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Reader’s Corner: The Sunderland and Manchester United link (part 1)

In the first of a three-part blog, RR reader Jack Shields takes a look at some of the players who’ve been on the books of both Manchester United and Sunderland.

Manchester United v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Sunderland seem to have links with signing or selling players from the same club for years.

Remember when all of the unwanted players ended up at Stoke?

Or the summer we raided White Hart Lane for Tottenham cast-offs?

But there’s been one club that tops the lot. Manchester United.

It’s easy to forget some of the players who’ve featured for both clubs, so I’ll take you down memory lane and bring up some players from the SOL era that have played for the Lads but previously featured in some capacity from the Red Devils.

Micky Gray

Michael Gray

While Gray never actually played a first-team game at Man United, he did have the opportunity to play for them. A fresh-faced Gray signed schoolboy forms for United aged just 15.

At the time he was playing for highly-rated Fatfield Juniors in the Hetton Youth League in the late 1980s. He was offered a full-contract at Manchester United but turned them down and continued to play at a local level.

He signed for Sunderland in 1992 and would go on to play for 12 years for us. Despite THAT penalty miss at Wembley in 1998 he established himself as a Premier League full-back under Peter Reid and was a rare breed of Sunderland players capped by England at full international level. He also captained his hometown club for three seasons.

After several consistent years at the club, Gray left for Blackburn Rovers in 2004 and also played for Celtic, Leeds United, Wolves and Sheffield Wednesday before retiring in 2010. He can now be heard on Talksport – but some may not know he could have ended up at Old Trafford.

Liam Miller

Liam Miller Signs For Manchester United Photo by Manchester United via Getty Images

Irishman Miller started off at Celtic before moving to Man United in 2004. In two years at Old Trafford Miller only featured in nine league matches, struggling to break into the first-team picture.

Roy Keane made the fellow Cork man one of his first signings on arrival at the SOL in 2006. Miller was an important squad player in the promotion season of 2006/07 scoring a crucial late winner against Derby that was celebrated wildly.

In the Premier League, Miller was at it again with the late goals - this time an equaliser at Middlesbrough in an important Tees-Wear derby. With competition for places at a premium and the midfielder being repeatedly late for training, he was made available for transfer in 2008.

Miller left for Hibs in 2009 and went on to play in Australia, America and his native Ireland. He tragically died in 2018 aged just 36 after suffering from pancreatic cancer.

Dwight Yorke

Manchester United v Sunderland Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images

The smiling assassin joined Man United from Aston Villa in 1998. His first season couldn’t have gone better. Forming an almost telepathic relationship with Andy Cole he scored 24 goals as they won the treble of Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup. Further titles followed in 2000 and 2001 before he left for Blackburn in 2002.

After a spell at Birmingham and then Sydney FC in Australia, Yorke decided to move to Sunderland and join in with the Keane revolution. He adapted his role from goalscoring forward into a more reserved central midfielder on Wearside. Always a steady player in the middle, with great vision and a good passing range he was a key player on the way to promotion in the first season.

The Trinidad & Tobago international featured again in the 2007/08 season as his experience helped Sunderland to a second season in the top flight. Yorke even got on the scoresheet in the 7-1 battering at Everton. Arguably his finest performance in a Sunderland shirt was in marshalling Cesc Fabregas and a stellar Arsenal team in a 1-1 draw at the SOL in 2008.

By the end of his time at Sunderland, age and the rigours of first-team football took its toll on Yorke and he retired in 2009.

Jonny Evans

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Derby County v Sunderland - Pride Park Photo by Mike Egerton - PA Images via Getty Images

Evans was a youthful Man United player looking for first-team experience when he joined Sunderland in January 2007 on loan. Signed alongside fellow United mate Danny Simpson, they both performed well but Evans was the standout.

His calmness on the ball and maturity belied his 19 years of age and he was a key part of Sunderland’s rise from mid-table to Champions in May. The defence improved considerably after Evans’ arrival and we always looked more solid with him in the side.

The Northern Irishman then returned on loan the following term, this time alone as the club successfully battled relegation in its first season back in the top-flight. He adapted to the Premier League superbly, not looking out of place when competing against top strikers such as Didier Drogba, Robin van Persie and Dimitar Berbatov.

A permanent transfer was mooted several times but never developed and he went back to Old Trafford to win several Premier League titles and make 131 league appearances.

Evans then went to West Brom and now plays regularly in the top flight with Leicester City at the age of 33.

Kieran Richardson

Kieran Richardson of Msnchester United Photo by Phil Cole/Getty Images

Say the name and you immediately think of that free-kick against Newcastle, but Richardson started off at Man United.

Another that came through the ranks at Old Trafford he won the FA Cup in 2007 and played sparingly in the Premier League after breaking into the first team.

Looking for first-team opportunities, he reunited with former teammate Roy Keane at Sunderland. His energy and pace in the attacking midfield role helped the club to avoid relegation and he came up with crucial goals against Bolton and Portsmouth.

Come the following season Richardson reached his pinnacle moment. October 25, 2008, was the first win for Sunderland on home soil over Newcastle for 28 years.

With the scores locked at 1-1 he walloped an unstoppable free-kick past Shay Given and into the top corner to give the home side a priceless victory.

[Ed - Oh go on then!]

The born-again Christian was then successful for Sunderland in other positions on the pitch including left-back, with his energy and experience giving Sunderland another option in wide areas.

Richardson played under a succession of managers including Keane, Steve Bruce and Martin O’Neill, and is one of the club’s highest appearance makers in the Premier League with 134.

He later played for Fulham and Aston Villa before retiring in 2016.

Coming soon: Part two of Jack’s Reader’s Corner blog will look at some other names who’ve played for both clubs.

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