Mame Biram Diouf's Hannover heroics prove there is life after Manchester United guillotine

The former Red Devils striker netted a brilliant overhead kick in his side's 5-4 defeat at Schalke on Friday to show that Sir Alex Ferguson's castoffs need not slip into obscurity
By Scott Johnson

Manchester United have cast aside plenty of sub-standard strikers in recent years. Decent enough players in their own right with plenty of potential but not necessarily cut out to lead the line at perennial Premier League and Champions League contenders.

These players tend to filter down the football food chain to enjoy largely unremarkable careers, with the odd exception.

Diego Forlan, the European Golden Boot winner in 2005, and Giuseppe Rossi, who netted 32 goals in 56 appearances during the 2010-11 season, both flourished at Villarreal after departing Old Trafford. But they stand out amongst the likes of Manucho, Dong Fangzhuo and David Bellion.

The signing of Mame Biram Diouf was the kind of calculated risk in which Sir Alex Ferguson has frequently indulged in recent years when shopping for strikers, with decidedly mixed results. Bebe has been a considerable flop at £7.4 million and is currently on his second loan spell away from the club, whereas Chicharito continues to be a huge success and firm fan favourite.

Man Utd's forward flops

Mame Biram Diouf
Games: 9, Goals: 1

Games: 7, Goals: 2

Federico Macheda
Games: 36, Goals: 5

Dong Fangzhuo
Games: 3, Goals: 0

David Bellion
Games: 40, Goals: 8

Games: 3, Goals: 0
Federico Macheda made a bright start but has struggled since, while Angelo Henriquez scored on Saturday after coming off the bench for his first league appearance on loan at Wigan.

Diouf moved to Europe in January 2007, signing for Molde and aiding their subsequent return to the Norwegian Premier League. He made steady progress in his first two seasons, attracting interest from a number of clubs in England and Holland. His move to United eventually materialised in July 2009, for a fee of around £4m. He was loaned back to Molde for the remainder of the season while the club processed his work permit,  plundering 16 goals in 29 games, including four in one game, as the Norwegians finished second.

When the signing was announced, Sir Alex revealed that Diouf was a player who they had been monitoring for two years and explained that the move was accelerated by the interest of competitors. "We weren't intending on signing anyone else," the Scot declared, "but the situation accelerated to a point where other clubs started to make bids, so we had to decide whether we acted or didn't."

Diouf eventually arrived in January 2010 to compliment a pool of forwards that already included Macheda, Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov, Michael Owen and Danny Welbeck. Intent on making a significant contribution, the Senegalese enthused: "Playing for Manchester has always been a dream of mine ever since I was a small boy. I hope that when I move, I will have a big impact, I am confident of playing very well."

He made his league debut soon after at Birmingham City and scored on his home debut in a 3-0 win over Burnley, chalking up a further three appearances before the end of the season. A temporary spell at Blackburn then followed before, last season, the young attacker featured in only three Capital One Cup ties at United, mainly stationed on the wing, while Wigan expressed an interest in signing him on loan.

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As the January transfer window drew to a close, Diouf signed a two-year deal with Hannover 96, for around half what Sir Alex had paid for him. The move reignited his flagging career after featuring only nine times for United, recording a solitary goal.

He joined a club who had ended the 2010-11 campaign in fourth, their highest ever Bundesliga finish, while qualifying for the Europa League via the play-offs. Diouf made his debut as a second-half substitute against Hertha Berlin and scored his first goal in his third start, a 4-2 win against Stuttgart.

He then plundered an impressive 10 goals in his next 11 starts, often required to provide a powerful presence, leading the line on his own. This run incorporated Hannover's first continental campaign in 19 years, successfully navigating the group stages before succumbing to eventual winners Atletico Madrid in the quarter-finals. Losing both legs 2-1, Diouf scored the consolation goal on both occasions. Hannover eventually ended the season in seventh, once again reaching the Europa League qualifiers.

The Senegalese has tackled the current campaign in suitably prolific fashion, scoring his first goal of the season, a late equaliser in the 1-1 draw with champions Borussia Dortmund, at the start of October. He then netted seven in the next seven games, including a double against Helsingborg, which aided his team's progression from the first group stage in the Europa League for the second consecutive season.

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He has scored a total of 18 goals in his first 22 starts, a remarkable feat which is all the more impressive when you consider the variety of goals scored. Most of them tend to be poacher's efforts but with a relatively even split between right-footed, left-footed and headed finishes, all the while working tirelessly to provide an outlet for the rest of the team.

When the Bundesliga recommenced on Friday, Diouf netted a spectacular injury-time consolation goal in a 5-4 defeat at Schalke, a bicycle kick from the edge of the box.

Like Ron-Robert Zieler, another thriving at Hannover after failing to make the grade at United, Diouf was not really given a fair crack of the whip at Old Trafford. The very definition of a 'Moneyball' signing, he is now consistently demonstrating the "fantastic potential" which Ole Gunnar Solskjaer witnessed during his time as Manchester United's reserve-team coach.

The problem may have been due to a communication breakdown, as Diouf has since claimed that Sir Alex is "a great coach" but added: "it was hard for me to understand him. He has such a strong Scottish accent. Sometimes I did not know what he was saying!" United's loss has certainly been Hannover's gain.

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