A look back at Manchester United’s African footballers

Eric Bailly’s multi-million pound move to Manchester United earlier this month made the Ivorian centre back only the 5th ever African footballer in the club’s history to ply his trade at the Theatre of Dreams.

The move capped off what has been a mightily impressive 16 months or so for the 22 year old. Having only joined Villarreal back in January 2015, Bailly quickly became a first team regular for the club, making a total of 47 appearances.

Bailly’s outstanding form for El Submarino led to rumours that the likes of Manchester City, Barcelona and Paris Saint Germain, along with Manchester United, were interested in taking the Ivorian on board. However, after much speculation it would be Jose Mourinho who would win the battle for the much sought-after centre backs’ signature.

Throughout this article, we’ll go through the list of each African footballer who has played for Manchester United, from Eric Djemba Djemba’s rather forgettable days at Old Trafford to Mame Biram Diouf’s acrobatic goal celebration.


Quinton Fortune 1999-2006

In a stay that spanned 7 years at the Theatre of Dreams, Quinton Fortune became a fan favourite amongst the Old Trafford faithful. Yes, he wasn’t exactly the greatest footballer we had even witnessed (far from it in fact), but when called upon by Sir Alex Ferguson he rarely let the side down.

Despite been used mostly as a squad player, The South African went on to make 126 appearances for the club scoring 11 goals. Fortune’s versatility to play at either left back or centre midfield became a key asset for Sir Alex and one he would use Fortune for on a number of occasions throughout the 7 years.

For any side to be successful you need players like Fortune in your side. They may not grab the headlines, they may not score the goals that win you l

eague title, nor may you even know they are even the pitch, but they are just as important never the less.

Eric Djemba Djemba 2003-2005

He was so good, they named him twice! If only that was true in the case of Eric Djemba Djemba. Having joined United back in the summer of 2003, the midfielder fast became one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s worst ever signings of his managerial career.

Right from the off it was clear Djemba Djemba wasn’t a Manchester United footballer; it also became clear he wasn’t even a Premier League footballer. There were still brief moments of optimism for the Cameroonian where he scored against the likes of Panathinaikos in Europe and Leeds United in the League Cup, but that’s about as good as it got for the midfielder.

Since leaving United he has since gone on to feature for the likes of Aston Villa, Qatar SC, Partizan and most notably St Mirren back in 2014.

Manucho 2008-2009

Manucho Goncalves or better known as simply Manucho joined Manchester United back in 2008, ahead of the upcoming 2008/09 campaign. With the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez and Dimitar Berbatov on board, the chances of regular first team football were exceptionally slim for the Angolan.

He made his debut for the club coming on as an 84th minute substitute against Middlesbrough in the League Cup at Old Trafford and made his Premier League debut in similar fashion, coming on as a 74th minute substitute’s in United’s 5-0 victory over Stoke City. Only a matter of months later Manucho joined Hull City on loan for the remainder of the season and that was basically that.

It is hard to sit here and say Manucho’s flopped at United given that he was never really given a proper opportunity in the first team to show us what he was about. Danny Welbeck’s emergence to the first team against Stoke City in the same game Manucho made his Premier League debut too didn’t help matters. He was already behind Ronaldo, Rooney, Berbatov, Tevez in the pecking order, now he was behind another in Welbeck.

Since leaving United, Manucho has gone on to feature for the likes of Hull City, Real Valladolid, Bucaspor, Manisaspor and Rayo Vallecano.

Mame Biram Diouf 2009-2012

Whenever the name Mame Biram Diouf is mentioned, memories of his famous acrobatic summersault celebration vs Burnley aren’t too far behind. Unfortunately we only got to see that celebration a mere once, as Diouf failed to live up to expectations at Old Trafford.

Prior to joining United, Diouf played for Norwegian side Molde FK where the forward shone, most notably scoring 24 goals in 36 appearances in 2009. That impressive goal scoring form led to Sir Alex Ferguson taking a gamble on the forward back in 2009. It was a gamble that didn’t pay off.

In a total of 9 appearances for the club, Diouf only found the back of the net once,  with the striker more often than not finding himself involved with the under 21’s, rather than the first team.

Lack of first team opportunities eventually led to Diouf going out on loan to Blackburn Rovers before then being later sold to German side Hannover 96. He has since returned back to the Premier League with Stoke City after joining the Potters back in 2014.