Stars who flopped at Man Utd and then excelled after leaving Old Trafford, from Angel Di Maria to Wilfried Zaha

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PLAYING for Manchester United can be a heavy burden for some players, even the very best.

And many find their way again after moving away from Old Trafford to the frustration of supporters.

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These former Man Utd stars flourished away from Old Trafford

Wilfried Zaha was barely given a chance at Man Utd, before he returned to Crystal Palace to become a legend of the club.

Man Utd was the only major blotch on Diego Forlan’s storied career as he went on to thrive at Villarreal and Atletico Madrid.

Romelu Lukaku left Old Trafford to go and play a pivotal role in Inter Milan clinching the Serie A title.

And there are many more SunSport is going to discuss in this lengthy list of ex-Red Devils stars that went on to bigger and better things.

ROMELU LUKAKU

The Belgium centre forward is definitely the one that got away.

Often, Lukaku was deemed not good enough by supporters who felt he was overweight and cumbersome.

After cutting a more shredded figure at Inter Milan, where a new diet and fitness regime saw the striker lose 16lbs and get into the best shape of his career, he helped the Serie A club land the title.

That prompted Chelsea to splash £97.5m on Lukaku, before he was loaned out to Roma.

If only Man Utd had managed to get out of Lukaku what Inter did less than 12 months later.

Romelu Lukaku lost his way at Old Trafford and was criticised by supporters

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Romelu Lukaku lost his way at Old Trafford and was criticised by supportersCredit: Times Newspapers Ltd
After shifting over a stone in weight, Lukaku became one of Serie A's most feared strikers at Inter

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After shifting over a stone in weight, Lukaku became one of Serie A’s most feared strikers at InterCredit: AFP

MEMPHIS DEPAY

In 2015, United shelled out £25m on the Dutch star on the insistence of Louis van Gaal.

But Depay looked lost at sea on our shores, playing 53 times and managing just seven goals.

Two seasons later he was sold to Lyon for £20m, where he rediscovered his form.

He left the French giants having scored 76 goals and providign a further 55 assists in 178 games.

Memphis Depay struggled for goals at Old Trafford

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Memphis Depay struggled for goals at Old TraffordCredit: Getty Images – Getty
After moving to Lyon, Depay re-emerged for club and country

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After moving to Lyon, Depay re-emerged for club and country

ANGEL DI MARIA

It’s not uncommon for Argentinian stars to lose their way at Old Trafford – with Juan Sebastian Veron also struggling in Manchester.

Di Maria was a marquee signing in 2014 for a then-British transfer record fee of £59.7m.

In his only season, he managed just four goals in 32 games and soon fell out of favour with boss van Gaal.

A year later he was sold to PSG for £40m, where he accumulated 83 goals and 119 assists in 295 games, winning five Ligue 1 titles.

Angel Di Maria was a marquee signing for the Red Devils costing £60m

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Angel Di Maria was a marquee signing for the Red Devils costing £60mCredit: PA:Empics Sport
After his Manchester United nightmare, Di Maria found his feet at PSG

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After his Manchester United nightmare, Di Maria found his feet at PSGCredit: AFP

WILFRIED ZAHA

In 2013, United moved to sign Zaha from Crystal Palace for £15m – Sir Alex Ferguson’s final acquisition for the club.

A year later he found himself out of favour under new boss David Moyes and was loaned out to Cardiff City.

Zaha would later say he never felt he was given a fair chance at Old Trafford.

He was loaned to Palace and became an icon at the club across a decade at Selhurst Park – earning a status he was never offered the opportunity to achieve at Old Trafford.

Wilfried Zaha argued that he didn't get a chance at Old Trafford

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Wilfried Zaha argued that he didn’t get a chance at Old TraffordCredit: PA:Empics Sport
After returning to Crystal Palace in 2015, Zaha became one of the Premier League's best players

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After returning to Crystal Palace in 2015, Zaha became one of the Premier League’s best playersCredit: Getty

DALEY BLIND

A lot of Blind’s problems at Old Trafford stemmed from where managers thought he should play.

Was he a left-back? Should he play in a midfield holding role? Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho just couldn’t work him out.

In 2018, the Dutch international returned to Ajax, where he won two league titles and contributed to the club’s brilliant Champions League run in 2019… playing at centre-back.

And at the Euros he starred for the Netherlands, before he reached the 100-cap mark for his country.

Daley Blind struggled in various positions at Manchester United, including left-back and in midfield

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Daley Blind struggled in various positions at Manchester United, including left-back and in midfieldCredit: Getty Images – Getty
At Ajax, as a ball-playing centre half, Blind impressed

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At Ajax, as a ball-playing centre half, Blind impressedCredit: Getty Images – Getty

DIEGO FORLAN

Forlan was a costly (at the time) £7m buy for United in 2002.

However, in his first 13 Premier League games and five Champions League matches he was ridiculed for failing to hit the back of the net.

United sold him to LaLiga’s Villarreal, where he was an instant hit as he scored 25 league goals and won the Spanish Golden Boot and the European Golden Shoe in his first season.

He repeated that trick in 2009 at Atletico Madrid – scoring a sensational 32 goals in 33 games.

In his first 18 games with the club, Diego Forlan failed to score for Manchester United

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In his first 18 games with the club, Diego Forlan failed to score for Manchester UnitedCredit: Getty – Contributor
Forlan found his shooting boots in LaLiga, first with Villarreal and then with Atletico Madrid

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Forlan found his shooting boots in LaLiga, first with Villarreal and then with Atletico Madrid

RADAMEL FALCAO

On loan from Monaco, Falcao really struggled at Man Utd as he managed just four goals in 29 games, although a serious knee injury and a struggle to return to fitness hindered him.

After his Old Trafford nightmare, a poor spell at Chelsea followed.

But a return to Monaco helped Falcao find his Midas touch again.

He scored 70 goals in three seasons with the French giants to re-establish himself as one of the best forwards in Europe.

Radamel Falcao's loan move to Manchester United was a disaster

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Radamel Falcao’s loan move to Manchester United was a disasterCredit: PA:Empics Sport
Returning to Monaco was Falcao's saving grace and he scored 70 goals in three seasons with the club after spell in England

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Returning to Monaco was Falcao’s saving grace and he scored 70 goals in three seasons with the club after spell in EnglandCredit: Reuters

Chris Smalling

Chris Smalling’s 10-year spell at Manchester United did see him rack up more than 300 appearances, winning two Premier League titles, the FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League along the way.

But when he departed for Roma on loan in 2019 it looked as though he was a declining defender.

That was until he began to produce some sensational displays for the Italian giants.

He permanently joined the club in 2020 and thrived even further under Jose Mourinho, helping the club to Europa Conference League glory and the Europa League final.

Chris Smalling's 10-year stint with Manchester United came to an end in 2020

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Chris Smalling’s 10-year stint with Manchester United came to an end in 2020Credit: Reuters
Smalling has enjoyed an impressive resurrection of his career in Italy

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Smalling has enjoyed an impressive resurrection of his career in ItalyCredit: Getty

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