Transfer Tales: How Hughes returned to United

Saturday 24 June 2023 15:59

Mark Hughes is a player forever etched into the folklore of Manchester United.

After an initial spell with the club that saw him Catalan-bound to represent FC Barcelona, Hughes returned to the Reds under the guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson. 

His second stint at the club saw him break new ground as he helped build a footballing dynasty out of Old Trafford. 

Mark’s football journey soon ventured into management following his retirement, but his contribution to the English game as a player will fondly be remembered by Reds far and wide. 
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After leaving school in 1980, Hughes left Wrexham and headed to Manchester where he spent six years with the Reds in his first stint with us. In 1986, FC Barcelona came knocking, and for a hefty price tag of £2 million, he was Catalan-bound to link up with fellow Brit Gary Lineker at Camp Nou. 

While his strike partner adorned himself to the Spaniards, Sparky didn’t quite emulate Lineker in that sense and, after just one season with the Spanish giants, he found himself on loan at German giants Bayern Munich. 

In 1998, with United now under the watchful eye of Sir Alex Ferguson, Hughes returned to M16 for a then-club-record fee of £1.8 million. In his first season back, he was the club’s joint-top scorer with 16 goals and though we finished a disappointing 11th in the table, Mark became the first Red to be voted PFA’s Player of the Year. 

He would go on to spend a further six years with us, developing a knack for cropping up in cup finals and winning two league titles with us, before his eventual move away. His time with the Reds was pivotal in laying the groundwork for the era of dominance under Sir Alex in the years that followed.  
In his episode of the United Podcast, Hughes revealed his ‘pride’ over wearing the no.10 shirt and his affinity with the club having spent the best part of his senior career at Old Trafford.  

“I had immense pride for playing for Manchester United and wearing the number 10 red shirt,” he said. “It was really special to me.” 

“I had a real affinity with the club. I joined when I was 14 and bar a couple of years when I left, I was here until I was 31.”
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He also talked of his love for the Old Trafford faithful, who he relished in representing both on and off the pitch. 

“Some players like to block the crowd ut and just play within the white line whereas I went over the lines as well to get a sense of how the crowd was. I think the United fans understood that’s what I was doing - I was trying to amplify what their feelings were on the pitch.

“I always had a great relationship with the United fans in that regard; they understood that when I played for United I’d always play my best.” 

When Sparky lit the title fuse


On the anniversary of a key step towards our first Premier League title, club legend Mark Hughes recalls the occasion.


Sir Alex Ferguson: “Mark was a determined player – he was a rottweiler and a warrior on that pitch – and yet off the pitch you couldn’t get a quieter guy. He had two personalities. He has aggression and determination. I think I had that too and I think that it’s a great quality.”

Dave Coldwell:
“My favourite player was Mark Hughes. Bryan Robson, Gary Bailey in goal, those sort of guys. I loved Paul McGrath – he was just hard. Robbo, even to this day, he’s your midfielder you want on those tough nights. How many times he dislocated his shoulder and kept coming back – he was a proper warrior in the middle of the pitch.”