The 5 Most Underrated Manchester United Players of the 21st Century

Underrated Manchester United

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5. Wes Brown

Wes Brown’s love with Manchester United started when he joined the club’s youth academy at the age of 12. Brown’s rise through the academy ranks was remarkable one that saw him signing a professional contract with the Red Devils at the age of 17.

Brown also became only the player after United legend Ryan Giggs to have won the Jimmy Murphy Young Player Award twice. By the age of 18 Wes Brown found himself on the first team bench and soon after made his debut for the club as a substitute in a match against Leeds United towards the end of the 1997/98 season.

The 1998/99 season proved to be the breakthrough year for Wes Brown as he got several chances to play for the first team and helped United in achieving the treble that season.

Injuries troubles struck him early on in his career which made him miss the entire 1999/00 season but would make a strong comeback the following season receiving praise from all of his peers and being touted as one of the most promising young defenders of that time.

However further injuries limited his opportunities at United but his performances on the pitch were always top notch whenever he would get the chance. The signing of Nemanja Vidic during the 2005/06 saw Wes Brown being pushed further down the pecking order at United and forced to convert himself into a right-back.

He would excel as right-back and by the 2007/08 season established himself as the clubs first choice RB. One of his better performances for the club was in the 2007/08 Champions League final when provided the assist to Cristiano Ronaldo goal, a game which United went on to win in Penalties.

After nearly 20 years at the United the England international finally made his move away from his boyhood club before the start of the 2011/12 season.

He made 362 appearances for United scoring a total of 5 goals. During his time with United he won the Premier League title 7 times, the FA Cup twice, the League Cup thrice and the Champions League twice.


4. Tim Howard

The American international had a short but impressive career at Manchester United. Howard was brought to United during the 2003/04 season as a replacement for French keeper Fabian Barthez.

He was brilliant during his time at United pulling of some match winning performances like in Community Shield against Arsenal or in the derby game versus Manchester City in the FA Cup.

Some players will always be remembered for one bad performance rather than a string of good performances and that was the case with Tim Howard. His poor clearance in a Champions League game against FC Porto saw the Portuguese team scoring during the dying minutes of the game and as a result eliminating United from the competition.

Howard lost his place to Roy Carroll as the first choice keeper after that incident which left him short of confidence. Howard however fought himself back into the first team and found himself guarding the United goal for the 2004 FA Cup final against Millwall. They won the game 3-0 and thus Howard collected his first winner’s medal with United.

He defended the United goal line for the entire 2004/05 season and signed a 5 year contract at the end of the season however during the summer United brought in the experienced Dutch keeper Edwin Van Der Sar which saw his game time being limited.

He joined Everton on loan the following season a deal which later turned out to a permanent move worth around 3£ million. He made 77 appearances for the United in a career spanning three seasons. During his time with the club he won the FA Cup medal once and League Cup medal once.


3. Darren Fletcher

Darren Fletcher was another one of United’s academy products that joined the club at the age of 11.

He was initially poised to make his debut for United in the final game of the 1999/00 season but Premier League rules prohibited players without professional contracts from appearing in league games and it meant his debut had to be postponed.

Injuries early on his career further delayed his debut but he would finally get his opportunity during the 2002/03 season as he made his debut as a starter for a Champions League game against FC Basel.

The 2003/04 season proved to be the breakthrough year for Fletcher as he featured in a number of crucial games for United including the FA Cup final against Millwall which United won 3-0.

Repeated injuries kept Fletcher out of the team but performed whenever he got a chance. He most famously scored the lone goal in a league game against Chelsea that ended the Blues’ 40 game unbeaten run in the Premier League.

Fletcher played a crucial role for United till his departure in the 2014/15 season. He made 342 appearances for the club scoring a total of 24 goals. During his time with United he went to win the Premier League title 4 times, the FA Cup once, the League cup once and the Champions League once.


2. Park Ji-Sung

Arguably United’s greatest impact player. Park Ji-Sung was the most decorated Asian footballers in the modern era. A highly versatile footballer that could play anywhere in the midfield.

The South Korean international was brought to United from PSV Eindhoven for a fee of 4£ million before the start of the 2005/06 season and became first Asian player after Dong Fangzhuo to play for United.

Park Ji-Sung also became the first Asian to captain United when he took the captain arm-band from Ryan Giggs in a Champions League home game against French side Lille in the 2005/06 season.

He played a big part for United in his first season but injuries put a halt to his Red Devils career as saw his playing time getting considerably reduced over the next few seasons.

The made a total over 205 appearances for United and scoring a total of 27 goals. He moved to QPR before the 2012/13 season and retired from professional football after the 2013/14 season.

During his time with United he went on to win the Premier League 4 times, the League Cup thrice and the Champions League once.


1. Micheal Carrick

Micheal Carrick is undoubtedly one of the most underrated footballers of this generation. A product of West Ham youth academy Carrick quickly rose through the hammers rank and made his debut for them in 1999 just a few days before his 18th birthday.

Carrick had a good career at West Ham making over a 100 appearances for them in a span of 5 seasons. Tottenham fought away competition from several big clubs and signed the young England international for a fee of 3.5£ million.

The next two seasons with Tottenham helped Carrick establish himself as one of the finest young midfielders in the country.

United at that time were looking for a replacement for then club captain and midfield general Roy Keane who had just parted ways with the club and made a move to Celtic. Tottenham despite their best efforts couldn’t hold on to the young English talent and eventually had to sell him to United for a fee of 14£ million.

Carrick was chosen to wear the iconic number 16 jersey previously worn by Roy Keane himself and made his official debut for the club in a 3-0 win against Charlton in the 2006/07 season.

Carrick had a strong defensive presence, good passing ability, and great vision but for most of his Manchester United career he was a really polarizing figure among the United faithful. Carrick was always a personal favourite of Sir Alex Ferguson and he started for the club more often than not.

As the years passed by Carrick was shifted from the central midfield role to the defensive midfielder role. 2012/13 saw his best season for United as he was nominated for several awards including the PFA player of the year award and won United’s player’s player of the season award.

The 2014/15 season saw the arrival of Louis-Van Gaal at the club and a whole host of superstars were brought into the team but Van Gaal always found a place for Carrick in midfield whenever he was fit to play.

The current vice-captain has made 378 appearances for United scoring a total of 23 goals till date (as of April 7th, 2014). During his time with the club he won 5 Premier League titles, one League Cup and one Champions League title.

A little bit about the writer of this article.


A daily contributor for and a Premier League addict. Staying up late just to watch my favorite football league. Aspiring football handicapper and bettor, check out his free picks on and subscribe for all sports pro handicapper picks
About Andrew Hyslop 398 Articles

Creator of Sir Alex Ferguson Way and writer of football books

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