Where are they now? Man Utd’s U21 team in Marcus Rashford’s last game
Marcus Rashford burst onto the scene at Manchester United with a debut brace in the Europa League in 2016. The rest, as they say, is history.
But just five days before that famous introduction, on February 20, 2016, Rashford was slogging it out with United’s Under-21 side in 1-0 defeat to Manchester City.
So what happened to Rashford’s team-mates once he was fast-tracked toward stardom? It’s fair to say they’ve enjoyed mixed success…
GK: Joel Pereira
Pereira was tipped for a bright future by Jose Mourinho and made his Premier League debut in a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace at the end of the 2016-17 season.
But he didn’t make another appearance in the English top-flight and had loans at Vitoria de Setubal, Kortrijk, Hearts and Huddersfield.
After being released by United last summer, the goalkeeper joined Eredivisie side RKC Waalwijk but has missed most of 2021-22 due to a hernia injury.
RB: Sadiq El Fitouri
Libyan full-back Sadiq El Fitouri spent his youth on a tour of the North West. He was at Manchester City’s academy, then Salford City, then Manchester United, then he finally scaled the Peak District to join Chesterfield.
At Salford, Paul Scholes and Phil Neville were apparently blown away by his speed.
But he didn’t quite make it anywhere in England, and in 2017 he moved to Al Ahli Tripoli in Libya before a short and unsuccessful spell in Romania.
As far as anyone knows, the defender is currently without a club.
CB: Ro-Shaun Williams
Speedy centre-back Ro-Shaun Williams grew up a United fan in Whalley Range, and he has featured for England at youth level.
Despite being only 16 at the start of the campaign, Williams was a regular starter for the Under-21s over 2015-16.
He left United in 2019 to join Shrewsbury of League One, where he made 97 appearances but famously scored an own goal against Liverpool.
The 23-year-old defender joined fellow League One side Doncaster Rovers following the expiry of his Shrewsbury contract in 2021.
CB: Timothy Fosu-Mensah
After joining United from Ajax’s academy, Fosu-Mensah made his senior debut in Rashford’s own Premier League bow: that 3-2 home win against Arsenal.
He made another seven Premier League appearances under Louis van Gaal but struggled for regular opportunities during Jose Mourinho’s tenure.
Loan spells at Crystal Palace and Fulham were nothing to write home about and United sold him to Bayer Leverkusen in January 2021.
LB: Joe Riley
Full-back Joe Riley made his first United start on Rashford’s debut, the 5-1 rout of Midtjylland.
That’s where the parallels end. Riley joined League Two side Bradford City in 2018, but the club released him at the end of 2019-20.
The 25-year-old now features regularly in midfield for Carlisle United, who are currently struggling near the bottom of League Two.
CM: Devonte Redmond
During the 2015-16 season, six-foot-two midfielder Devonte Redmond was the joint-highest appearance maker for United’s Under-21s.
He never made it to the first team and was let go in 2018. Cruelly, United never warned him about his impending release.
“It had been posted on Twitter… the official ‘retained and released’ list,” he told The Athletic. “And that was how I found [out].”
After a brief spell at Salford, he joined National League side Wrexham in 2019 and is currently spending the second half of 2021-22 on loan at Kidderminster Harriers.
CM: Matty Willock
United saw enough potential in Matty Willock — brother of Newcastle’s Joe Willock— to send him out on loan four times: to Utrecht, St Johnstone, St Mirren and Crawley.
In 2019, he moved on a free transfer to League One side Gillingham but started just nine games during his two years at the club.
The 25-year-old dropped down to League Two with Salford City in 2021 and scored a stunning goal on his debut against Leyton Orient.
What a hit son, WHAT A HIT 🎯
— Football League Zone (@TheFLZone) August 7, 2021
RW: Joe Rothwell
One of the older members of the Under-21 side, Rothwell nevertheless rarely featured in 2015–16, getting fewer reserve minutes than Phil Jones.
He moved to Oxford United in the summer of 2016 and impressed over two seasons in League One.
At 27, he’s now a regular for Blackburn Rovers in the Championship.
AM: Marcus Rashford
Rashford made many of his Under-21 appearances in a central supporting role.
In fact, he only scored a single goal for the Under-21s — a long-range strike in a 6-1 demolition of Leicester. Nick Powell started that match as United’s lone centre-forward, obviously.
Needless to say, he’s done alright since.
63': Marcus Rashford is subbed on for Manchester United
90+2': Rashford completes his hat-trick
A star on and off the pitch 🌟 pic.twitter.com/HubftBeE62
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) October 29, 2020
LW: James Weir
Preston-born James Weir captained the Under-21s during Rashford’s breakout season, playing more minutes than anyone else.
Like Fosu-Mensah, he made his senior debut in the 3-2 win against Arsenal.
“To see mates you’ve grown up with getting opportunities spurs everybody on and lifts the atmosphere,” he told the Manchester Evening News.
“We all now that at Manchester United you will get chances, but to see it actually happening is great.”
But Weir voluntarily left United shortly after, in the summer of 2016.
He joined Hull, then in the Premier League, but failed to make an impact before joining Wigan (on loan) then Bolton.
In March 2020 the 26-year-old made a leftfield move to join FK Pohronie in Slovakia and now plays for Hungarian side MTK Budapest.
ST: Will Keane
Get a load of Peter Pan over here.
Having already spent four spells away from the club on loan, Keane was 23 years old when United’s under-21s failed to muster a goal against Man City.
To put his experience into perspective, he had won United’s Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year trophy at the end of the 2009–10 season, when Gary Neville was still playing.
Keane finally left United in the summer of 2016 but had difficult spells at Hull City and Ipswich Town. The striker then moved to Wigan in 2020 and has been in the best form of his career, scoring 22 goals in his first 59 appearances for the club.
Scott McTominay (sub)
An 18-year-old Scott McTominay barely featured for the Under-21 team six years ago, but he’s now made over 150 appearances for the United first team.
Demitri Mitchell (sub)
Mitchell made just one senior appearance for United — the final game of the 2016–17 season under Mourinho.
The wing-back also had two loan spells with Hearts, where he scored a couple of goals in the Scottish Cup, but he missed the entire 2019–20 season with a knee injury, not even featuring in the Premier League 2.
After being released in 2020, he spent 18 months at Blackpool before returning to Scotland with Hibernian in January 2022.