We take a look at some of the players who didn’t make the grade at Old Trafford but who are still forging careers for themselves lower down the football ladder in England
There have been hundreds of players who have passed through the doors at Manchester United.
The reality is that they cannot all make it and each season that goes by sees a fresh cohort of players depart for pastures new.
But failing to make it at United does not necessarily have to signal the end of their careers.
Many go on to be a success elsewhere in the game.
Here, Mirror Sport takes a look at some of the players who failed to make the grade at United but who are still playing at various levels of the Football League.
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Sam Johnstone (West Brom)
Johnstone came through the ranks at United before being loaned out a whopping TEN times.
Despite a long stay at the club he never made a first team appearance for United before he was sold to West Brom in the summer of 2018.
Since then he’s established himself as the Baggies’ number one and won international recognition with England. Now in the Championship after Albion’s relegation, he has been linked with a return to the Premier League next summer.
Ravel Morrison (Derby)
The player who Sir Alex Ferguson famously described as “the best kid you will ever see” left United in 2012.
Despite possessing bundles of talent, he played just three times for the club – all League Cup ties.
He’s since enjoyed something of a journeyman’s career since but is now at Championship side Derby, under the tutelage of ex-United colleague Wayne Rooney. He was handed a one-year deal after impressing in pre-season, including a friendly outing against the Red Devils.
He’s been a regular for the Rams too, and will be hoping he can finally put down roots after plenty of upheaval since his Old Trafford departure.
Josh Harrop (Preston)
Harrop scored on his one and only United senior appearance on the final day of the 2016-17 campaign.
He struck against Crystal Palace in a 2-0 win at Old Trafford. But that proved to be his final act for the club. He chose to reject a fresh contract and instead opted to join Championship side Preston.
He spent the second half of last season out on loan at League One side Ipswich but since returning to Deepdale he has hardly featured.
He’s been an unused sub twice this term, and has recently been struggling with a knee injury.
Will Keane (Wigan)
Keane and his brother Michael were at United’s academy from a young age. Whilst Michael went on to play for Burnley and now Everton, Will has spent most of his career in the Championship and League One.
He made just two league appearances for United before leaving for Hull in 2016.
But he struggled in East Yorkshire and scored just once for the Tigers before joining Ipswich, initially on loan.
He left for Wigan in October 2020 and his form has picked up considerably. His seven goals so far this term led to a maiden call-up for the Republic of Ireland at the age of 28. He made his debut against Portugal earlier this month.
Cameron Borthwick-Jackson (Burton Albion)
Now aged 24, Borthwick-Jackson is plying his trade in League One with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s Burton.
He was then sent out on loan on five separate occasions, including to Leeds and Wolves, before being released in 2020.
Upon his release he joined one of his former loan clubs Oldham. He signed a one-year deal and after impressing in League Two he was snapped up by the Brewers last summer and is a regular for Hasselbaink.
Ryan Tunnicliffe (Portsmouth)
The 28-year-old has certainly racked up the clubs over his career so far.
He was loaned out three times by United, where he only ever made two senior appearances in the League Cup.
He left to join Fulham in January 2014 but his three-year stay in London saw him loaned out another three times. He then moved across the capital to join Millwall in 2017, spending two years there. He would then join newly-promoted Luton Town, helping them consolidate in the Championship before yet another move occurred last summer. He’s now at League One Portsmouth and was a regular in the side until news of a hamstring tear was confirmed earlier this month.
James Wilson (Port Vale)
There was plenty of excitement when Wilson burst onto the scene at Old Trafford back in 2014.
The final home game of the league season saw interim boss Ryan Giggs blood a number of youngsters, including Tom Lawrence and Wilson.
After earning rave reviews for his goalscoring feats with the reserves, Wilson transferred that to the first team and struck two goals on debut in a 3-1 win over Hull City.
The following season he would add another two goals but it wasn’t long before he was being loaned out. Unfortunately spells at Brighton, Derby, Sheffield United and Aberdeen didn’t work out. He was released by United in the summer of 2019 and joined Aberdeen permanently but failed to score. In early 2020 he returned to England and joined Salford City.
He fared slightly better but was released last summer when his 18-month contract expired. Now at Port Vale, Wilson looks as though he may finally be starting to realise his potential.
He has notched seven goals this term, all coming in his last nine outings – including a hat-trick against Accrington Stanley in the FA Cup.