thumbnail Hello,

The Frenchman will be hoping to start alongside Danny Simpson despite nursing a toe injury, with both stars fast becoming the latest Magpies to impress after leaving the Red Devils

By Jonathan Birchall

For some players at the Theatre of Dreams, they don't always come true, and when Manchester United host Newcastle on Saturday, a pair of former Red Devils will be looking to make their return to Old Trafford a triumphant one and in turn, exact a little revenge on the man they used to call gaffer: Sir Alex Ferguson.

Danny Simpson and Gabriel Obertan will travel back to the North West after having both been let go by the Scot in recent times, determined to prove that even the greatest manager in the game can still make mistakes.

Both have already shown promise, having contributed significantly to a start to the season that leaves Alan Pardew's men in the Champions League places, having only been beaten once this term.

It is a well-trodden path from Manchester to Newcastle, with a number of players surplus to requirements at United going on to shine for the Toon Army, and ahead of the top four fixture between the sides on Saturday, have compiled a list of five of the best that have made the journey and proven that there really is life after Old Trafford.


With United
It is certainly rare for a Liverpool legend to have played at Goodison Park, as well as in the red and blue halves of Manchester, but in the case of Peter Beardsley, that's exactly what happened. Just. After having impressed as a youngster at Carlisle United, Beardsley moved to Canadian outfit Vancouver Whitecaps before being signed by then United boss Ron Atkinson for £250,000, but he would not stick around at Old Trafford for long.

Leaving Old Trafford
After making only one appearance for United in a League Cup tie against Bournemouth on October 6 1982, Beardsley was allowed to leave the club and return to the Whitecaps on a free transfer less than half a year later after having failed to win Big Ron over.

Life after the Red Devils
Fellow Geordie Paul Gascoigne may be described as the ultimate 'one that got away' for United but Beardsley's career after leaving Old Trafford suggests he could have been a Stretford End legend. A spell at Newcastle that coincided with the 1986 World Cup saw the forward become English football's hottest property and he was subsequently sold to Liverpool for a English transfer record of £1.9 million in 1987. He was to score a hat-trick against United in a 4-0 win at Anfield and go on to win two English First Division titles, as well as the 1989 FA Cup.

A move to Everton followed where he enjoyed two years before he returning home to Newcastle and playing a pivotal part in the Magpies' now legendary title showdowns with Ferguson's side in the mid 1990s as part of Kevin Keegan's 'Entertainers'. The diminutive playmaker, whose technical ability and creativity helped him score over 100 goals for the St James' Park outfit remains a fan's favourite at almost every club who benefited from his magic. United supporters, sadly never got a chance to be put under his spell.


With United
As a dazzlingly quick young winger born less than 30 miles from George Best's native Belfast, it's fair to say that those at Old Trafford had high hopes for Keith Gillespie when he helped the Red Devils win the FA Youth Cup in 1992 alongside the likes of David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville.

However, with Ukrainian-born Russia international Andrei Kanchelskis the first-team regular on the right flank and Beckham seen as the long-term replacement, Gillespie's United career was limited to only nine appearances and a loan spell at Wigan Athletic, a shadow of the Premier League outfit that they've now become in the old Third Division.

Leaving Old Trafford
Gillespie's eventual departure from the Theatre of Dreams was to come as a result of possibly the most famous case of a Newcastle player moving to the red half of Manchester, with the Northern Irishman used as a makeweight in the deal to take goalscoring prodigy Andy Cole to United for £7 million - a British record fee at the time.

Life after the Red Devils
Like Cole, Gillespie was to have a huge impact at his new club and quicky embedded himself into Keegan's explosive attacking side at St James' Park, operating on the opposite wing to French star David Ginola. Without doubt the neutral's most favoured side in the Premier League, Newcastle were the chief aggravators to United's double-double winning sides from the 1995-96 and 1996-97 seasons and Gillespie was to prove himself as one the most dangerous wingers of the early Premier League era, even dazzling Barcelona in a 3-2 win for Toon in the Champions League.

Successful spells at a number of clubs including Blackburn and Sheffield United followed and the 36-year-old is still plying his trade in the League of Ireland, but it is his dynamism and nonpareil pace on the wing at St James' Park that will forever resonate.


With United
To label a man with 269 United appearances, six Premier League titles, three FA Cups and a Champions League medal as a reject may appear foolhardy but as the first of Fergie's fledglings to flee the nest, Butt missed out on the club's recent regeneration into annual Champions League challengers. Not that the midfielder didn't impress or enjoy success in Manchester and is rightly regarded as a squad mainstay throught the 1990s and early 2000s.

Leaving Old Trafford
However, with the axis of Scholes and Roy Keane still presiding over the United midfield in 2004 and the promising Darren Fletcher rising through the ranks just as Butt had a decade earlier, Gorton-born star requested a transfer away from Old Trafford and after rejecting the chance to join up with former team-mate Steve Bruce at Birmingham, the then 29-year-old moved to St James' Park after 13 years under Ferguson.

Life after the Red Devils
Despite taking some time to secure a starting place in the Newcastle XI due to a battle with Scott Parker and Emre in deep midfield, Butt grew in stature during his spell at St James' Park to the point where he was appointed full-time club captain in 2009. A disappointing season for the club saw them relegated but the former United man remained on Tyneside and helped Chris Hughton's men return to the Premier League in flying fashion before moving on to Birmingham and later South China to end a career fulfilled to its maximum potential.


With United
With Gary Neville's more than half-a-decade stranglehold on the right-back berth at Old Trafford nearing its natural conclusion when Simpson made his first appearance in a United shirt aged 19 against Kaizer Chiefs in 2006, the timing seemed ideal for the Salford-born defender to replace the then club captain.

However, with the autumn of Neville's career proving evergreen and the Da Silva twins well on the radar of United, Simpson only made three first-team appearances for his hometown club and was forced to pursue loan spells with Belgian feeder outfit Royal Antwerp, Sunderland, Ipswich Town, Blackburn and eventually, Newcastle

Leaving Old Trafford
After impressing in the five-month loan spell, Simpson joined the St James' Park outfit on a permanent basis in January 2010 as Newcastle looked to gain promotion from the Championship. They did so with aplomb, with Simpson contributing on the right side of defence, and the Magpies were crowned champions with 102 points, 11 clear of nearest rivals West Brom.

Life after the Red Devils
Newcastle's ascension to their current position in the top four in the 18 months since the promotion has been mirrored by the form of Simpson, who soon made the right-back spot his own despite the signing of James Perch from Nottingham Forest and enhanced his reputation from United dropout to one of the division's most consistent and defensively astute young defenders.

Rumours of a potential call-up for the recent friendlies against Spain and Sweden never came to fruition but for Simpson to now be recognised alongside the exalted company of Glen Johnson, Kyle Walker, Phil Jones and Micah Richards speaks volumes of  his continuing rise.


With United
Similarly to Simpson, great things were expected of Obertan when the Red Devils paid Bourdeaux an estimated £3 million to bring him to Manchester in 2009 but with the likes of Nani, Ryan Giggs, Antonio Valencia and Park Ji-Sung all ahead of him in the pecking order on the wings, the young Parisian was soon cast aside as an Old Trafford flop.

With only 14 appearances in two seasons in the North West, Obertan's brief sparks of class in friendlies against Seattle Sounders and Philadelphia Union, as well as a sublime showing away to Bursaspor in the Champions League never really looked like being enough to convince Ferguson and his backroom staff.

Leaving Old Trafford
As such, a transfer away from Old Trafford seemed inevitable and Newcastle brought in the France Under-21 starlet on August 9 for an undisclosed as he became the fifth French-born signing of the summer at St James' Park, following the arrivals of Sylvain Marveaux, Demba Ba, Yohan Cabaye and Mehdi Abeid as a result of Head Scout Graham Carr's Gallic recruitment drive.

Life after the Red Devils
"Whenever you leave a club, when you go back you want to prove you are a better player," Obertan told BBC Newcastle ahead of Saturday's clash and there can be little doubt that the Frenchman is already providing the evidence to show just that.

With nine games for Toon under his belt this season, the 22-year-old has already surpassed his number of Premier League appearances for United after having only been on Tyneside for three months, and as an ever important cog in Pardew's rapid, counter-attacking machine, Newcastle will be as desperate for him to return from his toe knock in time for the game against the champions.

Obertan, like many Magpies before him, will return to Old Trafford with an overwhelming sense of 'what if?' - he'll be hoping his performance can leave Ferguson with the very same question.

Follow Jonathan Birchall on