Welcome back to another season of Manchester United related TOP FIVES here at ROM towers. I’ll be checking in once a month with a top quality listicle for your delectation. Most of them will be probably be fairly cheery if my history is anything to go by bu this first one is in “honour” of the summer’s highest profile departure.
There is no denying that Angel Di Maria ended his time at United in a fashion which was guaranteed to alienate fans. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the top five players who have left United under a cloud.
Incidentally, this goes only goes back as far as my living memory, so apologies to those who would have Johnny Giles crossing the Penines and joining Leeds United after a row with Sir Matt Busby on their list.
5. David Beckham
One of United’s favourite sons, and, speaking personally, one of my favourite United players. He has done everything in his power since leaving to demonstrate that red blood still runs in his veins. In a documentary showing him travelling through the Amazon basin on his motorbike, he used a satellite phone chat with his family to ask about the United score, for example.
The uber-cynics among United’s fanbase suggest that this is some sort of ploy, although why he should take the trouble is beyond me. His United-ness seems fairly fundamental to his life.
However, one of the reasons that the cynics are reluctant to believe his public displays of affection is that he left in deeply-strained circumstances. Rumour and counter-rumour are the order of the day. Fergie-ites will tell you Beckham engineered a move away because he was desperate for the glamour of Mardrid. Beck-heads will insist that Sir Alex was unnecessarily mean to poor old David. The truth lies between, no doubt, but Becks’ acrimonious departure earns a place on this list. He’s way down at No. 5 though, because I’m fully convinced of his deep, heartfelt love of the reds.
4. Cristiano Ronaldo
Another player who probably still has some affection for the club deep down somewhere behind those perfectly manicured eyebrows is ol’ Ronnie. There are certainly swathes of United fans who still love him too, for sure. It’s understandable. He was very good. His two-season peak at United might just be the best two seasons anyone has ever had at the club.
However, he was a right mard when it came time to get away. Ronaldo agreed when Sepp Blatter likened United’s desire to hang on to their player as akin to “modern slavery.” The staggeringly offensive nature of that statement aside, Ronaldo was clearly deeply unhappy to be forced to stay, “It’s true,” he said, “I agree with what the president of Fifa said. I know what I want and what I would like. We have to see what happens. I do not know where I will begin next season.” That was in 2008. Poor old Ronnie was cruelly forced to start the 08/09 season with us. Good job he did really, because he won another league title and those proved a lot harder to come by for him once he’d left.
Most, if not all, is forgiven now, but Ronaldo’s comments meant there was definitely a cloud over his departure.
3. Gabriel Heinze
United fans have long embraced having Argentinian players in the side—chanting “Argentina!” from the stands both in their honour, and as a counter-cultural expression of resistance to the “anti-Argie” right-wing, post-Falklands attitude prevalent in Britain.
Sadly, each of the top three have played for the Albiceleste. Here’s hoping Marcos Rojo and Sergio Romero break the pattern.
Anyway, Heinze is on the list because he wanted to go to Liverpool and was all grumpy when we didn’t sell him there. Liverpool.
2. Angel Di Maria
It was a close run thing for the top spot. Two things kept Di Maria off it. The first was that Tevez held up that RIP Fergie banner during City’s title celebrations. The second was that Di Maria at least had his PR write an open letter saying he’d tried.
Not that that counts for anything much, really. He’s still at number two, which is bad.
It’s all so rubbish. It should have been so good. Di Maria is absolutely brilliant at football and for about six weeks in 2014 he showed that at United. It all went badly wrong, and the post-mortem will go on for a while. Was it Van Gaal’s fault? Was it Di Maria’s “lack of bottle?”
Was it a complex, multi-factorial web of human experience that none of us have enough information to actually draw definitive conclusions from?
Why ever it was, he’s gone, and he acted super unprofessionally in the process, going A.W.O.L. according to Louis, which leaves a bad taste in the mouth that will linger for a long while. Sigh.
Why did it have to be like this, Angel? You were supposed to be the chosen one!
Whatever, Memphis is a cooler name than Angel anyway…
1. Carlos Tevez
Unlike Di Maria, no one ever accused Tevez of not trying when he was at United. Indeed the manner of his departure—or more accurately, the club he chose to join—hurt as much as it did because of just how committed he appeared to the United cause. The memory of him standing on the Old Trafford pitch with his hands cupped behind his ears as the crowd urged Sir Alex to “sign him up” has not faded.
However, from the “Welcome to Manchester” advert onwards, he embraced City almost as if doing so got one back over Fergie for not buying him. He didn’t actually really seem to like it there very much—as the three months playing golf instead of playing might indicate. I always wondered if City fans were a bit annoyed by how much he talked about United. It always felt a bit like if a new partner demonstrates an overt passionate affection for you when their ex walks into the room.
In truth, Tevez never really seemed to hate United. He seemed to really hate Fergie. For United fans, that was a pretty irrelevant distinction.
Of course, it’s all quite a long time ago now, and doesn’t really matter in the big scheme of things.
Patrice Evra, Tevez’s friend and all-round United super-hero described the striker as having a “United heart” last season. But even if Paddy loves him, United fans won’t. Full forgiveness is never likely to be offered to Tevez, the player who left under the biggest cloud of them all.