Manchester United finally announced the signing of Borussia Dortmund’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan, four days after the Bundesliga club broke the news via their official club website. Mkhitaryan will be the first Armenian to play in the Premier League and with that, the first player from his country to represent United. It got me thinking of the countries who have had only one player turn out for the Reds. Let’s take a look, in alphabetical order starting with Angola. Yes, Angola.
No, I hadn’t heard of him either. Following a three-week trial at Old Trafford, Manucho joined the Reds on a three-year deal in January 2008. He made just three appearances over an 18 month period before being shipped off to the sunnier climes of Real Valladolid in July 2009.
Seasons: 1989-1991, 1999-2000
The Australian shot-stopper made 38 appearances in all competitions across two stints at Old Trafford. He signed as a 17-year-old in 1989 on a non-contract basis where he made three first team appearances before returning to his native Australia for a year with Sydney Croatia. Bosnich returned to the Premier League with Aston Villa where he spent seven years before rejoining the Reds where he lifted the 1999 Intercontinental Cup and the 1999/00 Premier League crown.
He may not have been blessed with blistering pace or a bruising physical presence but Dimitar Berbatov was one-quarter of one of the most frightening attacking lineups in recent memory. He lined up alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez as the Reds won the league and league cup double as well as losing to Barcelona in the Champions League final. His unique style saw him score 56 goals for United, none more important than the three against Liverpool at Old Trafford in 2010 in a 3-2 victory.
So good they named him twice. Not quite. Djemba-Djemba remains the only Cameroonian to don the famous jersey of Manchester United. He made 39 appearances in all competitions across the two seasons he spent at Old Trafford, scoring twice, one against Panathinaikos in the Champions League and another against Leeds United in the League Cup. He now plies his trade in Indonesia.
Dong Fangzhuo was the first of three East Asian players to sign for United, ahead of Park Ji-Sung and Shinji Kagawa whilst remaining to this day as the only player from China to represent the Reds. Three appearances in all competitions over four years at Old Trafford saw Dong’s time at United come to an end, he retired from football altogether at the ripe age of 30, ending his career in his native China.
The loan signing of Colombian striker Radamel Falcao from Monaco during the summer transfer window of 2014 sent shockwaves through world football. He was seen as one of the deadliest strikers on the planet at the time however United got a shadow of the player who had scored over 200 career goals in all competitions prior to his move to Manchester. He netted just four times in 29 appearances, safe to say the Reds didn’t extend his contract. It’s a case of what might have been for Falcao at Old Trafford.
Poborsky joined the Reds on the back of a successful Euro 96 campaign in which his Czech Republic side reached the final, losing to Germany in extra time. Much to the rise and fame of a certain David Beckham, Poborsky only managed one and a half seasons at Old Trafford before moving to Benfica in January 1998.
Antonio Valencia is one of two players on this list who still ply their trade at Old Trafford, along with Germany’s Bastian Schweinsteiger. Valencia joined the Reds in the summer of 2009 from fellow Premier League side Wigan Athletic and has been pretty much an ever-present in the United first team. Only Wayne Rooney (368) and Michael Carrick (291) have appeared more in the Premier League than Valencia (176) in the current United squad.
Incredibly, when Bastian Schweinsteiger joined from Bayern Munich in the summer of 2015, he became the first German to represent Manchester United. The hugely decorated midfielder struggled in his first season in England, making just 18 appearances in the Premier League as United finished a disappointing fifth.
In June 2012, Shinji Kagawa became the first and only Japanese player to represent Manchester United. He also became the first player from Japan to score a Premier League hat-trick (against Norwich City at Old Trafford) and the first player from his country to win the Premier League before rejoining Borussia Dortmund in the summer transfer window of 2014.
The “Little Pea” as he is known joined the Reds from Mexican side Chivas in 2010. He tasted Premier League glory twice whilst Old Trafford (2010-11 & 2012-13) and scored 57 goals in 159 appearances in all competitions. He spent the 2014-15 season on loan at Real Madrid before leaving Old Trafford on a permanent basis when he moved to Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen in August 2015.
The Polish keeper failed to secure a regular starting place under Sir Alex Ferguson and that showed as he racked up only 61 appearances in all competitions across six seasons at Old Trafford. He spent the final year at the club away from the Theatre of Dreams as he was sent on loan to Championship side Watford before joined Brighton and Hove Albion on a permanent deal in June 2012.
Andrei Kanchelskis might have been born in Ukraine however he represented Russia at international level and is still to this day the only Russian to play for Manchester United. He was an extremely popular player among the terraces at Old Trafford and played a key role in United’s success in the early 1990’s, helping his side win seven honours including two Premier League titles.
Mame Biram Diouf
Mame Biram Diouf joined the Reds from Norwegian side Molde FK in 2009, making him the first Senegalese player to play for United. He made just nine appearances in all competitions scoring once – in a 3-0 home win over Burnley at Old Trafford – before joining Bundesliga club Hannover 96. In the summer of 2014, he returned to the Premier League with Stoke City, where he has scored 16 top-flight goals across two seasons.
South Africa’s Quinton Fortune joined the reds in the summer of 1999 from Atletico Madrid’s B team. He was originally bought as cover for Ryan Giggs, however, he struggled with injuries and failed to break into the first team under Sir Alex Ferguson, making just 76 top-flight appearances across seven seasons at Old Trafford.
The man for the big occasion. Nicknamed “Three Lungs Park”, the South Korean was a favourite of Sir Alex Ferguson’s, especially against Arsenal in which Park was definitely a thorn in Arsene Wenger’s side. During seven seasons at Old Trafford, Park won four Premier League titles and was an integral part of a United team that appeared in three Champions League finals in four years.
Now at Celtic, Saidy Janko became the first Swiss player to turn out for the Reds in 2014 although I’m sure he’ll want to forget his solitary appearance. It came in the 4-0 drubbing by League One side MK Dons in the second round of the Capital One Cup where he was substituted at half-time.
Trinidad & Tobago
Dwight Yorke was a key player in helping the Reds complete a famous treble in 1999, forming a lethal partnership with Andy Cole along the way. The duo scored 53 goals as United won the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League. Yorke only spent four seasons at Old Trafford, however, scored 65 goals in all competitions as well as winning six major trophies.
As well as being the only Yugoslavian player to don the famous red jersey of Manchester United, Nikola Jovanovic also became the first foreign player ever to play for the Reds back in 1980. The defender made 21 appearances for United, scoring four goals. He might not be a household name but he will ever go down in Manchester United history.