under-21 international has been given opportunities by Solskjaer in the Champions League and FA Cup, but his one league appearance to date amounted to a brief injury-time cameo against Southampton.

“He had two or three really good moments, as you do when you’re young,” Solskjaer said after his FA Cup debut. “You don’t run the game as a first performance for a 19-year-old.

“But he got the crowd going, and has shown one or two glimpses of what he can do, he has in training anyway.”


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