Five players re-signed by United
Tom Heaton has joined a small band of players that have returned to Manchester United after leaving the club.
The goalkeeper left Old Trafford in 2010 to obtain regular first-team football elsewhere, but has rejoined on a free transfer from Aston Villa.
So which other Reds can claim to have done likewise?
A goalkeeper returning to United is nothing new, as the Australian Mark Bosnich was actually a non-contract player here as a teenager. Formerly with Sydney Croatia, he made his senior debut against Wimbledon in 1990 and kept a clean sheet. The following season, he played twice more for the first team – against Derby County and Tottenham – but he left and it was over eight years before he would represent the Reds again. With his contract up at Aston Villa, like Heaton, he was signed by Sir Alex to replace Peter Schmeichel after the Treble season.
There was great shock, and sadness, when Mark Hughes opted to join Barcelona in 1986, with the transfer long in the pipeline. The Welshman had burst through the ranks at United and become one of the top strikers in the business, but was lured to the Nou Camp by Terry Venables in a £2 million deal. Although failing to settle in Spain, he showed his qualities again during a loan spell at Bayern Munich and United had to fend off competition from a number of clubs to bring him back in the summer of 1988. It took a club-record fee of £1.8 million, but Alex Ferguson explained he viewed the move as a present to the Reds fans.
It's impossible to forget one of the most high-profile re-signings in history. Paul came back to the club where he had won the FA Youth Cup when a deal was agreed with Juventus back in the summer of 2016. The Frenchman, purchased from Le Havre at 16, made his senior debut against Leeds United in 2011 – one of seven outings for Sir Alex's side – before he left at the end of his contract to move to Turin. After lighting up Serie A, he came back to Old Trafford as a top-class talent, backed up by the fact he later won the World Cup with his country in 2018.
One of our biggest legends emerged from the youth team and scored twice on his debut against Port Vale in the League Cup, in September 1994. He went on to establish himself as a Premier League great but retired at the end of the 2010/11 season and enjoyed a testimonial match against New York Cosmos at Old Trafford. However, he yearned for a return to action and, after a discussion with Sir Alex, was surprisingly reinstated to the squad for a Manchester derby in the FA Cup in January 2012. It meant we got to see more of his midfield masterclasses, until he hung up his boots for good in 2013.
The late keeper initially joined United on loan from Luton Town and broke into the side at the end of the 1989/90 season. He famously displaced Jim Leighton for the FA Cup final replay against Crystal Palace, keeping the Eagles at bay in a 1-0 win at Wembley. The Londoner was first choice for the following campaign, which included the European Cup Winners' Cup triumph over Barcelona, but then switched to Aston Villa. In early 1993, however, he headed back to Old Trafford on a free transfer and made two further appearances in the following year – as a substitute in an FA Cup quarter-final with Charlton Athletic and the League Cup final loss to his former club Villa.
Other players have rejoined after short gaps in their careers, such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who agreed a one-year deal when regaining fitness following a knee injury in 2017. George Best also had a stop-start spell with the Reds back in the 1970s.