Where are they now? Man Utd’s XI from Anthony Martial’s debut in 2015
“Welcome to Manchester United, Anthony Martial!” Martin Tyler shouted, his voice straining against the raw noise of Old Trafford as they welcomed who they believed was their new hero.
They had good reason to believe they were witnessing the emergence of a world-class forward who would fire United back to the very top. To score a goal like Martial did on your debut against Liverpool is effectively the holy grail of Manchester United performances.
But Martial is now on his way to join Sevilla on loan, his time in Manchester looking like it could well be over for good.
The Frenchman struggled to live up to the hype that surrounded him, but there were still incredible moments. The debut, his winner against Everton in the FA Cup semi-final and his post-lockdown transformation into Pele the pick of the bunch.
A lot’s changed since that clash against Liverpool in September 2015, and while United have struggled to get back on their perch in the six-and-a-half years since, there have been plenty of comings and goings.
Here’s the rest of Louis Van Gaal’s line-up on that occasion, and what they’re doing now.
GK: David de Gea
It wasn’t exactly going to be anyone else, was it?
De Gea has re-established himself as Manchester United’s undisputed No.1, as well as one of the best shot-stoppers in the world this season after a questionable few years.
He is just one of three players who are still at the club on this list, and his longevity at United is astounding.
The Spaniard holds the record for the most appearances made by a foreign player and the 1-0 win over West Ham means he has now kept the third-most clean sheets in the club’s history, behind only Peter Schmeichel and the great Alex Stepney.
🚨🎥 | The last time David de Gea faced West Ham, he made sure his team came home with the 3 points after a crucial penalty save at the death! 🌪🧤
Lets hope for another good game today, from our POTS! 💪🏽 pic.twitter.com/LnTF1qbUTp
— DDG Xtra 1️⃣🧤™ | Fan (@DDGXtra) January 22, 2022
RB: Matteo Darmian
The only thing more surprising than the fact that Darmian spent four seasons at Old Trafford is the fact he is now 32.
Darmian’s time at United was during its most turbulent period, experiencing the club under Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
It never quite worked for the Italian, who fell out with Jose Mourinho making him surely the only player to ever fall out with the Portuguese manager, right?
He moved to Parma for a season in 2019-20, but Antonio Conte’s obsession with collecting wing-backs earned him a move to Inter Milan on loan in a deal that became permanent last summer. The full-back is a valuable squad player for the Nerazzurri.
CB: Chris Smalling
Smalling is also now in Italy, arguably having caused whatever glitch in the Matrix is now making English players flood to the Stivale.
He has been playing for Roma since 2019 and has been mystifying his teammates with his vegan diet ever since.
"You get the odd jokey jokes, as you do, and that's cool, but [the team] want to hear my journey."
Chris Smalling talks about his decision to go vegan.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) October 1, 2019
CB: Daley Blind
For many Manchester United fans, Blind feels like one of those who got away.
Brought in by Van Gaal from Ajax for around £14million, Blind demonstrated a class and calmness on the ball that United largely lacked defensively in the years since his departure.
“Daley is a great reader of the game, he has played under my philosophy over a number of years and he will be a great addition to the team,” Van Gaal said after signing the Dutchman.
Yet when Van Gaal and his philosophy failed to bring United too much success, Blind left soon after, heading back to Ajax in 2018.
He played a prominent role in their run to the Champions League semi-finals in his first season back, as well as their dominance of the Eredivisie over the past few years.
LB: Luke Shaw
Mourinho might have been on a one-man mission to unsettle him, but Shaw is one of the few players still at the club who started the match against Liverpool.
Three days after this match he suffered a double leg fracture, rendering him out for the rest of the season.
When he returned he was continuously a target for Mourinho.
“He has to change his football brain,” the Portuguese coach infamously once said. “We need his fantastic physical and technical qualities, but he cannot continue to play with my brain.”
Shaw’s football brain has done quite well since Mourinho left, playing in – and scoring in – in England’s first major cup final in over 50 years.
Luke Shaw. The fastest ever goal in a European Championship Final. England are in dreamland… 😍
— BettingOdds (@BettingOddsUK) July 11, 2021
CM: Michael Carrick (Morgan Schneiderlin, ’72)
The Manchester United manager with the greatest-ever win percentage.
Carrick took temporary charge of United after Solskjaer’s sacking, winning two and drawing one.
After solving all United’s problems he then disappeared into the night, sort of like a Geordie footballing Batman.
Unlike Carrick, Schneiderlin never quite convinced for United and was sold to Everton after just one season. Nowadays the 32-year-old is turning out for Ligue 1 side Nice.
CM: Bastian Schweinsteiger
Schweinsteiger’s United stint was a funny one.
Given his age, it didn’t really make much sense as a signing, but the German was welcomed with open arms by Old Trafford and put in a handful of solid performances under Van Gaal, including this match against Liverpool.
Mourinho treated him poorly (surprise surprise) and he left for Chicago Fire in March 2017, but not before scoring a bicycle kick against Wigan to leave United with a taste of what they could have had if they got him a decade earlier.
— FUBAR FC (@fubarfc) March 21, 2017
CAM: Ander Herrera
For just shy of £30million, Herrera signed for United in 2014.
He had been part of Marcelo Bielsa’s Athletic Club side that had steamrolled Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United in 2012 and he brought all of his passion, shithouse nature and hardworking attitude to Old Trafford as a player.
He left in 2019, with United unable to come to an agreement with the Basque midfielder on a new deal and PSG offering him a huge pay rise.
But for United fans, the best thing he did will always be spitting on Manchester City’s badge, just because.
RW: Juan Mata (Anthony Martial, ’65)
It is eight years since Juan Mata joined Manchester United from Chelsea and he is still hanging around Old Trafford, imparting his Encyclopedic knowledge of football to the youngsters at the club.
He remains the nicest man in football, and perhaps one of the most misused players in Premier League history with Van Gaal and then Mourinho’s insistence on playing him on the right as a winger instead of in his favoured No.10 role.
It wasn’t this match, but any excuse to watch him turn Anfield permanently into Juanfield should be gleefully taken up.
The man of the moment against Liverpool that afternoon, Anthony Martial (you see hear his name in Martin Tyler’s voice, don’t you?) is joining a Sevilla side that are currently challenging Real Madrid for the La Liga title. It remains to be seen whether we’ll see him in a United shirt ever again.
⏪ 22 March, 2015
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) March 22, 2018
LW: Memphis Depay (Ashley Young, ’45)
Ah Memphis, another on this list that has United fans wondering what could have been.
The Dutch wonderkid joined in June 2015 from PSV where he had become one of Europe’s most exciting youngsters, but he couldn’t quite handle the pressure that Old Trafford and United put him under.
Now Barcelona is once again testing his ability to perform under pressure. With Ronald Koeman gone, it’s seeming easier said than done.
Meanwhile, 36-year-old Young is back at Aston Villa, having won a Serie A title during his stint with Inter. The thought of him turning out under Steven Gerrard would’ve brought shudders down the spine of the United faithful back in 2015.
ST: Marouanne Fellaini
Even before Mourinho came, United had to turn to the big Belgian when it came to striking options at times.
“He can play in a 9 position and in a 10 but also 6 and 8 but this year he shall play more 10 and 9 than 6 and 8 because there [in midfield] we have more players,” Van Gaal once said, sounding like he was doing a terrible job of teaching toddlers how to count.
He has just won the Chinese double with Shandong Leung, proving once again that in the modern era success follows once you leave Old Trafford.