Where are they now? The Man Utd XI on Wayne Rooney’s debut v Fenerbahce

Quick Reads

Having stolen the hearts of a nation with his performances at Euro 2004, Wayne Rooney picked up where he left off on his Manchester United debut in September of that year.

The Red Devils thrashed Fenerbahce 6-2 in the Champions League, and a teenage Rooney scored a hat-trick to underline his status as a special talent on his comeback from the broken metatarsal that scuppered England’s hopes in the summer.

Unsurprisingly given he made his United debut at the age of 18 and was the youngest player on the pitch, he’s one of only two players from Alex Ferguson’s starting XI that day to still be active in the game.

Roy Carroll

The goalkeeper’s Old Trafford stint will always be remembered for spilling the ball against Tottenham and getting one of the all-time great let-offs after the match officials erroneously ruled it hadn’t crossed the line.

He was a regular in this 2004-05 campaign but could never quite hold down his place between the sticks and left the following summer before spending an eclectic career between Odense BK, Olympiacos, Notts County and eventually Linfield, who he left in the summer.

At the age of 42, he is without a club but has yet to officially retire and has spoken of his desire to continue playing once he recovers from a serious knee injury.

Gary Neville

One of the stalwarts of this side by the time Rooney arrived, Neville had already won six Premier League titles by 2004. Two more would follow, but age and injuries saw him increasingly on the periphery in his later years, eventually retiring in 2011.

Teenage football fans will know him more as a pundit and commentator than they’ll remember him as a player. And that makes us feel really old indeed.

Gabriel Heinze

Sir Alex Ferguson refused to allow the Argentina international to join Liverpool in 2007 so he eventually signed for Real Madrid instead. Getting knocked out cold by Roy Keane can’t have helped dressing room harmony at the club.

“We lost a game and I went in the dressing room first and Roy Keane was second. I liked to go first after the game; I didn’t want to speak to anyone as we lost,” Heinze told Pura Quimica in 2017.

“I didn’t understand English, just the bad words. I heard my name and ‘f*ck off’ by Roy Keane, the best player.

“I knew that was bad so I stood up to him, this idol of Manchester, this great guy who everyone loved, and replied, ‘F**k off, you.’ I don’t remember what happened next.”

Heinze finished his playing career where it started, Newell’s Old Boys, and is now the manager of Argentine outfit Velez Sarsfield.

An underrated shithouse of the 2000s, too.

Rio Ferdinand

After his record transfer from Leeds in 2002, the defender became a title winner in his first season but would endure some relatively fallow years as Arsenal and then Chelsea dominated in the mid-2000s.

However, alongside Rooney, he went on to become a key compotent of their next — and arguably last — great side, winning three straight titles and the Champions League between 2008 and 2011, forming a formidable partnership at the back with Nemanja Matic.

He was let go by David Moyes in 2014, retiring a year later following an underwhelming stint with relegated QPR, and now works as a pundit.

Mikael Silvestre

After nine years and 361 appearances, the club undoubtedly chose the right moment to let Ferguson’s faithful servant go in 2008.

He’s not nearly as fondly remembered by Arsenal fans and was given a torrid time by his former club in the 2008-09 Champions League semi-final. Stints at Werder Bremen and Portland Timbers followed before he called time on his career with Indian side Chennaiyin in 2014.

David Bellion

One of the bywords – alongside a couple of others here – for the “what were you thinking?” squad of the early-to-mid-00s. The forward scored four goals in 24 Premier League appearances for the club and was allowed to leave for Nice after three years, having been loaned there and to West Ham during his three years on United’s books.

You might not believe it, but he became a Ligue 1 title-winner with Bordeaux in 2009 and finished up in 2016 with hipsters choice Red Star Paris.

As well as being Red Star’s creative director, he became an ambassador for French art firm YMER&MALTA. Yes, really.


Like Bellion and Eric Djemba-Djemba, it quickly became apparent that Kleberson wasn’t the man to carry the torch for United, even though he arrived as a World Cup winner with Brazil.

He left in 2005, spending a couple of years with Besiktas before a return to Brazil with Flamengo, with whom he lifted the Brazilian title in 2009.

The midfielder saw out his playing career in the United States and he’s now manager of MLS side Philadelphia Union.

Eric Djemba-Djemba

Djemba-Djemba did little to justify his reported £75,000-a-week wage and was promptly shown the door after two years and 20 eyebrow-raising appearances in the league.

His nomadic post-United career featured spells with Odense, Hapoel Tel Aviv, Partizan, St Mirren, Chennaiyin and Persebaya Bhayangkara. Sounds about right.

Ryan Giggs

Giggs had already made 500 appearances in 13 seasons as a senior Manchester United player by the time Rooney rocked up. It’s mad to think that was only around the mid-point of his playing career, going on to retire in 2014 after nearly 1000 appearances in his one-club career.

Now manager of the Wales national team, we hope he’s improved on his ability to give a rousing team talk since his short spell as United’s interim boss.

READ: A forensic analysis of Ryan Giggs’ final team talk as Man Utd manager

Ruud Van Nistelrooy

The Dutchman scored a ridiculous 150 goals in 219 appearances in five years with United and to this day remains arguably the Premier League’s best-ever penalty-box poacher.

He was similarly prolific at Real Madrid, but injuries curtailed his latter years in the Spanish capital, later retiring after representing Hamburg and Malaga. He’s now a coach, working as PSV’s Under-19s manager.

Wayne Rooney

It’s fair to say he lived up to the hype of scoring three goals on his debut, becoming the club’s all-time top goalscorer with 253 goals and an honours list that includes five league titles, the FA Cup, the Champions League, three League Cups and the Europa League.

Bust-ups with Ferguson, transfer requests and a slow physical decline in his latter years make him something of an awkward fit as a club legend, however.

After a half-decent return to Everton, he spent a couple of seasons in MLS with DC United and is now scrapping in the Championship’s midtable and learning his trade as a coach alongside Phillip Cocu at Derby County.

More Manchester United

Yearning for the Wayne Rooney we all fell in love with at Euro 2004

The last five Man Utd players to score on their PL debut… and how they fared

Iconic debuts: Wayne Rooney’s hat-trick against Fenerbahçe, 2004

Can you name every player to score a hat-trick in the PL for Man Utd?