rss twitter facebook mobile

Djemba Djemba: Fergie was so happy with my Leeds goal

When people talk about Sir Alex Ferguson’s transfer record, which has seen the club bring in some fantastically talented players, the conversation will always turn to the flops. Eric Djemba-Djemba is always one of the first names to be mentioned.

Now 32-years-old and playing for Partizan Belgrade, Djemba-Djemba has given an interview with The Guardian reflecting on his time at United.

“It was a big achievement,” he said. “Even if you are from an OK family in Africa, life can sometimes be difficult. I have 10 brothers and sisters, I was the No9 [and] we had a house with four bedrooms. My first training at Carrington, though … I had to pinch myself. I was training with Van Nistelrooy, Giggs – Ryan Giggs is an unbelievable player, fantastic – Keane, Paul Scholes. It was: Wow!”

The highlight of his time at United came on October 29th 2003 when he played against Leeds United in the League Cup. The game finished 2-2 and went in to extra-time. With just three minutes remaining before a penalty shoot-out, Djemba-Djemba won the game for United.

“Oh my God, you remember that time!” he said, when reminded of the goal. “It was so nice. In my house I have a picture from when I scored against Leeds in the Carling Cup. It was in extra time and I scored from a corner. And I still have a picture in my head from when I go into the dressing room after the game. There was Alex Ferguson. He was smiling. A big smile, with his glasses on. He was so happy.”

A year and a half later, Djemba-Djemba left for Aston Villa, after making just 20 appearances in the league.

“I was not being [selected] in many games and it was difficult,” he said. “Roy Keane came back from injury, I wanted to play games and I had a talk with the gaffer. He said: ‘No problem. If you have [another] team and you want to continue to play, that’s not a problem.’”

At Villa, he played even fewer league games than he did at United, was loaned out to Burnley, then moved to the Far East. He doesn’t have any regrets though.

“Life is not complicated. Manchester is a great team and everyone wants to play for Manchester. But if they don’t give you the chance and you have the opportunity to play for teams that want you, you should go and enjoy. It’s football.”

About Scott

Scott is the editor of Red Matters - 50 Years of Supporting Manchester United and an author of Play Like Fergie's Boys and Not Nineteen Forever. He writes for ESPN, The Metro and Bleacher Report. Follow @R_o_M on Twitter.

View all posts by Scott »



  1. Big Vex says:

    Definitely one of the worst signings in the clubs’ history.

  2. Tommy says:

    Another example of a player who went away from OT and had a fairly decent career albeit in Denmark and now Serbia, still decent standard, playing champions league/europa league most seasons, good luck to the fella!

  3. unitedforeva says:

    Like it that he does not hit back at Sir Alex for his comments in his book. ‘Knee-jerk’ reactions from Hargreaves, Keane & Bosnich showed what weak characters they are. Beckham too was commendable for not biting back.

  4. Tommy says:

    @United foreever

    Keane can be accused of a lot of things, a weak character is not a trait you can describe Roy Keane!!

  5. Chrisw says:

    Good interview with Djemba-Djemba. What a nice guy.

  6. Daniel88 says:

    He got to play for Manchester United despite not being good enough. Fair play.

  7. Rukky says:

    Got to Feel sorry for the guy with such a poor footballing reputation. Seems to have enjoyed everybit of the experience though.

  8. John says:

    Djemba Djemba may be there in SAF worst 11 but he already lived the moments in our club and always be recognized as a former United player which tbh is beyond our wildest dreams. Sounds to me a decent humble person. Good luck for rest of your career fella!

  9. Raging Bull says:

    Fergie once quoted that many African players play for a big contract then switch off. It could have been after DJ x 2 left.

    A bit harsh maybe but there are examples out there and Adebayor is possibly the best

  10. Tommy says:

    @raging bull

    Yea Adebayors a joke but I get the impression with most africans that they are just happy with what they get due to a poor background they come from, We get everything given to us on a plate in this country, Africans really have to work for everything to get away from the poverty that their families suffer from on a daily basis

  11. John says:

    @Tommy…hahaha, oh c’mn tommy, what fucking poverty has to do with attitude on football pitch??..I think African cup of Nations has also something to do with players playing in Europe who come from Africa being destabilised in a middle of can compare Barton the thug from England with Adeybayor in terms of attitude in some way (not completely though)..then there is absolute legend Drogba of chelsea, made a history with them..I mean, poverty if anything does inspire players to push on their comfort zone imo…just look at Pele biography (although from Brazil)…eventhough you can always get exceptions for everything, I mean you just can’t take few references and simply generalize things mate!!..I don’t have stat to back my opinion but honestly i’ll be very surprised to know how you are relating poverty happens to be true..

  12. zibbie says:

    hello from the land of milk and honey

  13. Tommy says:


    Your missing the point mate, I was saying African players are generally just thankful for everything they get because of the background they come from? You hear stories of them sending half their wage to their parents back in africa every week for example! Eric is just thankful for everything he has done and shows no bitterness that it didn’t work out at United!

  14. Raging Bull says:

    @Tommy… I might have got it wrong with that statement, I heard or read it somewhere as it’s always stuck in my head. I think SAF said he didnt really like signing African players because of the ACN and it’s effects.

  15. Tommy says:

    @Raging bull

    Your probably right mate, they miss 6 – 8 weeks of season in busy period

  16. Kings says:

    I’ve seen worse in my time as a supporter. Sounds like a humble and decent human being. Not all bad for him, he has a FA Cup winners medal to show for his short time at United. Good luck to you lad.

  17. zibbie says:

    Manchester United positive
    they have one of the top 18 year old on the planet performing well
    world’s best young goalkeeper
    on a run of winning games
    arguably the best striker. partnership in the world
    record breaking the revenue
    the team getting into a groove under the new manager
    Smalling and Jones both developing well.
    Powell looking good on loan
    the second team and Academy full of young talent
    for whatever reason on the field why Rooney world class player once aga

  18. zibbie says:

    ACN spot on.

  19. FletchTHEMAN says:

    Great attitude and tidy enough player for many european leagues. Not United standard but that’s no disrespect in the end. Neither were Forlan or Juan Seb Veron and the slight didn’t hurt them any ;)

    Nice interview and great to see that the lad takes every positive as a positive and leaves it at that.
    More fans should do the same.

  20. zibbie says:

    in the US and evaluation for pro sports football easier basketballs 2nd NHL then baseball is the toughest a game of skill evaluating soccer talent has to be very tough! very few sure things.

  21. zibbie says:

    no disrespect at all
    expectation at one of the five top clubs in the world is very high
    then they have to put up with the pressure of the world’s largest sporting club
    when Manchester United goes on to work there like the Beatles, on summer tour!

  22. zibbie says:

    Oops like Rooney their from Liverpool

  23. FletchTHEMAN says:

    Raging Bull, heard the same about the ACN but think it’s a bit of a myth to be fair.
    Still gets talked about often enough.
    I always thought that Fergie had his eye out for the right player, meaning maturity and footballing ability.

    Obviously we had Quinton Fortune, and Fergie tried to bring in Obi Michel only to be scuttled by CSKALandon. There was also a rumored link with Essien when he was at Lyon, but I never heard more about it.

    All the same, it will be interesting the perceived embargo will change with Moyes. He didn’t have a load of African players, but the likes of Steven Pienaar were tidy players for them at times.

  24. Tommy says:


    We actually had Essien as a young lad but he could not get a work permit, Fortune actually retired from internationals at a fairly young age, so it was never a problem him and the ACN!

  25. zibbie says:

    Giggs lack of World Cup helped MUFC!
    Bale as well now…

  26. zibbie says:

    off to Wales next. get the 3-point lads

  27. zibbie says:

    RvP 28 goals 9 assists
    Wazza 21 goals 20 assists
    Danny to get 8 goals
    LilPea 16 goals

  28. ChrisAtsin says:

    Haha it’s always funny to read about Africa. Listening to you guys it’s like I have to fight everyday of my life to survive. People like Drogba didn’t have a hard background at all, neither have any top Ivorian player for that matter. Yeah there’s a lot of poverty but generalize a bit less. Even with the “background I come from” I probably have a higher standard of living than most people in Europe.

  29. FletchTHEMAN says:

    Tommy, That Essien story is the one that tickles a memory of two. Have to try to find a reference for it.
    Quality player to this day Michael, injuries seem to be catching up on him though. Never minded him as much as some of the other Chavish lads.

  30. Tommy says:


    Yea I always wanted us to sign him when he was at Lyon, They had a cracking side then under le guen, Essien, Diarre, Juniho and one or two others, had some decent games with us as well in that period, Proper modern day footballer Essien, top athlete!

  31. John says:

    Has someone here got insights into how we missed on Arjen Robben and Obi Mkel?..the later, i think even attended a formal press conference in United shirt!

  32. Tommy says:


    Both went for the cash, Mikel actually had signed for United from Lyn oslo only he then claimed he was forced in to a move by Jim Ryan (Like he had held a gun to his head), we got 16mill out of a player who never played for us and Robbin was invited to Old Trafford to look around but as far as I know no deal had been agreed for him!

  33. John says:

    Tommy, mate what about Ronaldinho?..I think he too was about to join us after Bekham was sure to leave our club after fergie boot scandal, haha!

  34. John says:

    and yeah even Zidane and Batistuta??

  35. CTRES says:

    In my book I appreciate every player that gives it their best for United and has a good attitude, whether they eventually prove they are good enough for United or not. Those types of players will never hurt the team. If they are not good enough they are moved on but in the meantime they help maintain the club spirit while they are here, and not losing that spirit is important, Djemba-Djemba did just that and it makes him a Red for life in my book.

    I would never slag a player for not being good enough but I’ve no time for any player that just goes through the motions, no matter how good they are.

    On an unrelated note, these international breaks are a complete waste of time. I hate everything about them…watching our players run ragged in meaningless games risking injury, all the press conferences and shit-disturbing journos, our players hugging and kissing Liverpool/Chelsea/city players (take your pick), no proper football on the tube, etc. etc. Looks like Khadiera is off the potential transfer list since he did his ACL in a meaningless friendly for Germany and now out for the season. In my opinion international football should be reserved for the month of June and that is it…..

  36. CTRED says:

    *. @ CTRED

  37. Tommy says:


    I still think Ronaldinho would of joined if it weren’t for Peter Kenyon (Who was CEO then), A couple of months later Kenyon joined Chelsea and said they would dominate the world haha fucking hate Kenyon!!

  38. zibbie says:

    Thought Ravel a headcase ?

  39. slim says:

    never forgave kenyon after botched ronaldinho transfer. that guy gave me goose bumps.truly a world class player.could have had an even more successful career if he disciplined himself a bit more. still one of my favourite players, right behind paul scholes

  40. tallestreD says:

    Well some people on here have spoken my mind or a bit of it. I just want to say that using poverty as a base to say African players are just happy with the money is outright BS. I mean you have a lot of Brazilians who cost more than 5 african players put together but you just say “they are brazilians”. Stop making it sound like you are doing us a favor.

  41. Enzophonics says:

    Ferguson almost signed the late “great” Cameroonian Marc-Vivien Foe – knee injury curtailed that deal but i believe he recovered quite well and went on to play for Citeh.

    I think with Sir Alex the whole AfCup situation didnt sit to well and he always preferred players who put United first and would not be distracted by a poorly timed Competition. Having said that went for players of African origin who played for European teams.

    The arguement of the AfCup has lead to it being rescheduled to a World Cup year and that will help more top African players. Looking at this week’s World cup qualifiers – it hard to pick out any new outstanding african talent – the next Yaya Toure/ Drogba/ Eto’o/ Tony Yeboah….cant see United signing any African talent at the moment .

  42. mike21pl says:


  43. Nesh says:

    what a great interview by the Lad..had luv for Djemba Djemba when he played for us simply coz we share same first names.. plus not all the games he played in were a complete disaster. Its more of the talent was not enough to get going…

  44. Jixie says:

    It really pains me when people follow the bandwagon talking about x, y or z was a United flop. So you hear Kleberson (World Cup winner) was no good. Even Forlan has been described as a flop. I have no doubt Fellani (once tore United apart) is likely to go the same way. Some of these so called flops have been good players, well scouted who didn’t fit the roles they were given. I followed Djemba (Captain of Cameroon) before he came to United. He was a fantastic stopper back period. United tried to have him distributing and play making. That was never his game. He’d throw himself about with courage to break up attacks but that was it. Unfortunately for him United wanted more.
    Yes a young African boy thrown into the bright lights and lost out but I will always respect him for his lion’s heart…..yeah Cantona of Douala!!!

  45. DreadedRed says:

    Jixie – great comment. Of course, Djemba knew that we wanted to turn him into something more, so that he could have a great career at United. I presume that we believed we could improve him, like we have successfully bought others that we have improved. He has still had a great career in football, perhaps in part due to his sojourn here.

    I reckon that he made the right move joining us, and I suggest that he reckons so too.


You must be logged in to post a comment.