Sadiq El Fitouri is one of Manchester United’s better-known players in the academy, but not necessarily for his footballing ability. His notoriety came after he signed for the club from the Class of 92 owned team Salford City back in January 2015 after a trial and on the recommendation of Phil Neville.
El Fitouri started his career at United’s Manchester rivals: City, joining the Blues just after he finished school, yet after just a year in their academy he found himself released and searching for a new club. However, El Fitouri’s plans to find a new team were quickly halted when he found himself injured for a period of around four months.
After 18 months out of the game El Fitouri decided that it was time to get his career back on track, and he gave local team Salford City a phone call to see if he could come down for a trial with the side. Phil Neville quickly spotted the talent of the Libyan-born defender and even likened him to Yohan Cruyff, due to his technical ability and the way he could take on a player down the wing:
“It was absolutely freezing. Sadiq went down the wing, went past a player like Cruyff then stroked the ball into midfield.”
Under Phil Power El Fitouri never made an appearance for Salford, but when Neville and Paul Scholes took charge of a game after sacking Power they thrust him into the starting XI.
“We both said he had to play. Within 35 minutes we’d both seen enough for him to show us that he was far too good for this level.”
It turns out that El Fitouri was indeed far too good for non-league football, and after a phone call to Warren Joyce Neville had arranged for him to head up to the AON Training Complex so that Joyce could take a look at the player and decide on his quality for himself. El Fitouri clearly impressed on his weeklong trial at United, as he did enough to earn himself an 18-month contract to play for the Reds. El Fitouri was clearly ecstatic about the move to United, as he revealed exactly how the move came to fruition in an interview with the official Manchester United website in February:
“After 18 months without playing, I was starting to lose hope. But in December , I phoned up Salford City and asked if I could train with them. They said ‘Yes, come down’ and I trained there for one month and played one game.
“Phil Neville was impressed and Paul Scholes too so they pulled me over to one side and said I could go to training at United the next day. Everyone knows who Neville and Scholes are and for them to have belief in me was really good.
“My trial at United lasted for a week and a half. During the first week, I remember I played an in-house game against Leicester. Warren was impressed and, a few days later, he said: ‘Well done, I’d like to offer you a contract’. I thought it was all a dream as it happened so quickly.”
El Fitouri made 4 appearances for United’s Under 21’s team in the 2014/15 season as he helped the club to win the Under 21 Premier League. The following season he went on to make 16 appearances, mainly being used at right back but also in the right winger’s role at times. He impressed enough during his 18-month spell at the club to earn himself a contract extension this summer and has been an integral part to Joyce’s depleted squad so far this campaign, having started 6 games so far.
Perhaps the highlight of El Fitouri’s United career came in September when he was named in the first team 25-man squad for the current Premier League season. I don’t ever expect El Fitouri to break into the United team, simply for the reason that there is so much competition for the right-back spot, with Antonio Valencia, Tim Fosu-Mensah, and Matteo Darmian all contesting for the place, but this isn’t to say that he can’t have a successful career lower down the football ladder, with teams in the Championship or League One. He’s a talented footballer but the competitive nature of the Premier League may be too much for him to handle, but he’s defied expectations before so who’s to say that he can’t do it again?