10 Players Manchester United Gave Up On Too Soon (And 10 They Kept For Too Long)

Sometimes it isn't always clear just how talented a soccer player is until they are given some time, with some players needing several seasons to really adjust to their potential, especially if they are coming from a foreign league.

Players need time to develop and mature into the game, allowing them to grow in confidence on the pitch and more often than not in the cutthroat business that is soccer, players are not given that.

On the other hand, sometimes players are given too much time, whether that be because they are a big name or have certain qualities that seem like it will make them into a great player, yet they never really develop into what people hope.

This happens all the time in soccer but especially at a top club like Manchester United where managers are forced to make quick decisions as results are expected and trophies need to be won.

During the history of Manchester United, there have been countless examples of players who the club has given up on far too soon, with them going on to do great things elsewhere, as well as players they have kept too long and have never delivered and this article will provide 10 examples of each.

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20 Gave Up Too Soon - Ruud Van Nistelrooy

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Ruud Van Nistelrooy is still regarded as one of the greatest strikers to have ever played for Manchester United with his incredible technical ability and ice cool calmness in front of goal, you knew exactly what you were getting with him; goals.

He knew where the back of the net was and how to find it, no matter what type of defender he was up against and that is why it came as a surprise to many to see the club let go of him when he moved on to Real Madrid.

To nobody's surprise, he continued his fantastic goalscoring record away from Manchester and it came out that he was sold due to a bust-up with Sir Alex Ferguson over an issue with Ronaldo.

19 Kept For Too Long - Anderson

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How Anderson spent eight seasons as a Manchester United player I will never know, but the midfielder stuck around no matter who was brought in or who was sold, always being a constant and the prime example of a 'squad player.'

He was never a name that would be expected to start every single week and simply did the basics on the pitch, but seemingly that's all that was needed for Anderson to keep himself under contract with the club.

However, in his final years, his game time was getting less and less, to the point where in his final two full seasons he managed to make just five appearances for the club, pointing at the fact he stayed far too long.

18 Gave Up Too Soon - Tim Howard

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After being such a long and loyal servant to Everton for so many years many fans might have actually forgotten that Tim Howard spent several years at Manchester United and was originally set to be the club's number one.

He was brought in as a direct replacement for Fabien Barthez and during his first season with the club, it seemed like he would be just that, if not better. However, his second season was littered with mistakes that proved very costly as he lost plenty of confidence.

Instead of sticking by him and giving him the trust he needed like the club did with David De Gea, Manchester let him go to Everton where he would go on to be one of the most reliable Premier League goalkeepers in history.

17 Kept For Too Long- Diego Forlan

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Diego Forlan ended up becoming one of the most lethal strikers in soccer during his career, scoring constant goals for both club and country, but during his time at Manchester United, he failed to find his feet.

Forlan spent four seasons with Manchester but at no point looked like he was capable of being a leading striker for a top club in Europe and even though he had clear talent, which would later surface, the Red Devils really should have cut ties sooner.

After failing to score in his first season with the club the signs were already in place, yet for some reason, United continued to persist with him, but his record never improved finishing with just 17 goals in 98 appearances.

16 Gave Up Too Soon - Javier Hernandez

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Javier Hernandez was a natural goalscorer who constantly found the back of the net with his goal-poaching style that was something that very few teams in the Premier League could offer at the time, allowing Hernandez to really stand out.

While he wasn't someone who would get over 20 goals in one season, he was someone who the club could rely upon as a second striker to come off the bench and cause major problems.

However the club decided to move him, initially on loan to Real Madrid and then permanently to Bayern Leverkusen and he has continued to score on a regular basis ever since, even back in the Premier League recently with West Ham United.

15 Kept For Too Long - Wayne Rooney

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Time catches up to everybody eventually, even the legends and that was the case for Manchester United's Wayne Rooney who overstayed his welcome at Old Trafford by at least a season.

As his pace became a glaring issue it was clear that he wasn't going to be pushing on and breaking the offside trap to get a one on one opportunity anymore and his time as a striker was slowly brought to an end.

Rooney fell deeper and deeper into the midfield and eventually found himself on the bench as it became clear it was time for Rooney to move on, which he eventually did to his boyhood club, Everton.

14 Gave Up Too Soon - Phil Neville

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Phil Neville was part of the legendary class of '92 Manchester United squad that featured possibly the most talented crop of players to ever break into a United team alongside his brother, Gary, Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, and Paul Scholes.

Neville spent a long time with Manchester United and managed to record an impressive 263 appearances during his time, but there is no doubt that Manchester let him go too soon, as he would go on to have an equally impressive career with Everton.

Neville would've been a perfect defensive midfielder for United, a position they often went back and forth on for many years, whilst he would go on to prove just how good he was as Everton captain.

13 Kept For Too Long - Dimitar Berbatov

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During his spell with Manchester United, Dimitar Berbatov impressed many people with his incredible footwork, brilliant technical ability and most importantly, his goalscoring prowess.

However, he also angered a lot of fans for his lack of work ethic, with many people slating him for being lazy.

You would never see Berbatov hunting down the ball or pressing high and to many people, this became an issue.

In the end, even his goals dried up during his fourth and final season with Manchester United, perhaps showing a clear sign that the ties should have been cut just a little sooner than they were.

12 Gave Up Too Soon - Cristiano Ronaldo

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It's hard to say that Manchester United 'gave up' on Ronaldo because the club didn't want to sell him by any means when he left to join Real Madrid, but there's no doubt the club missed out on his best years.

Ronaldo will go down as one of Manchester United's greatest ever players, but had he stayed at the club instead of going to Spain, he would certainly have finished his time as the greatest, without question.

The winger was under contract with Manchester and therefore they didn't need to sell him if they didn't want to, but in the end, the amount of money and the fact that Ronaldo wanted to move to Real played a bigger role.

11 Kept For Too Long - Alan Smith

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The story of Alan Smith is an incredibly sad one in reality, as one of the most exciting soccer players in the game, it seemed like Smith had a huge future ahead of him after making the leap to Manchester United.

That was until his freak leg injury as he broke his leg attempting to block a freekick totally derailed his career as Smith never came back the same player and eventually slipped down the ladder, playing at a much lower level.

United stayed loyal to Smith for a while, but through his performances, it was clear he couldn't compete at that level anymore and the club needed to be more ruthless and let him go sooner than they did.

10 Gave Up Too Soon - David Beckham

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Manchester United didn't give up on David Beckham, but instead a major divide between him and manager at the time, Sir Alex Ferguson led to the end of Beckham's career for United and his time in England.

Beckham was one of the best wingers around and his delivery from set pieces or crosses were incredible and amongst some of the best ever, which is why it was a shame the club decided to ship him out in his prime.

When he was sold to Real Madrid, Beckham still had the majority of his best years ahead of him and he could have offered a lot more to Manchester United had he and Ferguson patched things up.

9 Kept For Too Long - Nani

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Originally being hyped up as the next Ronaldo, Nani joined Manchester United with a huge weight on his shoulders and a lot of pressure from the fans who expected him to live up to those expectations.

Of course, Nani was nowhere near that level but he did manage to have several good seasons with the club where he got consistent goals and assists which helped United achieve a lot of success.

However, at the end of the 2011-12 season, it became clear that Nani was struggling to maintain that level and the following three seasons saw some terrible performances and statistics, but it took the club far too long to get rid of him.

8 Gave Up Too Soon - Wilfried Zaha

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During this summer transfer market Wilfried Zaha has been one of the top names that teams all around Europe are looking to sign, which shows just how talented the tricky winger is, but clearly Manchester United did not feel the same way.

Zaha burst onto the scene with Crystal Palace and Manchester United opted to sign him, only to loan him back out to the club where he would eventually rejoin them after not being given an opportunity by United.

Since then, Zaha has only gone from strength to strength and is no doubt a player that Manchester United wishes they could still have on the books, but instead the club gave up on him and he succeeded elsewhere.

7 Kept For Too Long- Zlatan Ibrahimovic

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic brought a fantastic presence with him to Old Trafford and became incredibly popular amongst the United faithful and he backed up his cocky attitude with an incredible first season at the club. But there were some red flags.

Everyone knew that age was quickly catching up with him and things were supposed to end after one season, yet for some reason, he and Manchester United agreed on an extra year.

Of course, age did catch up as injuries began to creep in and Ibrahimovic's legacy with United became slightly tainted as he managed to only make seven appearances, scoring just twice, proving that the one season alone would have been better.

6 Gave Up Too Soon - Angel Di Maria

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When Manchester United signed Angel Di Maria there was a huge amount of buzz surrounding his arrival in the Premier League after he had been one of La Liga's top wingers for Real Madrid for several years.

He scored constant goals and chipped in with many assists during his time at Madrid and he was expected to do the same with United. He was one of the most expensive signings in British history but was only at the club for one season.

Despite playing in nearly every game during that campaign, Di Maria didn't make much of an impact, only scoring four times. However, once he left to join PSG he quickly found his feet again, setting a league record for assists, proving Manchester should've been more patient.

5 Kept For Too Long- Juan Sebastián Verón

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Juan Sebastián Verón spent two seasons at ManU and if you ask any Red Devils fan they will tell you that was two seasons too long, as the midfielder failed to make an impact at the club.

Verón just didn't fit into any system Sir Alex Ferguson wanted to play and despite the fact he was clearly talented, he just didn't work with Manchester United, often leaving them very vulnerable at the back.

The club spent £24 million on him, which was a big fee back at that time, but he never really delivered on that promise and he was eventually let go after two seasons, but that deal really should have happened at least a year earlier.

4 Gave Up Too Soon - Danny Drinkwater

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Whilst a lot of the hype surrounding Danny Drinkwater has calmed down since his average at best season with Chelsea, he played a crucial role in Leicester City becoming Premier League Champions with his brilliant season that saw him gain huge credit.

With Manchester United really lacking a spine throughout the team at that time, many people saw it as a big mistake that the club gave up on Drinkwater far too quickly, but the club never even gave him a chance.

Drinkwater was on the books from 2008-2012 but never made a single appearance for the club during that spell, only managing to be named on the bench once during that time, yet he went on to become a Premier League champion playing every week.

3 Kept For Too Long - Michael Owen

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It came as a huge surprise to everyone in soccer when it was announced that Michael Owen was signing for Manchester United due to his incredible career with major rivals, Liverpool, a decision that the Liverpool fans have never forgiven him for.

However, he jumped at the chance to win some more trophies with Manchester United and certainly left his mark with his infamous goal against Manchester City ensuring he will always be a fan favorite at Old Trafford.

But ultimately when it came to his performances it was clear that Owen was coming to the end of his career, especially during the third and final year at the club where he only managed three goals, proving he should have cut his time a little earlier.

2 Gave Up Too Soon: Paul Pogba

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While he might be back at Manchester United now, the club could've saved itself a huge sum of money if they had never let him go in the first place. The Red Devils brought Paul Pogba back to the club in 2016 for £89 million, which at the time was a world record transfer fee.

However, the midfielder had already been on the books at United during the 2011-12 season, though he was barely given a chance to impress, making just three first-team appearances before being sent to Juventus.

In Serie A, Pogba flourished and it quickly became clear he was one of the best on the planet.

Manchester United brought him back after realizing their mistake of letting him go in the first place.

1 Kept For Too Long - Bebe

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Sometimes, soccer clubs need to just know when to let go and in the case of Bebe, Manchester United did not, keeping him on the books for far too long, despite the fact that he never amounted to anything.

There was tons of hype surrounding Bebe who was expected to be the next big thing in the Premier League, yet by the time his United career came to an end he had only made seven appearances for the club.

Bebe was contracted at Manchester United from 2010-2014 and played just seven times, spending the majority of his spell at the club out on loan, failing to make an impact everywhere he went, but for some reason the Red Devils just kept him contracted.

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