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Alexander Buttner: The former Man Utd reserve who succeeded where Gerrard failed

18:00 GMT+3 10/01/2020
Alexander Buttner Manchester United 2012-13
The Dutchman may have only made 13 Premier League appearances for Man Utd but he remains immensely proud of his winners' medal

"Who can say that he has been a champion in England? I can. Even Steven Gerrard did not succeed."

Alexander Buttner is quite proud of the fact that he has a Premier League winners' medal. And evidently that Liverpool legend Gerrard does not.

The Dutch defender looks like another example of a talented footballer who struggled to make it at the very top and was, thus, forced to settle for a career in lower leagues around the world.

However, he doesn't see it that way. He feels lucky to have even made it to Old Trafford, and it's easy to understand why.

Buttner was all set to sign for Southampton in the summer of 2012 but the deal fell through. A month later, he was stunned to learn that he was wanted by United.

With Patrice Evra on the wrong side of 30 heading into the 2012-13 season, manager Sir Alex Ferguson had identified little-known Vitesse left-back Buttner as the Frenchman's long-term replacement

The transfer raised eyebrows in Netherlands, where the then 23-year-old seen as a raw, developing talent – but the Scot viewed the £4 million signing as a bargain buy.

"Alexander is one of the best young left-backs in Europe and we're delighted to sign him," Ferguson enthused after Buttner signed a five-year deal with the club

"He's someone we've been watching for a while now. He gives us some really exciting options in that position."

When Evra was dropped for United's fourth Premier League game of the season, Ferguson gave Buttner his opportunity against Wigan at Old Trafford.

And during three, magical, second-half minutes for Buttner, it looked like the Red Devils had pulled off a masterstroke, with the new arrival first creating a goal, and then netting one himself.

On 63 minutes, Buttner's drilled ball through the penalty area was expertly prodded home by Javier Hernandez. Moments later, he slalomed his way past three defenders on his way into the box before firing home from an acute angle.

A new United hero was born and there were calls from journalists for Buttner to retain his starting spot ahead of Evra.

But the harsh realities of being at a top European club were immediately thrust upon Buttner, who did not play another Premier League minute for the next six months despite being fit, as Evra reclaimed the left-back role.

United went on to claim their 20th – and most recent – league title that season, with Buttner getting a winners' medal after making his crucial fifth appearance in the last match of the campaign, against West Brom at Old Trafford.

Luckily for Buttner, the number of appearances required to earn a medal had been halved before the 2012-13 season began and he made the most of his good fortune.

In what was Ferguson's last ever match in charge of the club, the Dutchman netted in an epic 5-5 draw.

However, the arrival of David Moyes as manager didn't aid Buttner's chances of becoming a first-team regular and he again spent most of 2013-14 serving as Evra's understudy.

So, when United decide to sign promising Southampton left-back Luke Shaw for the 2014-15 season, Buttner joined Russian Premier League side Dynamo Moscow.

He left Old Trafford having played just 13 Premier League appearances for the Red Devils but Buttner refuses to see himself as a failure.

"I hear people talking on TV that I have only played a handful of games," Buttner told De Telegraaf in the same interview he trolled Gerrard.

"But in the case of Manchester United I played a lot more games for them that I could have dream of."

The Dutchman was on the books for Dynamo for three seasons, featuring 37 times in all competitions, with a short loan spell at Anderlecht sandwiched in between.

He eventually returned to his native Holland and became a regular again with Vitesse but was allowed to leave the club when his contract expired in July of last year.

After four months without a club, it was announced in November that the now-30-year-old Buttner was going to join MLS side New England Revolution for the season beginning in February 2020.

He was signed with Targeted Allocation Money, which the MLS defines as "funds strategically provided by the league to teams to add or retain players that will make an immediate impact on the field".

"I am entering a competition with a great image," Buttner told Gelderlander after signing for the Revolution.

"Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney played football there. Perhaps David Silva will come to Major League Soccer. 

"Of course, this is a dream destination. America is booming in football."

Buttner signed in the MLS despite him revealing interest in his services from clubs such as Celtic, Fenerbahce, Besiktas and, perhaps surprisingly, Gerrard's Rangers.

It certainly would have been interesting to see Buttner have talks with Gerrard. One wonders if he would have showed the former Liverpool midfielder his Premier League winners' medal...