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.
The Frenchman struggled to live up to the hype that surrounded him, especially if you look at his scoring record over the past couple of years, but he’s still provided his fair share of memorable 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 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, after a questionable few years.
He is just one of two starters who are still at the club, and his longevity at United is astounding.
The Spaniard holds the record for the most appearances made by a foreign player and he’s 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 33.
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 Mourinho. Surely the only player to piss off 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 in the summer of 2021. The full-back remains a handy 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 team-mates with his vegan diet ever since.
The 33-year-old defender has done well under Mourinho at the Olimpico and lifted the UEFA Conference League trophy last term.
"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.
Seven years later, Van Gaal’s continuing to get the best out of Blind.
Another cruel, cruel blow for the #USA!
Daley Blind arrives on the scene to sweep home for #NED and double their lead!
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) December 3, 2022
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. Now he’s in charge of Championship club Middlesbrough.
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 alongside Ross Barkley and Aaron Ramsey.
🗣 "I'm absolutely delighted to be here."
Michael Carrick gives his first press conference as the new Middlesbrough boss pic.twitter.com/EH4lV6ng60
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) October 25, 2022
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.
Herrera 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. He spent three years in the French capital and is now back in Bilbao with Athletic.
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’s almost nine years since Juan Mata joined Manchester United from Chelsea – where does the time go? – and he’s finally left for pastures new, for Turkish Super Lig giants Galatasaray.
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 still hear his name in Martin Tyler’s voice, don’t you?) is still at Old Trafford. Last season’s stint at Sevilla failed to get him shining again, and he continues to struggle with injury knocks, but there have been some promising hints at a resurgence under Erik ten Hag.
⏪ 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 never quite fulfilled all that raw potential during his stint at Old Trafford. But he did so at Lyon, earning a move to Barcelona. He’s struggling to nail down a spot in Xavi’s favoured XI these days, but Van Gaal still loves him.
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, but he’s outlasted his old England team-mate and now calls Unai Emery boss.
WHAT. A. GOAL! 🤩
Netherlands pass it from back to front and Memphis Depay applies the finish!
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) December 3, 2022
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.
Earlier this year, he won the Chinese double with Shandong Leung, proving once again that in the modern era success follows once you leave Old Trafford.