Danny Higginbotham is one of many former United academy players who, despite not establishing himself in the first team at Old Trafford, went on to have a successful Premier League career.
During his time at United, when loaned out to Belgian side Royal Antwerp, he was banned from playing for four months after attacking a referee, although received support from Sir Alex Ferguson during this time.
Derby County signed him for £2m the following year and he helped them survive relegation. The following season he was voted Player of the Year by the fans, although Derby went down. Having played 98 games for Derby, Southampton paid £1.5m for him.
After two and a half seasons there, he rejected a contract offer, and signed for Stoke for £225k. He was made captain a few months later but then handed in a transfer request at the end of the season. Sunderland paid £2.5m for him but he only spent a season in the North-East, although did manage to score a goal against Newcastle in a 1-1 draw. He returned to Stoke at the end of the season for £2.5m and spent a further five years at the club, but spent the last season out on loan at Nottingham Forest and Ipswich Town.
Higginbotham also made his International debut for Gibraltar when he was 34, for whom he was eligible through his maternal grandmother and because his English father, a soldier once posted to the Rock, and Spanish mother were married there.
More recently he signed for Altrincham, the club he always wanted to end his career at, but yesterday announced his retirement from football.
Danny has given an exclusive interview with RoM about his time at United as he looks back on his football career and aims to pursue a future working in the media.
Scott: Did you used to go and watch United play when you were a kid, or was it just Altrincham?
Danny: I would go to Old Trafford with my dad when we had the money to go but I used to spend more time watching Altrincham and following my brother around who played non-league.
Scott: Do you ever go to see United play now?
Danny: Every now and then but it’s mainly when I’m working for MUTV.
Scott: Some people seem to be under the impression that Manchester is blue. What do you think of that?
Danny: It’s always been a daft theory. I’m from Manchester and I support United!
Scott: What are your memories of being a youngster at United?
Danny: Training inside at The Cliff on the astro turf and it was freezing. I remember us all having our photo with the FA Cup there in 1990 when they had won it. Great coaches like Eric Harrison, Nobby Styles, Paul McGuinness and Tony Whelan.
Scott: What are your memories of Ferguson?
Danny: Strict but very fair. He was great with the youngsters and helped me out a lot when I had my problems after playing in Belgium.
Scott: Which players were you closest to at United?
Danny: Growing up at united there were quite a few lads that I was close with. The likes of Wes Brown, Rich Wellens, Jamie Wood and Ronnie Wallwork, as well as others that didn’t quite make the grade in the professional game, like Gary Bickerton and Jamie Byers. All great lads.
Scott: What is your favourite memory from your time at United?
Danny: Would have to be my full home league debut against Leicester in 1999. It was a dream come true for me to walk out of the tunnel at Old Trafford and play for the first team.
Scott: Any funny stories from your time at United?
Danny: Not too many, other than the senior players were brilliant with the young lads.
Scott: What did you think of the Class of ’92 film?
Danny: A complete one off that will never be replicated. To have so many great players from one era come through the ranks at United was incredible and will go down in history like the Busby Babes.
Scott: Why do you think United are struggling so much this season?
Danny: It’s a big transitional period and whoever came in to replace Sir Alex ferguson would have a settling in period.
Scott: How did playing for Gibraltar come about?
Danny: Bizarrely enough, it was through Twitter. My uncle got in touch with me an asked if I would play. It was an offer I couldn’t turn down an was an amazing experience.
Scott: You had previously said you wanted to end your career with Alty. How does it feel to have done that?
Danny: It was great but didn’t turn out how I quite expected. My love for the game had diminished and it was time to retire
Follow @Higginbotham05 on Twitter.
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