For countless footballers who represented Manchester United during Sir Alex Ferguson’s remarkable 27-year tenure in charge, the Scot represented not only a manager but in certain instances a father figure, given the role he played in shaping their careers. 

Five-time Ballon d’Or winner, Cristiano Ronaldo, for instance, regularly cites Ferguson as a huge influence after he transformed the talented but inconsistent winger into one of the most feared forwards in world football. Ferguson also placed great faith in the academy youngsters at his disposal too, making sure to fill his numerous first-team squads with local lads.

However, while Ferguson is often spoken about in glowing terms by his former charges, it is fair to say that he had a number of big fall-outs with high-profile players throughout his time at the club. Once a player clashed with Ferguson, there was often no way back for them at Old Trafford, regardless of how talented and influential they were.

Those who dared to answer back to Ferguson’s infamous ‘hairdryer treatment’ or who were no longer deemed indispensable to the side were sure to discover just how ruthless their manager can be, usually being sold on to another club without a moment’s hesitation.

Some of those who were bombed out of Old Trafford after their relationship deteriorated with Ferguson went on to prove him wrong while others struggled to emulate their successes or achievements in Manchester elsewhere.

Here are eight players who fell foul of Ferguson and how they fared after.

Jaap Stam

Manchester United apps: 127

Joined from: PSV Eindhoven (1998)

Sold to: Lazio (2001)

Was it a mistake? Yes

Football - F.A Barclaycard Premiership Manchester United v Fulham 19/8/01

“It was one of the mistakes I made – hopefully I haven’t made too many – but that was one,” so said Ferguson in 2010, some nine years after he had allowed the towering Dutchman to leave for Lazio just weeks into the 2001-02 season.

During his time at Old Trafford, Stam helped United win three Premier League titles, an FA Cup and a Champions League, while he was also named in the PFA Team of the Year in all three seasons.

Stam’s replacement in United’s defence, Laurent Blanc, struggled to adapt to the pace of English football in his twilight years while the Red Devils iron grip on the Premier League decreased in the aftermath of his departure.

Not until the arrival of Nemanja Vidic in 2006 did United adequately fill the Stam-shaped hole in their back four.

David Beckham

Manchester United apps: 394

Joined from: United’s academy

Sold to: Real Madrid (2003)

Was it a mistake: No

Football - FA Barclaycard Premiership , Manchester United v Charlton Athletic , 3/5/03

It was Ferguson who gave Beckham his big break in football by handing him a starting berth in United’s side as a young player and while the two share a great mutual respect now, their relationship soured considerably at Old Trafford.

Following a disappointing FA Cup defeat to Arsenal in February 2003, Ferguson launched (accidentally or otherwise) a football boot into his most-profile player’s face causing a sizeable gash just above his right eye.

From that moment onwards it became clear that Beckham would leave the club and while he enjoyed a successful four-year stint at Real Madrid, it’s fair to say he was adequately replaced; Cristiano Ronaldo inheriting his no.7 shirt the following season.

Ruud van Nistelrooy

Manchester United apps: 219

Joined from: PSV Eindhoven (2001)

Sold to: Real Madrid (2006)

Was it a mistake: No

Blackburn Rovers v Manchester United FA Barclays Premiership

No United player in the Premier League era has a better goals to minutes ratio than Ruud Van Nistelrooy, who found the back of the net once every 128 minutes. In total, the prolific Dutchman netted 150 times in just 219 matches for the club.

Yet not even a goalscorer of Van Nistelrooy’s calibre was immune to Ferguson’s wrath. Despite scoring at a regular rate in 2005-06, the penalty box predator found himself left out of the starting XI for the League Cup final that season; a selection that hinted his time in Manchester was nearing its conclusion.

A few months later he was sold to Real Madrid but Ferguson’s decision was vindicated as the youthful duo Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo fired the Red Devils to a first league title in three years the following year.

Roy Keane

Manchester United apps: 480

Joined from: Nottingham Forest (1993)

Sold to: Celtic (2005)

Was it a mistake? No

Manchester United v Aston Villa FA Barclays Premiership

Never one to mince his words, Roy Keane put himself in an untenable position after he lambasted the club’s younger players (including John O’Shea and Darren Fletcher) in an interview with MUTV following a 4-1 defeat to Middlesbrough.

Keane had been Ferguson’s midfield general on the field for over a decade but Ferguson was unprepared to the let temperamental Irishman rock the boat at a time when he was starting to build his next great team.

United went on to win the Premier League the following season while Keane ended his career with a short spell at Celtic, winning the Scottish Premiership and League Cup.

Paul Ince & Andrei Kanchelskis

Manchester United apps: 281 & 123

Joined from: West Ham (1989) & Shakhtar Donetsk

Sold to: Inter (1995) & Everton

Was it a mistake? No

Paul Ince - Man.Utd shoots at goal

An integral member of the United side throughout his six years at the club, Paul Ince had forged one of the strongest midfield partnerships in England alongside Roy Keane but was surprisingly sold to Inter in 1995.

The Russian speed demon Andrei Kanchelskis, meanwhile, was also a key player having just enjoyed his finest season for the club as well as top-scoring in all competitions. He too, though, was deemed expendable by Sir Alex.

Ferguson was heavily criticised for allowing them and Mark Hughes to leave without signing ready-made replacements but once again he was proven right as youngsters Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and David Beckham replaced them emphatically.

Gabriel Heinze

Manchester United apps: 83

Joined from: PSG (2004)

Sold to: Real Madrid (2007)

Was it a mistake? No

Chelsea v Manchester United FA Barclays Premiership

The uncompromising Argentine defender became a fans favourite in his debut season at Old Trafford with the chant ‘Ar-gen-tina!’ ringing around the stadium when he graced the turf. Gabriel Heinze capped a fine debut campaign by winning the club’s Player of the Year award.

A serious injury coupled with the arrival of Patrice Evra in his second season meant that Gabriel Heinze slipped down the pecking order at left-back and unhappy with his lack of first-team minutes, he demanded a move to United’s fiercest rivals, Liverpool.

Suffice to say, Ferguson was unmoved by Heinze’s demands and instead packed him off to Real Madrid instead.

Carlos Tevez

Manchester United apps: 99

Joined from: West Ham (2007)

Sold to: Manchester City (2009)

Was it a mistake? Yes

Wigan Athletic v Manchester United Barclays Premier League

After miraculously inspiring West Ham’s great escape in 2006-07 (which was completed thanks to his winner at Old Trafford) Carlos Tevez joined United to form a frightening front three with Ronaldo and Rooney.

That trio combined to devastating effect during Tevez’s debut campaign as United won the Premier League and Champions League, however, the arrival of Dimitar Berbatov the following summer saw Tevez’s role reduced significantly.

United’s fans made clear their admiration for the hard-working Argentine yet Ferguson decided against signing him permanently paving the path for him to join Manchester City instead (and leading to that infamous ‘Welcome to Manchester’ billboard).

While United certainly coped without Tevez, he played a key role in establishing the Citizens as genuine challengers in the Premier League.

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