Five Reds who returned shortly after moves
Manchester United’s first Premier League away game of the season is at Brentford on Saturday (17:30 BST kick-off).
Erik ten Hag’s side will be looking to pick up our first points of the campaign, following the defeat to Brighton & Hove Albion last Sunday, but there is an interesting sub-plot to our trip to the Gtech Community Stadium, with new signing Christian Eriksen returning to the club he only departed in June.
The Dane played a huge part in keeping Thomas Frank’s side in the division after joining from Internazionale in January.
Eriksen featured just 11 times for the west Londoners, scoring once, but he conjured four assists and Frank’s side won seven of those games, lifting them from relegation trouble to a comfortable 13th-placed finish.
He can hope for a warm welcome from home supporters come Saturday then, although that hasn’t necessarily been the case with United players returning to their old stomping grounds so soon after leaving.
Here are five examples from the last 25 years…
What can we expect at Brentford on Saturday?
The Debate | Our panel digests the Brighton defeat and looks ahead to our first away game of the season, at Brentford…
Teddy was snapped up from Spurs in the summer of 1997, as a direct replacement for Eric Cantona after the Frenchman’s surprise retirement at the age of 30. The fixtures computer, as fate would have it, threw up an opening-day encounter at White Hart Lane and home fans had an early chance to gloat, with our new no.10 smashing a second-half penalty against the post with the scores level at 0-0. Teddy had the last laugh, as two late goals gave United the victory in the first of his 104 top-flight appearances for the club. He later returned to north London in 2001, as reigning Footballer of the Year.
A fiery reception at Elland Road is always expected, but the tension was cranked up a notch in September 2002 as Rio Ferdinand returned to Leeds United for the first time since crossing the Pennines for a world-record fee for a defender earlier that summer. The Whites were in clear decline from their peak under David O’Leary a few seasons previously, but we’d made a slow start to the season and Harry Kewell’s second-half header ended up being the only goal of the game, as our new man was perhaps unsettled by being jeered every single time he touched the ball. Still, by the end of the campaign, Rio would be lifting the first major honour of his career. Leeds finished 15th.
Saha joined United from Fulham in January 2004 to boost our attacking ranks and the Frenchman made an instant impact as he scored on debut against Southampton, before plundering a brace at Everton on his first away outing. The next domestic trip saw the Reds travel to Craven Cottage – where Saha had endeared himself to supporters by netting 63 goals across four seasons. After just a quarter of an hour, Louis would show the Cottagers what they were missing, running virtually the full length of the pitch and shrugging off Fulham challenges – and boos from the crowd – to complete a swift counter-attacking move. Unfortunately, a Luis Boa Morte strike in the second half ensured the points would be shared.
Valencia had impressed during three seasons at Wigan Athletic, enough for Sir Alex Ferguson to add him to the squad in the early stages of summer 2009. The DW Stadium would welcome Antonio back during the early stages of the following season, with the winger not quite receiving as negative a reception as Teddy or Rio on his return – although there were still a number of boos, especially in the build-up to Wayne Rooney’s opener, a header from Valencia’s pinpoint cross. That broke the deadlock in the second half and the Reds eventually blew our fellow north-west outfit away, scoring five, with Valencia also playing a key role in Rooney’s second. The Ecuadorian would go on to become a club stalwart, even captaining the side during the 2018/19 season.
Memphis was United’s headline summer capture in 2015, with the PSV Eindhoven forward joining United having finished as the Eredivisie’s top scorer the previous season. The Dutchman netted twice against Club Brugge to help Louis van Gaal’s Reds qualify for the Champions League group stages and we were drawn alongside PSV – plus Wolfsburg and CSKA Moscow – with a trip to the Netherlands first up. On a night where the abiding memory is the terrible leg injury suffered by Luke Shaw, Memphis scored to put United ahead, before goals from Hector Moreno and Luciano Narsingh turned the game on its head.