click to go to homepage
Jesse Lingard in action for Birmingham

United stars who shone in loan spells

Dean Henderson has been loaned to Sheffield United after a hugely impressive temporary spell with Shrewsbury Town last season. But how does it compare to other loan stints away from Old Trafford?

We look back over the years to find other moves that were also successful. Whether it enhanced a player’s reputation, led to team success or became the precursor to a permanent transfer, we assessed a number of factors.

Here is our list of 16 of the best Manchester United loan exits, aside from Henderson's year at Shrewsbury:

David Beckham (Preston) – 5 apps/2 gls
It was brief but, boy, did Beckham make an impact at Deepdale with the Third Division side. The midfielder scored directly from a corner on his debut and, naturally, also curled home a free-kick that would become his trademark. He did take some convincing to join North End, though, saying: “I was shocked. I thought it was a sign that a club was trying to get rid of a player!”

Tom Cleverley (Watford) – 33 apps/11 gls
In terms of goalscoring output, the midfielder’s stint at Vicarage Road was sensational as he had a record of one every three games. The 20-year-old was joint top-scorer and Player of the Season and was consistently outstanding after scoring on his debut and first home appearance. “I’d never cooked or washed clothes before,” he recalled. “Becoming more independent put me in the real world and that was a side of going out on loan that people don’t always understand.”

Tom Cleverley came of age at Watford.
Tom Cleverley came of age at Watford.

Jonny Evans (Sunderland) – 33 apps/1 gl 
The Northern Irishman had two spells with the Black Cats and both were successful. After arriving with Danny Simpson, he helped Roy Keane’s team win the Championship title and enjoyed comparisons with classy Roker Park favourite of yesteryear Colin Todd. A second stint was equally impressive as he shone at the heart of the back four. “For such a young man, he was 19, he was very mature and a born leader,” said Keane. “Jonny was unbelievable for us.”

Ashley Fletcher (Barnsley) – 21 apps/5 gls
The target man was outstanding for Barnsley in the second half of the 2015/16 season and enjoyed a great deal of success. He scored on his senior debut in the Football League Trophy draw with Fleetwood and also netted in the final of the competition against Oxford at Wembley as the Tykes lifted the trophy. Even more impressively, he opened the scoring on a second trip to the home of English football, when Millwall were beaten in the League One play-off final, to finish with nine goals in all competitions.

Alex Forsyth (Rangers) – 16 apps/4 gls
Fans will have to delve into the memory banks to remember this one but the left-back was an instant hit at Ibrox after initially joining on loan ahead of a permanent transfer. With Jimmy Nicholl pinning down a place at Old Trafford, Forsyth was allowed to move back to his native Scotland and contributed much going forward, as well as defensively. Gers boss John Greig felt he had to be prudent in the transfer market and the deal was a shrewd one, which paid off.

Ben Foster (Watford) – 73 apps/0 gls
Unable to dislodge Edwin van der Sar at Old Trafford, the keeper joined the Hornets and had two highly distinguished spells at Vicarage Road. In his first stay, he helped Watford reach the top flight by beating Leeds in the play-off final and he proved he was Premier League quality in the following campaign, earning the Player of the Year award. Manager Aidy Boothroyd said: “He’s got a terrific work ethic but, more importantly, he has humility. He’s got his England cap and will go on to prove his worth.”
Jonny Evans looked the part at Sunderland.
Jonny Evans looked the part at Sunderland.

Angelo Henriquez (Dinamo Zagreb) – 25 apps/21 gls
The first Chilean to play for United was a runaway success in Croatia, scoring goals for fun in 2014/15. The striker’s loans at Wigan and Real Zaragoza had gone well but his record for Dinamo was something else, claiming three hat-tricks and bagging 29 goals in all competitions. “I don’t think it was a step backwards in my career but a good chance to play and get experience of European football,” he said at the time.

Sam Johnstone (Aston Villa) – 45 apps/0 gls
It could be argued his loan at Preston was even better, considering he won the League One play-off final with his hometown club in 2014/15, but last term proved the keeper’s class. After initially impressing at the end of 2016/17 for Villa, he was no.1 throughout the campaign as Steve Bruce’s men reached Wembley, only to lose 1-0 to Fulham in the Championship play-off final. He was generally regarded as one of the best keepers in the division.

David Jones (NEC Nijmegen) - 17 apps/6 gls
The Reserves captain left for the Netherlands in 2005/06 and forced his way into the NEC side, and started to become a real goal treat and a key figure. He was very popular with the supporters and bagged some spectacular strikes. The move abroad, a brave one instigated by United coach Rene Meulensteen, provided the platform for a fine career in the game at clubs like Wolves and Burnley.

Sam Johnstone shouting to his defenders at Aston Villa.
Sam Johnstone has proved himself to be a top-class keeper at Aston Villa.

Michael Keane (Burnley) – 10 apps/0 gls 
It did not take long for the defender to show his quality at Turf Moor and appear tailor-made for manager Sean Dyche’s over-performing Clarets. The centre-back wanted a loan move rather than a permanent switch as he was unsure about leaving United but his excellent form led to a full-time transfer in the following January. He would become a PFA Young Player of the Year candidate before joining Everton in a big-money deal. “I don’t regret anything as the move has been the best thing for me,” he said.

Jesse Lingard (Birmingham) – 13 apps/6 gls
Nobody will forget the midfielder’s incredible debut for the Midlanders, when he netted four times against Sheffield Wednesday – his first senior goals. Blues boss Lee Clark knew he had a potential star on his hands and the spell at St Andrew’s was a valuable one for the England midfielder. “Jesse’s work ethic, on top of his other ability is ridiculous,” said Clark. “Like every United player I’ve had.”

Nani (Sporting Lisbon) - 27 apps/7 gls
The winger rejoined his former club for the 2014/15 term, as part of the deal that took Marcos Rojo to Manchester. Inevitably emerging as a key figure for Sporting, he helped the club win a first trophy since 2008 (the year after he left to move to England) by scoring a penalty during the shoot-out success in the Taca de Portugal final win over Braga. His form ensured he remained a regular for Portugal en route to the nation winning the European Championship in 2016.

Gerard Pique (Real Zaragoza) – 22 apps/2 gls
The Spaniard always had the talent in his locker and, during a temporary return to his homeland with Zaragoza, he displayed the qualities that would take him to the very pinnacle of the world game. Performing alongside Gabriel Milito, he shone in La Liga and that helped convince Barcelona to re-sign him in 2008. “The evidence for his quality has always been there,” said Sir Alex Ferguson. “We had to give him more time to develop. Fortunately, this is something both he and his parents understood.”

Henderson departs on loan article

Fresh from signing a new deal, keeper Dean Henderson will spend 2018/19 on loan at Championship side Sheffield United.

Kieran Richardson (West Brom) – 12 apps/3 gls
Snapped up by Bryan Robson, the youngster would become an integral part of the team’s successful ‘Great Escape’ from Premier League relegation. No side bottom at Christmas Day had survived in the division but Albion did just that with the clever midfielder a real force – and he scored on the final day against Portsmouth too. “Kieran was just brilliant for us,” recalls Robbo. “It’s fair to say Bryan bringing me to West Brom revived my career,” commented Richardson.

Giuseppe Rossi (Parma) – 19 apps/9 gls
One of Italy’s brightest prospects had endured a difficult loan at Newcastle but was allowed to shine on returning to his former club Parma in 2007. A prolific marksman with United’s Reserves, he set about ensuring his boyhood team would stave off relegation from Serie A. The move, to one of Europe’s top leagues, was an undoubted success for the little striker, who was still in his teenage years at the time.

Danny Welbeck (Sunderland) – 26 apps/6 gls
After an earlier spell at Preston, the leggy striker came of age in the North East, linking up superbly with Asamoah Gyan and Darren Bent. Ex-Red Steve Bruce struck the season-long deal and was rewarded with some superb displays, none more so than in a memorable 3-0 win at Chelsea as the Wearsiders clinched a top-half place. “I grew up there,” admitted the England international.“It was a good experience, a learning curve and a pivotal point in my career because it was the first time I went out on loan in the Premier League.”

Kieran Richardson celebrates helping West Brom's 'Great Escape'.
Kieran Richardson helped inspire West Brom's 'Great Escape in 2005'.
Appearances and goals data refers to league games only.