Man United's six previous African players
Odion Ighalo will become the first Nigerian player to represent Manchester United at senior level when he makes his debut for the Reds.
There is, however, a tradition of African footballers stretching back at Old Trafford for over two decades, with six men from the continent featuring for the club since 1999.
Find out more about each of that half-dozen below...
Nationality: South Africa
Our first African player, Fortune joined from Atletico Madrid in August 1999, making his Reds debut in a 5-1 win over Newcastle United later that month. Able to be deployed at full-back or in midfield, Fortune was initially used sparingly by Sir Alex Ferguson but became a valuable squad member during his seven-year spell at Old Trafford, helping the Reds to league titles in 2000, 2001 and 2003. Memorable individual moments included a brace against South Melbourne in the 2000 Club World Championship, and two goals in a 6-0 home hammering of Bradford City. Quinton, who featured for his country at the 1998 and 2002 World Cups, left United in 2006 but is now back at the club, as assistant coach for the Under-23s.
Purchased from French club Lens in the summer of 2003, Djemba-Djemba’s first appearance for the Reds was a trophy-winning one, as we overcame Arsenal on penalties at the Millennium Stadium (now the Principality Stadium) to clinch the Community Shield. The midfielder, who played 22 times in his debut season, scored a memorable extra-time winner against Leeds in the League Cup but couldn’t establish himself as first choice at Old Trafford, amid competition from Roy Keane, Paul Scholes, Darren Fletcher and Brazilian World Cup winner Kleberson. After a handful of appearances in 2004/05, Djemba-Djemba was sold to Aston Villa in January 2005. Now 38, Eric is actually still playing, in the Swiss fifth division, continuing a nomadic career which has also taken in spells in Qatar, Denmark, Israel, Serbia, Scotland, India, Indonesia and France.
Ighalo isn’t the first Africa Cup of Nations Golden Boot winner to feature for United. Angola international Manucho hit three goals at the 2012 tournament to tie for the award, four years after his final appearance for the Reds. Highly rated on his arrival, the forward had the misfortune to be competing for a place with Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez and Dimitar Berbatov, and his Old Trafford career was restricted to one Premier League and two League Cup appearances, all as a substitute, in the 2008/09 campaign. Manucho was loaned to Hull City later in the season, scoring a late winner against Fulham which proved to be vital in maintaining top-flight status for the Tigers. Now 36 and currently without a club, Manucho has spent much of the last decade in Spain, with Real Valladolid and Rayo Vallecano.
MAME BIRAM DIOUF
Like Ighalo, Diouf spent part of his early career in Norway, hitting 45 goals in 86 games for Molde before being snapped up by United in 2009. The Senegalese had to wait six months to make his Reds debut, against Birmingham City, but made up for lost time by netting against Burnley at Old Trafford the following week. Ultimately, that would prove to be his only United strike, with Diouf making a further seven appearances before being sold to Hannover. Diouf, who made two appearances for his country at the 2018 World Cup, has spent the last six seasons with Stoke City, who are currently in the Championship.
Nationality: Ivory Coast
Sir Alex Ferguson’s final signing as Manchester United manager, Zaha completed his move to United in January 2013. He spent the rest of the 2012/13 season at Crystal Palace, helping the Eagles to promotion after eight years in the second tier. Tipped as one of the future great hopes of English football, prior to his decision to represent the Ivory Coast, Zaha started for the Reds in our 2-0 Community Shield triumph over Wigan Athletic at Wembley. That, however, would prove to be one of only four appearances for United, with the winger loaned out to Cardiff City for the second half of the 2013/14 campaign. The following season, Zaha moved back to Selhurst Park, originally on loan, before the move was made permanent, where he has since established himself as one of the south London club’s greatest players.
Nationality: Ivory Coast
Current centre-back Bailly came to prominence in 2015 when, as an initially uncapped member of the Ivory Coast squad, he helped his country to only their second Africa Cup of Nations title. The following year, United signed him from Villarreal, and he was a key member of the side that won the UEFA Europa League for the first time in the club’s history, despite missing the Stockholm victory over Ajax after picking up a red card in the semi-final second leg against Celta Vigo. Eric scored his first United goal in August 2017, against Swansea City, and made 13 appearances as the Reds finished second in the Premier League that season. Although he has struggled with injury over the past 18 months, Bailly is once again fit to feature for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.
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