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8 Years On From 'That' Macheda Goal - 6 Failed Man United Wonderkids: Where Are They Now?

8 Years On From 'That' Macheda Goal - 6 Failed Man United Wonderkids: Where Are They Now?
By Gavan Casey Updated

For every Marcus Rashford, there's a Ravel Morrison. For every Cristiano Ronaldo, there's a Zoran Tosic. For every Jesse Lingard, a cautionary tale... Jesus Christ, lest we forget Bebe

Manchester United's proud history of promoting youth is littered with success stories, but as is the case with most clubs, their copybook has been blighted by a concoction of poor judgement calls and career-altering injuries with regards to highly-touted young players. But while Morrison at Lazio, Tosic at CSKA Moscow and even Bebe at Eibar didn't quite plummet through the divisions as one might expect of players who fail to make the grade at Old Trafford, it's often difficult for former prodigies to rediscover their verve having been come so close to the pinnacle only to tumble back down the mountain.

Here are six Man United wonderkids whose careers took drastic turns for the worse, or indeed peculiar, after exiting Old Trafford...

Mads Timm

The Championship Manager 2000 wonderkid arrived at Old Trafford from Odense's youth team at the turn of the Millennium, signing a professional contract in 2002 after impressing over two seasons in United's academy.

The Danish forward struggled with injuries and failed to establish himself in the first team, being loaned out to both Viking and Lyn in Norway where he made a combined five league appearances in the Tippeligaen, scoring once for Viking in 2004.


His United career teetered on the brink the following year, when he received a 12-month sentence in a young offenders institute for dangerous driving; teammate Callum Flanagan, who was racing Timm on a public road, crashed into another car and was sacked, while Timm - who escaped physically unscathed - was given one last chance. He was released the following season.

After a relatively successful spell - initially at least - back at his boyhood club Odense, where Timm earned a call-up to the Danish national team, he departed for Lyngby having lost his starting place in 2008. A year later, he retired due to injuries and 'lack of motivation', aged just 25.

His retirement lasted only two seasons, however; he returned to action for Danish Serie 1 club Kerteminde in 2011, and remains a player-coach there today, still aged just 32.


David Bellion


Bellion joined Sunderland in 2001 - the same year he won the 60m at the French National Indoor Youth Championships.


He was arrived at Manchester United two seasons later after his record-breakingly awful Sunderland were relegated, with allegations of 'tapping up' resulting in United having to pay compensation payment of £2m - a fee which would rise to £3 million depending on appearances. Needless to say it did not.

A promising pre-season saw him net on his first team bow versus Celtic in the summer of 2003, and he went on to score three goals in the '03/04 season for United; away at Leeds in the League Cup, and at home to both Everton and Spurs in the league.

The following season, Manchester United beat Fenerbache 6-2 at Old Trafford in the Champions League in a game forever etched in United folklore as the night David Bellion scored his first Champions League goal. Wayne Rooney also scored a hat-trick on his debut that night. Sadly for the Frenchman, he suffered a broken leg at Charlton, curtailing a season which had already seen him fall out of favour with Alex Ferguson.


A forgettable loan spell at Alan Pardew's West Ham followed in '05/06, before Bellion returned to France with Nice that same season, again on loan, and still aged just 23.

After several injury-plagued years in France following a permanent move, it was his second loan spell at Nice in 2010 - from then-champions Bordeaux - which properly embodied Bellion as a footballer, or perhaps more pertinently encapsulated his atrocious luck with injuries. Already ruled out of action with - of all things - an ear problem in 2011, he was further injured in a taxi crash. A return to Bordeaux saw him score his first goal in senior football in two years, and his first league goal for four, before he rejected a move to New York Cosmos and played out his Bordeaux contract until 2014.

He joined third tier Red Star FC in Paris that summer, and despite never officially retiring, is not registered to play this season. Instead, Bellion - a keen observer of arts and culture, and as such thoroughly enjoying life in Paris - has been appointed Red Star's 'brand manager'.


Le Parisien reported four weeks ago that Bellion "lives surrounded by artists and designers, frequents the world of film and music labels and appreciate the works of the Italian painter and sculptor Pistoletto." Quite.

Bellion also chooses the pre-game soundtrack for Red Star's league fixtures, and told Le Parisien of his role at the third division club:

I fell in love with this club, its history, its stage, its Kop. And I thank the President for trusting me. In creation, he knows whereof he speaks because he built an empire.

Strictly speaking, Bellion could still re-register as a player and take on the much-coveted player-brand manager role, but for now he's focusing on "creating a new style" for Red Star off the pitch.

Dong Fangzhou

It was ultimately the significant weight of a nation beneath which much-heralded Chinese striker Dong Fangzhuo perished - if not totally at Old Trafford, later in his career and life.

The more cynical view amongst English football fans was that the 18-year-old, United's first ever East Asian signing, was accrued to boost shirt sales figures. Not so, according to former United u18s boss Paul McGuinness, who recently told Bleacher Report:

He went straight into the reserves and was tipped to do big things. He was a strong player — really strong. That is what struck us, that a player from Asia would have that level of strength.

He moved to United's feeder club in Belgium, Royal Antwerp, and impressed with his physical strength, footwork, and finishing ability - with Alex Ferguson frequenting Antwerp to cast an eye over the striker. It was his shyness and/or indifference as he struggled to integrate himself into European culture which ultimately saw him fade into obscurity in Manchester.

A return to China with Dalian Shide followed in August 2008. There, Dong - China's great football hope - failed to score for two whole years.

Another spell in Europe brought unsuccessful stints in Poland, Portugal and even Armenia, before Dong once more headed for his native land. Somewhat of a celebrity from his United days, he engaged in the types of rambunctious behaviour which tends to be frowned upon in China (his former teammate Wayne Rooney might think twice about cashing out and heading for the Super League). His last significant impact as a player was a six-match ban for flipping the bird at Beijing IT fans having been withdrawn early by his manager while on a booking.

Sadly, the ignominy didn't end there; he retired before he was 30, and recently resurfaced, overweight, on a Chinese tv show which shows contestants undergoing plastic surgery.

A truly sad decline for a player who was undoubtedly talented just a decade ago.

For a tremendous, lengthier read on the Chinese former wonderkid, check out this, by Pete Hall in Bleacher Report.

Rodrigo Possebon

Arriving as a highly-touted, 18-year-old playmaker from Brazil for £3m, the world was considered Rodrigo Possebon's oyster. Thrown in at the deep end early, against Middlesbrough in the League Cup, Possebon suffered a horror-tackle from nasty bastard Emanuel Pogatez, leaving him with a suspected broken leg.

We say suspected as the physical damage wasn't as bad as first feared, but the former Internacional starlet was still ruled out for a number of months, totally halting his development at Old Trafford.

He departed for Braga on loan the following season, having made just three appearances for United, before joining Santos in his native Brazil on a permanent basis.

The midfielder struggled back in South America. Making 30 appearances for Santos across two seasons, he returned to Europe to sign for Vicenza in Italy, who registered Possebon as an Italian citizen (his father is of Italian descent). He was capped at u19 and u20 level for Italy but failed to make a first team appearance for Vicenza, returning instead to Brazil where he played for Criciúma, Mirassol, Juventude and Nautíco between 2012 and 2014.

Still just 27, Possebon now plies his trade at URT in Brazil's Serie D, whose stadium capacity is less than 3,000.

Federico Macheda

The former Italy u21 star was once hailed by Alex Ferguson as the best natural finisher in a United squad containing Wayne Rooney, Michael Owen and Dimitar Berbatov, but his career at Old Trafford skidded off the tracks due to a series of injuries and subsequently poor form.

Spells at Sampdoria, QPR, Stuttgart, Doncaster, Birmingham, Cardiff and Nottingham Forest followed. His two-season, 33-game stint in Wales yielded just six goals after he netted 10 times in 18 games for Birmingham in 2013/2014, and on return from loan at Forest earlier this year, he was transfer listed and eventually had his contract terminated.

It's been sad to witness the decline of a player who seemed to offer so much promise, but his careertook a further turn for the worse last November.

SportItalia reported at the time that Macheda had begun training with Serie B outfit Bari in his native Italy, having been taken in on trial by manager Stefano Colantuono with no guarantees as to his joining the club on a permanent basis. That trial didn't work out for him, and he has since joined Novara Calcio, who currently occupy 11th position in Serie B.

Angelo Henriquez

Such was his prodigious talent, the Chilean striker's move to Old Trafford actually originated as far back as 2009. When he impressed on trial as a 15-year-old, United agreed a deal to sign him for roughly £4m at any point between then and 2014.

He arrived in 2012, performing well for the under-21s and earning fleeting appearances in Alex Ferguson's first team. A loan move to Wigan followed in 2013, with the young Chilean forward nodding home a Shaun Maloney cross on his Premier League debut, and winning an FA Cup medal as an unused substitute vs Man City the following May.

A loan move to the Spanish Segunda division followed, with Henriquez netting six times in 20 starts for Real Zaragoza. He was then loaned to Dinamo Zagreb in August 2014, scoring a stoppage time winner in their eternal derby with Hajduk Split at the beginning of the league season. Three hat-tricks soon followed - against NK Lokomotiva, RNK Split and Hajduk Split again - as Henriquez finished his season with 30 goals in 37 appearances for the Croatian champions.

Despite seemingly finding his feet in senior football and generally maintaining his place in the national squad, United allowed Henriquez to depart for Dinamo on a permanent basis in 2015. He's been far less prolific in his season-and-a-third since, netting 11 times in 39 games last campaign and twice so far this season.

SEE ALSO: El Hadji Diouf Finally Explains Why He Hates Steven Gerrard So Much

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