Man Utd wonderkids that didn't make it and where they are now, including Macheda, Thornley, Henriquez and more

FOR every Ryan Giggs and Marcus Rashford there's a Ben Thornley or Federico Macheda.

Man Utd have been renowned for producing first class talent that's graced the Premier League over the years.

Over the weekend, the average age of their squad against Chelsea was just 24. While, the Red Devils just splashed £9m on 16-year-old French wonderkid Hannibal Mejbri.

But, here's a cautionary tale. They don't always go on to make the grade and set Old Trafford alight.

Remember Dong Fangzhuo? No, not many do. These six names were revered when they got to Manchester, but they were soon out the door when they couldn't cut it.


Championship Manager 2000 players will remember the Danish forward well. In that game he would go onto superstardom, but in real life it didn't get much better than mediocrity.

Plucked from Odense's youth team, he signed a professional contract in 2002 after impressing in United's academy.

However, he was nearly sacked by Fergie when he received a 12-month sentence in a young offenders institute for reckless driving racing teammate Callum Flanagan on a public road that ended in a nasty crash.

A year later he returned back to Odense to kickstart his career, and even earned a call-up for the national team.

In 2009 he retired from the game after losing interest at the tender age of just 25. Two years later he was back, this time as a player-coach for Kerteminde, where he is today.


The Italian forward announced himself in the most speculation fashion, scoring the winner with a few minutes left on the clock in a 3-2 win over Aston Villa in 2009.

But it was something of an anti-climax for Macheda, who Sir Alex Ferguson once hailed as the best natural finisher in a squad that also had the likes of Wayne Rooney, Michael Owen and Dimitar Berbatov.

Due to injury problems and poor form, his career hit the skids and spells at Sampdoria, QPR, Stuttgart, Doncaster, Birmingham, Cardiff, and Nottingham Forest all saw him slip further down the football ladder.

A lowpoint came when a trial at Serie B side Bari failed to earn him a contract, and he then joined lowly Novara Calcio.

However, since 2018 things seem to have picked up for Macheda who is thriving in Greek football with Panathinaikos.

11 goals in 28 games show the centre forward has found his scoring boots again.

Amazingly, he's only 27.


The great hope of Chinese football, Fangzhou's demise should be a warning to all youngsters.

Brought to England in 2004 for a fee that could've risen to £3.5m, Fergie called him an "explosive talent" and believed he had the "speed and physicality" to be a hit in the Premier League.

Because he was unable to get a work permit, Fangzhou went to United feeder club Royal Antwerp and was a hit n Belgium.

But when he finally got a visa to play in our country, the language barrier proved to be a big obstacle.

That, coupled with a crippling shyness, made it impossible for him to succeed at the Theatre of Dreams.

In 2008 his contract at Man Utd was terminated and he failed to live up to his promise when he returned to play in China.

Most recently, Fangzhou's fall from grace was complete when he appeared on a Chinese reality TV series to have a plastic surgery on his bloated, over-weight face after years of hard partying.


A man born with a footballers' name, but alas disappeared into complete obscurity.

Spotted by United's scouting network playing for Internacional, the world was Possebon's oyster when he was signed in 2008.

But, in a game against Middlesbrough in the League Cup he suffered a bad injury after a reckless tackle by Emanuel Pogatez that almost broke his leg.

He was ruled out for a couple of months and never really gained momentum to push for a first team place, making only three appearances in the end in a short-lived career at the Premier League giants.

He went to Braga on loan before returning back to Brazil with Santos, but failed to hit the ground running there too.

Possebon was last seen plying his trade in Vietnamese football for  Hồ Chí Minh City, but they terminated his contract last year.


Mejbri, take note.

The Chilean forward was so highly-rated by Man United scouts he was signed as a 15-year-old for a fee believed to be in the region of £4m in 2009.

He spent the next few seasons at Universidad de Chile, where he showed his promise netting 11 times in 17 games.

Henriquez arrived in Manchester in 2012 with much fanfare, and excelled in their reserves side.

Realising his path to the first team was blocked, the United hierarchy loaned the "new Marcelo Salas" to Wigan a year later. He scored on his Premier League debut, and ended the season with FA Cup winners medal.

A year later another loan materialised, playing for Real Zaragoza in Spain's second division.

That didn't go so well, but Henriquez found his feet playing on loan in Croatia for Dinamo Zagreb in 2014 when he scored 30 goals in 37 games in all competitions.

They made the move permanent for him in 2015, but the goals dried up and now he's back where he started at Universidad de Chile.


In truth it was Sunderland who brought Bellion to our shores in 2001 when he was a teenager after he starred for Cannes youth team.

But United pounced when he was 20-year-old with the belief they could make him the next Thierry Henry.

His greatest asset was his pace, so it's no surprise he won the 60 metres sprint 2001 National Indoor Youth Championships.

However, on the football pitch it didn't quite go to plan for the lighting-quick striker.

A lack of action saw Bellion embark on loans at West Ham and Nice, before he returned back to France.

Bordeaux saw his best years from 2007-14, where he scored 20 goals in 114 games.


More a case of misfortune than wasted talent.

Thornley was one of Fergie's fledglings, and was touted the finest of a generation that included Ryan Giggs and David Beckham.

A quick and tricky left-winger, Thornley helped United win the FA Youth Cup in 1992 and was the star performer of that side.

Fergie expected him to become a first team regular, and introduced him to his side as a sub in a game against West Ham at Upton Park in 1994.

However, two months later a nasty tackle by Nicky Marker in a reserve game against Blackburn smashed his knee to pieces.

After spending a year out of the game, he never came back the same player – his pace and confidence badly affected – he slipped into the lower leagues with the likes of Huddersfield Town, Bury and Halifax Town.

Thornley now works as a commentator at MUTV and released his brilliant autobiography last year.

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