Pique, Pogba and the players who thrived after leaving Man Utd

Getty / Goal
The Red Devils are no strangers to a transfer stumble, with a number of players sold too soon or simply never delivering at Old Trafford

Paul Pogba's turbulent time in a Manchester United shirt perfectly epitomises the club's struggles to get the best out of some players.

The Red Devils' inability to stop Pogba going to Juventus in 2012 cost them dearly when they eventually brought him back to Old Trafford and it's a transfer misstep the club is familiar with.

Gerard Pique, who will return to Old Trafford on Wednesday night in the Champions League with Barcelona, is another player whose career really took off after swapping the Red Devils for the Blaugrana in 2008.

From Pogba to Pique, here are the players that have thrived after saying goodbye to Man Utd... 

  1. Getty

    #1 Gerard Pique (Barcelona, 2008)

    After slipping from Barcelona's grasp in 2004 in order to sign for the Red Devils, it was no surprise to see the Catalans come calling four years later as they activated Gerard Pique’s £5 million buy-out clause.

    Having originally picked Pique up for free and with world-class centre-backs already at their disposal like Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, Man Utd must have thought they struck gold with the deal.

    The Spanish defender had barely featured for Sir Alex Ferguson's side across a four-year spell, making the sale an easy financial win for the club. But a decade on, the Red Devils must consider his exit as a loss - particularly considering the club's defensive struggles over the past few years.

  2. Getty Images

    #2 Paul Pogba (Juventus, 2012)

    In July 2012, Paul Pogba was the man that got away from Manchester United as the club confirmed his departure after he decided against renewing his contract.

    Juventus were the club that pounced as they saw the midfielder live up to the potential Ferguson didn't act quickly enough to unleash at Old Trafford.

    After four years of watching him flourish in Italy, the Red Devils gritted their teeth and paid a then world-record fee of £89 million to bring Pogba home. 

    A costly recall and one that considering Pogba's inconsistent form, fans have continued to question. 

  3. Getty

    #3 Angel Di Maria (PSG, 2015)

    Having failed to impress following a £59 million move to Old Trafford from the Bernabeu in 2014, Man Utd decided to cut their losses on the Argentine when PSG came knocking with an offer of around £44 million.

    If that £15 million loss wasn't hard enough to swallow, seeing Di Maria shine in Paris has become a pill too large for some Red Devils fans to swallow.

    As highlighted by his reception at Old Trafford in the Champions League this year, United are still coming to terms with the fact that - despite never delivering for them - he has rediscovered his spark with PSG.

  4. Getty Images

    #4 Jaap Stam (Lazio, 2001)

    "We got the offer from Lazio, £16.5 million for a centre back who was 29. It was an offer I couldn't refuse. But in playing terms it was a mistake."

    Those were the words of Ferguson in 2007 when asked about his decision to sell Jaap Stam, who arrived at Old Trafford in 1998 as the most expensive defender in history for a tidy £10.6m. 

    While his departure proved profitable, it left the Red Devils struggling to fill his void on the pitch as they finished third in the 2001/02 season - 10 points shy of Arsenal.  

    The defender himself would play for a further six years, winning the Coppa Italia with Lazio and lining up for AC Milan in the infamous 2005 Champions League final.

  5. Getty Images

    #5 Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid, 2009)

    While at the time a world record fee, Manchester United's decision to sell Ronaldo for £80 million in 2009 hasn't aged quite as well as they may have hoped.

    Not only did the Portuguese attacker break record after record in Madrid and prove decisive in Real's Champions League dominance, but the fact he was sold for £88m to Juventus in 2018 proves just how valuable a commodity he has remained.

    Ronaldo did want to leave Old Trafford however, meaning the Red Devils' hands were somewhat tied when it came to this sale. 

  6. Getty

    #6 Diego Forlan (Villarreal, 2004)

    The Premier League isn't for everyone and that was certainly the case for Diego Forlan, who starred both before and after a poor stint at United.

    After scoring just 10 goals across 63 league appearances for the Red Devils, the Uruguayan was sold to Villarreal for an estimated £2.8 million - half of what United had paid for him.

    To make matters worse, Forlan started scoring freely immediately in Spain, bagging 25 La Liga goals in his first season.

    Less than three years later, Villarreal would then sell Forlan to Atletico for £18m.

  7. Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    #7 Carlos Tevez (Manchester City, 2009)

    What's worse than seeing a player leave for a rival club? Seeing a player do much better at a rival club than at yours.

    And that's exactly what Carlos Tevez did after deciding against signing permanently for United following a mixed two-year loan spell with the club.

    In 2009, he put pen to paper with Man City in a then-record deal and immediately bettered the number of goals he had scored in his United career by netting 23 times in his debut campaign at the City of Manchester Stadium.

  8. Getty Images

    #8 Memphis Depay (Lyon, 2017)

    Signed for £25 million in 2015 and inheriting the weight of the legendary number seven shirt, Memphis Depay's inconsistency saw him sold for a cut-price fee of around £16m less than two years later.

    Though he showed fleeting glimpses of brilliance for United, it's only since he's joined Lyon that Depay has really stepped up for club and country with his value now sitting at triple of what the Red Devils sold him for.

    Liverpool have been recently linked with a move for the Dutchman and it's a potential transfer United fans will no doubt be watching closely.  

  9. Getty

    #9 Danny Drinkwater (Leicester City, 2012)

    Having joined Man Utd’s youth academy at the age of nine, Danny Drinkwater would never make a senior appearance for the Red Devils before being sold to the Foxes for a reported fee of £810,000 in 2012.

    Once in Leicester, he helped secure the club's promotion to the Premier League before playing a regular role in the Foxes' stunning title win in 2015/16.

    On the back of that success, Drinkwater sealed a £35 million move to Chelsea in 2017 as Leicester netted a huge profit at United's expense.

    While he was unlikely to ever shine at Old Trafford, the Red Devils will surely regret selling him so soon and so cheaply.

  10. #10 Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace, 2015)

    Man Utd arguably pounced too soon for Wilfried Zaha in 2013 when they paid Palace £10 million for the attacker.

    Making just four appearances for the Red Devils, Zaha was never given the chance to impress and was ultimately sold back to Palace for £6m two years later.

    Since then, the 26-year-old has become a star for Palace - with numerous clubs linked to big-money moves - and Zaha is now valued at around £30m.