Rating every African player to play for Manchester United

Odion Ighalo became the first Nigerian to represent Manchester United following his debut in the 2-0 victory at Chelsea on Monday night, the forward having signed for the club on loan for the rest of the season from Chinese Super League side Shanghai Shenhua.

The deadline day capture also became the seventh African to have adorned the club’s famous colours, but how did the previous signings from the continent fare following their respective arrivals at Old Trafford?


Quinton Fortune

The South African became the first African player in Manchester United‘s history following his £1.5m arrival from Atletico Madrid in 1999, the midfielder having previously spent time in the youth set up at Tottenham.

Fortune initially struggled to make an impact under Sir Alex Ferguson and would be largely used as a bit-part player, making just 13 Premier League appearances over his first two full seasons in Manchester, missing out on a winner’s medal as United secured the latter two of three consecutive titles.

Comfortable at full-back or in midfield, a brace against South Melbourne at the Club World Championship in 2000 would be a highlight of his opening seasons as a Red Devils player, though he would grow in status through a career at the club that would last seven seasons.

Having been awarded a Premier League winners medal by special dispensation in 2003 after nine league appearances, Fortune would eventually leave the club in 2006 after 126 appearances, scoring 11 goals in all competitions.

Rating: 4/10

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Eric Djemba-Djemba

Combative Cameroonian Djemba-Djemba would arrive at Manchester United in the summer of 2003 from Nantes, with Sir Alex Ferguson hoping the midfielder could develop into the long term successor to Roy Keane at the heart of the club’s midfield.

Those hopes would quickly diminish as the relatively unknown quantity struggled to adapt to the demands of English football, failing to establish himself as a first-team regular amongst fierce competition from the likes of Keane and Paul Scholes.

He would help the club to Community Shield success on his first appearance and lift the FA Cup at the end of his debut season, though would be an unused substitute during the latter final and was sold to Aston Villa mid-way through his second campaign at Old Trafford.

The midfielder would enjoy a nomadic career after leaving Villa, taking in spells at the likes of Hapoel Tel Aviv and St Mirren, the 38-year-old currently still playing at amateur Swiss side FC Vallorbe-Ballaigues.

Rating: 2/10

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Having impressed Sir Alex Ferguson during a three-week trial at the club, Angolan forward Manucho would be signed in December of 2007 before being loaned out to Panathinaikos after failing to be granted a work permit.

After enjoying a decent spell with the Greek side he would return to Old Trafford, but despite his eligibility to play he would struggle for minutes, featuring just three times before once again being loaned out to Hull City – scoring twice in 13 Premier League appearances for the Tigers.

Unable to force a breakthrough with his parent club, Manucho would leave United for Real Valladolid in 2009. His best football would come on the international stage, however, scoring 22 goals in 53 caps for Angola including finishing as the joint-top scorer at the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations.

Rating: 1/10

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Mame Biram Diouf

Diouf would come to prominence during a spell at Norwegian side Molde, scoring 45 goals in 86 matches to attract the interest of several clubs from across Europe.

The forward would remain on loan with Molde before joining up with his new teammates in January 2010, making five Premier League appearances over his first six months with the club and scoring his first top-flight goal against Burnley at Old Trafford.

After struggling for opportunities, however, Diouf would be deemed surplus to requirements and joined Blackburn on a season-long loan deal, scoring six times before signing for Bundesliga outfit Hannover on a permanent basis in 2011.

Three seasons in German football would reignite his career and he would return to England with Stoke in 2014, the Senegalese striker having scored 25 goals in 155 appearances since signing for the Potters.

Rating: 2/10

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Wilfried Zaha

Sir Alex Ferguson’s final signing as Manchester United manager, the Scot secured the signing of highly-rated winger from Crystal Palace in a deal worth a reported £15m.

Initially loaned back to Selhurst Park, Zaha returned to the club in the summer of 2013 but struggled for opportunities under new manager David Moyes, making just four first-team appearances before spending another temporary spell away at Cardiff City.

Unable to force his way into the club’s plans, Zaha would return to Crystal Palace on loan again before rejoining his former side on a permanent basis, where he has since developed into one of the most exciting attacking players in the Premier League.

Despite being capped twice for England at senior level in friendly fixtures, Zaha would later choose to represent the country of his birth by switching his international allegiance to the Ivory Coast.

The 27-year-old continues to be linked with another move to one of Europe’s elite, where he will hope to improve on a record at Old Trafford that delivered no goals and just four appearances following his high profile move from south London.

Rating: 1/10

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Eric Bailly

Ighalo will be joined in the current United set up by Ivorian defender Eric Bailly, the centre-back having joined the club in a deal worth £30m from Villarreal three-and-a-half years ago.

Bailly would help the club to Community Shield, League Cup and Europa League success during his debut season under Jose Mourinho, though the powerful defender’s time in English football has been blighted by a succession of injury problems in recent years.

The 25-year-old has made just 26 Premier League appearances over the past two-and-a-half seasons, and will hope to prove his fitness to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the coming months as the talented star looks to re-establish himself as a key figure in the first-team setup.

Rating: 5/10

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Solskjaer insists ‘there’s a chance’ Manchester United could make Ighalo deal permanent

See also – Rating the nine African players to score 50 Premier League goals