A while back on Roker Report we had two articles entitled Quick Picks (which you can read here and here). These were at the start of the season, where we got some former players to make predictions for our season, and some journalists to do the same.
Despite the extensiveness of the articles, one line in particular struck a chord with me, and I couldn't help but do more research. The line in question coming from Jonathan Wilson, a journalist I have the utmost respect for, who said he is always wary of Manchester United cast-offs.
I started thinking about this. It's sort of widely regarded that players who leave Old Trafford go on to do very little. I've always thought of it as a bit of a sweeping generalisation like "you'll win nothing with kids" (well United proved you wrong there) and "anything can happen in the cup" (no, a top five team tends to win it).
So to the matter at hand - Sunderland have had plenty of links with Manchester United, but I wanted to look at our direct links. Players we have acquired having been cast-off by them, and assess whether or not they are any indicator as to whether we should be a bit wary as Jonathan pointed out.
Let's have a look, in no particular order...
Ben Clark - Signed in 2000, Left for Hartlepool United in 2004.
I can remember Clark signing for the club. A strong presence in England youth teams, and tipped for the very top by nearly everyone. A commanding centre-back who could fill in at right-back at a push, we all had high hopes for the lad when he arrived on Wearside for free in 2000.
What became of Ben though? We only managed to see 9 starts over the four year period, with several of those coming in that weird era most of us have chosen to forget where Howard Wilkinson was in charge. I've found that stat about the amount of starts from doing some research by the way, I can't for the life of me recall a particularly impressive performance from Ben, sadly.
When Wilko finally got the boot and Big Mick McCarthy came in, Ben was once again tipped for the top by the straight talking Yorkshireman who said Clark would have a big part to play under his management. Not that big really, Clark was shipped off to Hartlepool where he went on to have a canny career.
11 years on from his days at Old Trafford, he's now at Gateshead. Safe to say this Manchester United cast-off didn't really do much for us.
Terry Cooke - Loaned in 1996.
Terry Cooke, again an exciting (at the time) signing for us, having played in the same all-conquering Manchester United Youth Team as David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt & The Nevilles, Cooke was clearly destined to be the next one to break through and become a megastar.
Cooke in his 6 games at SAFC performed admirably, or so my hazy memory tells me. Diminutive, a jinking runner, and a cracking cross on him. Cooke enjoyed a successful period with the club, as in those 6 games we only lost one, away at Wolves where we always lose anyway.
I'm chalking this Manchester United loanee as an unspectacular success. It was short, it was sort of sweet, and with him in the team we did alright so something must have been working. A solid impact, even if after that time he never really hit the heights of his former youth teammates.
Tony Coton - Signed in 1996, Retired 1997.
I always found Tony an odd signing. We were a terrible team at the time, and I always wondered why we paid a reported fee of £600,000 for a man who was in his twilight years and hadn't played a competitive game for best part of a year.
Tony however did manage to make 12 appearances for the club, and in that time did manage 5 clean sheets. So, that's pretty sterling work considering the defence in front of him often included Lee Howey and the even more terrifying, Gareth Hall.
Tony made his final appearance for the lads in a league defeat at Southampton, where he broke his leg in 5 places. Tony was replaced by Lionel Perez, and we never looked back.
So we'd remember Tony fondly for his fleeting time with the club. The problem is the big man left in rather controversial fashion. What happens on the pitch can only really be controlled by those who are on it, and when Coton collided with Saints new-boy Egil Ostenstad, Tony blamed SAFC, and a attempted to sue us for it ending his career.
Coton didn't really end, as he got the cushy job of goalkeeping coach at Manchester United. All in all, good ‘keeper, bit of a dick.
Jonny Evans - Loaned in 2007, Loaned in 2008.
He looked like a boy, but played like a man. For us anyway. I often see and hear disenchanted Manchester United fans writing him off in pubs (I live down there) and on Twitter, but I don't think anyone can argue his time with us was anything other than a success.
When he arrived it was a clear sign of Roy Keane using his United connections as simply we'd never heard of him, perhaps only the hardcore Football Manager players had.
Jonny came immediately in, and even managed to form a successful partnership with Nyron Nosworthy, making Nuggsy, at times, look alright, which is nothing to be sniffed at, before he went on that season help us to promotion and scoop up the Young Player Of The Year award despite only being here six months.
We held hope of signing him permanently, Keane spoke highly of him, we were all impressed and he even managed to knock up some local totty, but Sir Alex wasn't for turning and the best we could muster was a further loan.
We avoided relegation that season, which you'd also chalk as a success, proving whatever Jonny touched whilst at the club turned to gold. I'd even have him back now.
Alan Foggon - Signed in 1976, Left for Southend United in 1977
Alan Foggon arrived at the club in 1976 for a princely sum of £25,000 - Quite a bit for a player who had only managed 3 appearances for Manchester United. Clearly he wasn't rated much in the North West, and he wasn't much better here.
Foggon managed to forge a reputation as being a poor, and I mean dirt poor here, mans version of George Best. A long haired, hard living forward, but unfortunately Alan didn't have one tenth of George's talent.
Alan played ten times for SAFC, and for someone who played as a forward a return of 0 goals was inexcusable, and he was shipped off to Southend United.
Alan Foggon ladies and gents. He did nowt.
Mark Lynch - Signed in 2004, Left for Hull City in 2005.
Whilst we're on a tip of players who were pretty crap, Mark Lynch falls right into that category too. Luckily however, Lynch cost nothing, and when he was released after just one season it was to little surprise. 11 ‘meh' games for us, and off to Hull City he went.
Perhaps I'm being harsh, I don't know. What are your memories of Mark Lynch? He basically just existed for a very short period of time and did little.
Liam Miller - Signed in 2006, Left for QPR in 2009.
Despite his indiscretions, I liked Liam Miller. He just kept things moving nicely in midfield, akin to a littler, Irisher David Vaughan. Not to mention he had a penchant for a decent goal every now and then. Leeds away and ‘Boro away to rescue a point spring to mind.
It's known Roy Keane set some high standards, but Liam didn't even bother to try and reach them often late to training and a basic lack of professionalism found him on the transfer list. He worked his way to QPR, we got a decent fee and the rest is history.
Success? I don't know. I liked him, so for me yes indeed, but he's not likely to go down as someone that fondly remembered.
Jimmy Nicholl - Loaned in 1982.
Jimmy Nicholl was one of the finest fullbacks to ever play for us, or so my family elders tell me.
Unfortunately we're only here to talk about the direct signings from Manchester United and Jimmy came in January 1982 to rack up three league appearances and two cup games. We only won one of those, and only scored one goal, a 1-0 win over Rotherham United in the FA Cup.
If only we could forget about his short-lived time at the Toronto Blizzard, we could have banged on for ages about Jimmy's 30-odd other great games for Sunderland. A modern full-back in a bygone era, getting forward with style and a superb crosser to boot, but we're not here to talk about that right? Oops.
Jimmy Nicholl would later be a success for us, so there's no doubt he must have shown something in that loan to warrant a signing.
Danny Simpson - Loaned in 2007.
Danny Simpson was alright for us when he arrived as an unknown alongside Jonny Evans. Part of the successful promotion side before much like Shay Given before him, he buggered off up the road in search of fame and fortune.
He seemed like a nice lad whilst here, but does seem to be entirely NUFC now, and a bit of an arse (at least on Twitter) so sod him. MASSIVE FAILURE.
Ernie Taylor - Signed in 1958, Left in 1961 for Altringham.
Ernie might be an unfamiliar name to many (including myself), but he was quite a player in his time. I can tell you we certainly got value for money out of Taylor, signing for £6,000 in 1958 as he went on to play 71 games and score 11 goals. Taylor was part of a well working forward line which included Ian Lawther, Alan O'Neil and Colin Grainger.
Taylor however made his name at Blackpool. Having been spotted by the great Sir Stanley Matthews himself in the 1951 FA Cup Final when Taylor was playing for Newcastle, Matthews said he wanted Taylor in the side. And he got his wish. The pair went on to play together for England, although they were only paired together once, in the 6-3 Wembley defeat to the Magnificent Magyars of Hungary.
Ernie Taylor was undoubtedly a success for SAFC.
Colin Waldron - Signed in 1976, Left in 1978 for Tulsa Roughnecks
Colin's 22 games for SAFC were abject failures. He managed a goal at least, but managed to get booked and/or sent off much more regularly during his short spell at the club in the late 70's.
Colin's finest hour was quickly followed by his worst. Scoring the winner in a 1-0 win over Ipswich Town, a side including the likes of Kevin Beattie, however next week against Aston Villa, he saw red and we slumped to a 4-1 defeat.
Up and down times for Waldron, but mainly down.
Phil Bardsley - Signed in 2008.
Fellow Roker Reporter, Michael Graham's all-time favourite player. Despite Michael's man-crush, I'm not overly fond of Mr Bardsley. He's alright, he's ok, HE's FINE... and little more. He'll come in, do a job, and no doubt do it reasonably well.
He's definitely the right kind of player we need at the moment, but not one for the future.
Bardsley's time at the club has been up and down. Mainly down this season after some ridiculous sendings off and outbursts, but last season he was player of the year, joining the likes of club legend Danny Collins in the hall of fame.
I jest, I go back to the original point. Bardsley's alright, and let's just leave it there. Success or not? I dunno, he's yet to have that all-round outstanding game which could elevate him to above mortal.
Fraizer Campbell - Signed in 2009.
Fraizer's a difficult one to judge isn't he? He's scored some good goals, and some important goals, and generally seems like a decent bloke. However we've not seen much of him due to some terribly unlucky injuries over the last few years.
It's been such a shame for Fraizer, but I do hope he bounces back from this latest set-back and shows us what a good player he is. Because that's the thing, we've seen enough of him to know there's something special there.
£3.5m wasn't a huge outlay in the first place for him, he just needs the rub of the green. Steve Bruce believes in Campbell as a player, when Bent was sold we were lead that it wasn't all bad because Campbell was back... until another injury stopped him before he could start. I believe in him too.
Kieran Richardson - Signed in 2007.
You're probably not aware, but the first thing ever pinned on Roker Report was about Kieran, and what the hell we're going to do with him as that season progressed. Over the remaining time that year he played left-back, left wing, up front, right wing and spent significant amounts of time injured.
Nowadays, Kieran seems to have slotted into left back berth and made it his own. He's far from the complete left-back, and I'd like us to have a specialist there, but he'll do for now. It's worth noting he's rarely complained about all the shifting and had has a positive outlook on things.
£3.5m wasn't a huge outlay, and he's stuck around, survived the various managerial changes, and whenever fit is in or around the first team. With over 100 games played, and more than 10 goals in the bank, I think we've had good value for money out of our utility man.
Danny Welbeck - Loaned in 2010.
I recall when Welbeck signed, and the outpouring across various forums and social media sites of "he's nee better than Waghorn man"... how wrong you were. I say you, as I was delighted with the signing. Yes, I'm playing that game.
Danny was a great success here, and my God I wish we could have signed him permanently. Alas Sir Alex also noticed the boy was a bit special, and has since given him a regular starting spot at Old Trafford.
Seven goals in 26 games at the club is a great return, especially considering he was often deployed out wide by Brucey. He'll also be remembered for playing and scoring in that 3-0 win at Stamford Bridge.
Maybe one day he'll come back? Please? I know it's not likely but if we all beg then perhaps they'll take pity. Danny Welbeck - tremendous player and success at SAFC.
Wes Brown - Signed in 2011.
Right you know how I said "I told you so" about Welbeck? Well I got it bang wrong with Brown. Wes Brown has so far been a beast of a man, and certainly not the aging, injury prone second rate defender I thought he was.
Wes so far has managed to stay fit (I type touching every single bit of wood in sight, and MDF just in case that counts) and for a reported £1m, we've got a bargain. Even if he doesn't do much else, he was gargantuan in the early part of the season, and has even managed to make Anton Ferdinand and Michael Turner look decent when alongside him.
Wes Brown - A titan.
John O'Shea - Signed in 2011.
When O'Shea arrived with Brown, I wasn't alone in thinking this was our guy, this was the man who'd bring calm, order and class to our defence... and so far? Well he's been OK I suppose, without really having a stand out game.
Most often he's been deployed as a right-back, which I don't think anyone predicted pre-season, but as said he's done alright there, he's been fine and little else.
He's yet to have the outstanding game that sets him apart from the mere mortals, but if things continue it looks like O'Shea will be remembered as being ‘solid' as opposed to the difference maker we all predicted.
So there we have it, and the results it's fair to say have been so widely varied that guess what, Jonathan Wilson is right again. Not that I'd set about to prove him wrong, but it seems the best of the best have only been with us a brief time, whilst others still have destiny in their own hands.
On the other side of things, I think you could do this study with any team and find similar varied results, so it's not particularly correct to say that everyone being shipped out of Old Trafford is a failure.
What do you think of our signings from Manchester United in general? Success, failure or somewhere in between?