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Premier League

Ranking every African player to play for Man Utd from best to worst



In Manchester United’s rich history, player from all over the world have plied their trade for the club. However, not a huge number have been from Africa. As of writing, 11 African players have played for United and it’s fair to say that some of these did better than others. The Reds currently have four African players in their first team who will all be looking to impress this year.

Let’s take a look at the 11 names – and a warning to United fans, you may not have many fond memories of this lot…

11. Wilfried Zaha (Cote d’Ivoire)

Zaha was by no means worse at United than the players ahead of him on this list. However, given the hefty £10million-plus paid for him, there’s really no choice but to stick him rock bottom.

He became Alex Ferguson’s last signing for the club when he was snapped up in January 2013 and loaned back to Crystal Palace for the remainder of the season. By the time he returned to Old Trafford, David Moyes was in charge and didn’t take a fancy to Zaha, loaning him out first to Cardiff and then to Palace again.

Following this loan spell, the London re-signed him permanently for around £3million and the winger left Old Trafford having appeared just four times. In case you didn’t know, he’s doing alright these days.


10. Manucho (Angola)

Zaha’s four appearances are one more than what Manucho managed. He may have been really good (probably not), but he had the misfortune of joining at a time when Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez and Dimitar Berbatov were on the club’s books.

After loan spells at Panathinaikos and Hull City, the Angolan left for Real Valladolid in 2009 for £2.5million. Given they only paid £900k for him, United did at least make a tidy profit. It’s not all bad.

9. Mame Biram Diouf (Senegal)

A name undoubtedly more familiar to Stoke fans than those of United. Diouf joined from Molde in January 2010 for just over £4million and made the dream start to life in Manchester, scoring on his home debut against Burnley. After five further appearances, he was loaned out to Blackburn the following season, where he scored six goals.

At the end of it, he returned to Old Trafford and tore it up for their reserve side but never got close to the first team. He remained there until January 2012, when he joined Hannover for £1.5million. These days, he’s playing in his sixth season for Stoke, where he’s made a whopping 155 appearances.

8. Hannibal Mejbri (Tunisia)

The Tunisian international is still in his early days at Old Trafford, but the early signs are very promising. Following a successful loan spell with Birmingham last season, Erik ten Hag has integrated the youngster into the first team.


A real tenacious midfielder who won’t stop running, we wouldn’t be surprised if he manages to leap a few places ahead on this list come the end of the season.

7. Amad Diallo (Cote d’Ivoire)

Following an eye-catching loan spell with Sunderland in the Championship, United fans will be eager to see more of Diallo in the first team.

United have had to be patient with the Ivory Coast winger following his £35million move from Atalanta in 2021, but the 21-year-old has come on leaps and bounds over the past 12 months.

The winger had been utilised by Ten Hag in pre-season and had been tipped to play a role in the new campaign before he picked up a knee injury. Diallo is currently in recovery and we’re sure he’ll come back stronger than ever.

6. Eric Djemba-Djemba (Cameroon)

If his ability was as good as his name, Djemba-Djemba would’ve become a true great. Sadly, it wasn’t. The Cameroonian was brought United in 2003 to fill the (probably) blood-stained boots of Roy Keane. He began his task well, making a tackle on Sol Campbell in the Community Shield that Arsene Wenger called obscene. Very Keane-esque.


He was unable to maintain this level of shithousery, however, failing to ever establish himself in the first team. Still, two goals and three assists in 39 games is undoubtedly a better record than some in this list. Oh, and one was an absolute beauty, against Leeds too, which always helps.

5. Odion Ighalo (Nigeria)

The fact that Ighalo is number five here says more about those below him than his own success at the club.

Nevertheless, despite the ridicule that surrounded his arrival, the Nigerian did a steady job while on loan at Old Trafford. While he failed to hit the back of the net in the Premier League, he did score five goals across various cup competitions.

Ighalo was only ever signed as a stop-gap option for United and considering the circumstances, a strike rate of a goal every 4.6 matches is by no means disastrous.

4. Sofyan Amrabat (Morocco)

The Reds chased Amrabat’s signature throughout the entirety of the 2023 summer transfer window and they eventually managed to land a loan deal for the 27-year-old with the option to buy.


Of course, it’s still incredibly early days for the Moroccan midfielder, but the early signs are promising. Based on his first couple of performances at United, you can already tell Amrabat is loving life at Old Trafford.

“I told the manager I will play where [he] needs me and where the team needs me, even if it is a goalkeeper!” Amrabat told Sky Sports after his debut.

“I play where I can help the team, today it was left-back. I had a bit of a free role, I think you saw I played a bit in midfield, so it was nice, it was good.”


3. Andre Onana (Cameroon)

We might be jumping the gun here with Onana so high on the list, but he’s not exactly against the toughest competition. While the goalkeeper has had some nervy moments, his excellent distribution skills have given Ten Hag’s side a fresh dynamic.


The Cameroon international is able to ping long balls with pinpoint accuracy and we’re certain that he will prove to be a good signing in the end. He may even take the top spot on this list one day.

2. Eric Bailly (Cote d’Ivoire)

Two words sum up Bailly’s time at Old Trafford: Injury-plagued. In his six years at the club, he missed over 60 games due to various issues with his knees and ankles.

When he was fit, however, he was a relatively reliable best defender, as shown by his first season, where was named Player of the Month in August and included in the Europa League Squad of the Season.

His time at the club ultimately fizzled out as he fell down the pecking order under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and was then eventually sold by Ten Hag. Still, United fans will have plenty of fond memories of Bailly at Old Trafford.

1. Quinton Fortune (South Africa)

Mr Versatile. Fortune had the misfortune of joining United shortly after they won the treble, meaning there was little room in the first team for him. Nevertheless, he proved to be useful to the club, providing cover all over the pitch.


He spent seven years there, making 126 appearances and playing in three title-winning campaigns. Due to injuries and his role as back-up, he didn’t play enough games to get a winner’s medal in two of them but did get his hands on one in 2002-03.

After leaving for Bolton in 2006, Fortune briefly returned to Man Utd in 2013 in a coaching capacity. These days he works as an assistant coach for Mexican club C.D. Guadalajara.

-Planet Football

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

Premier League

Ten Hag credits United’s leadership for proactive transfer moves



Pre Season Friendly - Rangers v Manchester United - Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh, Scotland, Britain - July 20, 2024 Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag Action Images via Reuters/Ed Sykes

Manchester United are on the front foot in the transfer market thanks to the club’s leadership making quick and decisive moves to secure new players early, manager Erik ten Hag said after the signing of Leny Yoro and Joshua Zirkzee.

Since British billionaire and INEOS chairman Jim Ratcliffe took control of football operations at Old Trafford, acquiring a 25% stake in February, United has not only witnessed a new hierarchy but also benefited from new ideas.

United signed French defender Yoro on a five-year contract for a fee of 62 million euros ($67 million) on Thursday, the 18-year-old had been pursued by several top European clubs prior to his move to Manchester, including Real Madrid.

Another crucial signing was striker Zirkzee, who had an excellent season with the Serie A club Bologna last season and played for Netherlands in the European Championship. United paid 42.5 million euros for the 23-year-old for a five-year deal.

“It is very good that we are also there on the front foot, we are very proactive,” Ten Hag said on Saturday. “So, (the) leadership is doing a great job in this moment and that’s how we want to act as United.”


“We are highly ambitious and you have to be on the front foot and be ready for the season. The earlier you get your players in then (the faster) you can work on your team.”

Yoro made a strong impression in his United debut during their 2-0 pre-season friendly win over Scottish side Rangers

on Saturday, while Zirkzee, who has been given time off after the European Championship, is expected to join the squad in August.


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Premier League

Super Eagles’ Cyriel Dessers fires blank as Rangers crumble to revamped Manchester United



Rangers FC endured their second pre-season defeat in a row, falling to Manchester United at Murrayfield Stadium.

Super Eagles star Cyriel Dessers started the clash for Philippe Clement’s squad but failed to score in his 76 minutes of action, much to the disappointment of the Scottish fans in attendance.

This marks the former US Cremonese striker’s fourth consecutive appearance without a goal for the Glasgow-based club since his strike in Rangers’ 5-2 victory against Dundee FC.

During the game, Ivorian forward, Amad Diallo, capitalized on a clever pass from Mason Mount, firing the ball into the bottom left corner of Jack Butland’s goal.

In the 70th minute, Polish prodigy Maximiliano Oyedele, who has a Nigerian father, delivered a superb pass to Joe Hugill, who unleashed a thunderous strike past Butland.


Another player of Nigerian descent who shone was Habeeb Ogunneye, making an impressive appearance for Erik Ten Hag’s side during his 45 minutes on the pitch.

Meanwhile, Dessers will be eager to end his goal drought as Rangers continue their preseason tour, with a match against Birmingham City up next.

On the side of Manchester United, Leny Yoro, made his first appearance just two days after the French centre-back signed his contract, Yoro was thrown into the starting lineup in Scotland, starting alongside veteran defender Jonny Evans while Lisandro Martinez remains away after his Copa America triumph with Argentina.

Just ten minutes into the game, Yoro caught the eye with an impressive block to deny striker Dessers.

Yoro’s composure on the ball played its part in United’s dominating possession in the first half, but the Red Devils were made to wait until the 39th minute to open the scoring.


It was the impressive Amad Diallo who curled a delightful effort beyond Jack Butland, with Mason Mount grabbing the assist for United’s first goal of pre-season.

Yoro was removed at the break alongside nine other outfield starters. Only Jadon Sancho, making his first appearance for United in nearly 11 months after his clear-the-air talks with manager Erik ten Hag, remained for the second half.

United went incredibly young for the second 45 and predictably lost their dominant control of proceedings, while the heavy rain did not help either side play their best football.

The Red Devils added their second goal with 20 minutes remaining as Joe Hugill thundered home a glorious effort, removing the shred of doubt about the result which had started to creep in.

Just five minutes later, Rangers brought out their own wholesale changes, but the Scottish side continued to struggle in the final third as United managed to hold out for a solid win.

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Premier League

Nigerian-born Man United’s new striker promises  creativity and unpredictability to fans



Manchester United newcomer Joshua Zirkzee said fans can expect to see a creative, unpredictable player who developed his skills in cage football, and idolised Ronaldinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

He is a Dutch, but has Nigerian mother.

The 23-year-old striker signed for the Red Devils on July 14 after an excellent season with Italian Serie A club Bologna, where he scored 11 goals and made five assists and helped them secure a place in the Champions League.

“Yeah, it’s been a roller-coaster the past few weeks, but some very good experiences. I’m very happy to be here,” Zirkzee said in an interview for United’s website on July 17.

“Obviously, (I’m arriving) at a good point, making a transfer to Manchester United is something very positive. So yeah, I just can’t wait to get started and continue what I basically did last season.”


The 1.93m-tall Dutchman is technically gifted for a player his size, which he attributes to his childhood in Spijkenisse, in the south of the Netherlands where he developed his skills in Johan Cruyff cages – enclosed football pitches named after the Dutch football great.

“As a young boy growing up, playing mostly with tougher, bigger guys who are older than you makes you adapt, so I think that’s something that you learn at a young age in Holland, especially where I grew up,” Zirkzee added.

“(I’m a) creative player, good with the ball, I’m just a bit unpredictable at times.”

He laughingly recounted the countless times he got in trouble with his mother for coming home late.

“I hope she forgives me now for all the times I came home late, or if I broke something in the backyard,” he said.


“Eventually, it all worked out pretty well… that was just life back when I was younger, playing football, forgetting about the time and getting back home late.”

Zirkzee also said that having a Dutch manager in Erik ten Hag is a “privilege” and the added presence of Ruud van Nistelrooy – the former Netherlands and United striker who joined ten Hag’s coaching staff earlier this week – will help him adjust to his new team.

But they are not the only reasons he made the move to United.

“Manchester United is a great, huge club so it’s just an extra privilege,” he said.

“Having some Dutch people around obviously makes it a bit easier, (but) to be fair I’m not too difficult adapting.


“When I was younger, watching the Dutch national team, Manchester United, watching (van Nistelrooy) play, he was one of the guys who you pretend to be when you were playing with friends. So, having him out here is a bit special.

Zirkzee was a late addition to the Netherlands squad for the European Championship, making his senior debut in the quarter-final victory against Turkey.

On the heels of Euro 2024, he will be given some time off and is not expected to link up with his new teammates until early August.

Following his arrival at Old Trafford for a fee of about £36.5 million (S$63.6 million), United are set to sign Lille’s promising teenage defender Leny Yoro in a £52 million swoop, according to reports on July 17.

The 18-year-old had been linked with a move to European champions Real Madrid, but he has since travelled to England and has undergone a medical test with the Red Devils, before putting pen to paper.


United will reportedly pay £52.7 million as an initial fee, with add-ons worth a further £6.7 million.

Yoro, who made his Lille debut at the age of 16, has been ranked as one of the best young players in Europe.

Ten Hag has been keen to land a new centre-back after Raphael Varane left at the end of last season.

Varane and Lisandro Martinez were United’s starting centre-backs in their FA Cup final victory over Manchester City in May, with Harry Maguire missing the showpiece due to an injury that also ruled him out of Euro 2024.

United have also been chasing Bayern Munich’s Dutch defender Matthijs de Ligt and is understood to have had two offers rejected for Everton’s Jarrad Branthwaite.



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