Bowing out after an illustrious and sickeningly trophy-laden managerial career at the end of the 2012/13 season, Sir Alex Ferguson was always going to do it in style.
Mustering up everything he could possibly give in one last crack of the whip, signing Robin van Persie and a few other youthful prodigies was the plan to secure Manchester United’s 20th league title. Spoiler – it worked.
That 2012/13 squad had a bit of everything, from superstars to veterans, to young prodigies and those in between. We all saw how it calamitously fell to bits as a whole afterwards, so 90min has decided to deep dive into what happened next for each player in the squad that season.
His second season at the club after a troublesome 2011/12, De Gea looked much more assured as United won the Premier League.
Ferguson was right to tell fans to give the Spaniard time. De Gea blew up in the post-Fergie era and won United’s Player of the Year award four times – three of which were back-to-back. To think a dodgy fax machine stopped him leaving the club in 2015. Insane.
The Dane signed in Edwin van der Sar’s final season and had age on De Gea, but couldn’t nail down the number one spot when given the chance to.
Lindegaard made only three appearances under David Moyes the following season, before leaving for West Brom in 2015. He stayed in England until 2019, doing a season with Burnley before packing a bag for Sweden.
Rafael had developed into United’s first choice right back and was a dependable arm for the most part.
While not quite a world beater as initially predicted, Rafael did a job and certainly played at a higher level under Ferguson, as did so many. He stuck around under Moyes and Louis van Gaal, but opportunities became limited and he left for Lyon in 2015; his last real big move.
His first and last season donning the number seven, 2012/13 was a campaign to forget for Valencia on a personal note, scoring once.
Valencia looked completely devoid of that burst of pace and menacing crossing ability. He would later switch back to number 25, transform into a right back and enjoy a fine renaissance, becoming club captain in 2018/19 up until his departure at the end of the season.
Injury fragilities had already began to hamper a young Jones in 2012/13, missing the start of the season and couldn’t find a groove.
He perked up again the following season, before injury and inconsistency ravaged him. His more recent key moments include taking corners under Louis van Gaal, and getting caked head to toe in mud in a 2020 FA Cup run out.
Scoring the final goal of the Ferguson era, Ferdinand was also approaching the end of his career by 2012/13.
He stuck around for the rather painful transition, before deciding to move on in 2014. One season at QPR was followed by a 2015 retirement and a strange and unsuccessful attempt to become a professional boxer. No, really.
The old guard was beginning to show its age, despite getting over the line for one last Premier League title.
An injury hit 2012/13 campaign was followed up by the captain’s last with United in 2013/14. Vidic left upon the expiry of his contract and signed for Inter, featuring sporadically before retiring in 2016.
Evans had faced plenty of criticism by this point for not being up to scratch for United, but in fairness, he stepped up in the absence of Vidic.
Still, he was a Ferguson player, and neither Moyes nor Van Gaal possessed the abilities to make him perform above his window, thus he left in 2015. He’s aged like a fine wine, though, and has become a veteran head at a youthful Leicester City side since his 2018 arrival.
A difficult season saw a young Smalling struggle at the top and fall down to the bottom of the ranks among central defenders.
Lacking consistency and composure was an issue that briefly cleared up under Louis van Gaal following his christening as ‘Mike Smalling’, but it was merely a purple patch. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer shipped him off to Roma in 2019.
The Frenchman found a prolific burst as United won the Premier League and carried it into 2013/14 as the most successful of the old guard.
Evra featured regularly during Moyes’ only season, but had seen the club’s demise rise rapidly in the new era and left in 2014. He moved to Juventus and then Marseille, where he received a UEFA ban until June 2018 for kicking a fan. He now spends his time making questionable social media videos.
Scoring and assisting on his debut against Wigan, Buttner looked a top prospect in his debut season.
He never really got much of a chance under Moyes, though, and was lost in the shuffle leading to his 2014 departure. He has since played in Belgium, the Netherlands and in the United States.
By the 2012/13 season, United had seemingly seen the best they were going to get from Nani in previous years.
He struggled for a spot in the side and should’ve moved on, but was weirdly handed a five year deal in 2013. His 2015 move to Fenerbahce sparked a revival at a lower level, and he’s since found himself as a standout star at Orlando City.
38 years old and Giggs still featured 32 times as a key player in a United league title win. That is obscene.
2013/14 was his last as a player, which ended prematurely as he retired to take on caretaker manager duties for the final four games of the season. He left the club in 2016 to take on a role as Wales manager.
With colleagues dropping around him, it was in 2012/13 where people truly began to appreciate just how good Michael Carrick really was.
That importance increased season upon season as things got tough jumping from manager to manager, with Carrick providing stability and cover in midfield until his 2018 retirement. They still haven’t replaced him, truthfully.
Having retired in 2011, Scholes had been training with United and was pulled out of retirement by January 2012 amid an injury crisis.
He was key in the second half of the season following a fine return in the Manchester derby, before retiring yet again. Admirable on Scholes’ part, but alarming on the owners’ side of things.
Yes, he was still better than Kleberson, but ‘midfield magician’ was looking a bit of a reach.
Anderson was pulled up massively by Ferguson which became apparent in 2013/14, as it did for many. After leaving on loan halfway through the season, he returned to Brazil in 2015 where he once needed an oxygen mask after 36 minutes.
Competing with Giggs, Carrick, Scholes and more for a role in midfield, he was protected and thus looked passable.
Cleverley’s limitations were highlighted after Ferguson’s retirement, with him receiving criticism from all angles for not being good enough for United. so much so that petitions went round to get him banned from the 2014 World Cup. He left for good in 2015.
Recurring knee and ankle injuries severely hampered Young’s second season at United, but he still made an impact in the games he did play.
He stuck around the club and grew in influence, proving versatile and likeable across different managers. His transition into a full back role helped out United significantly and prolonged his career at the top, earning him a move to Inter in 2020 where he won the Scudetto.
United’s first and only Japanese player to date, the hype was real around Kagawa following his arrival from Borussia Dortmund.
He couldn’t break into the first XI as a regular, but showed his class with a hat-trick against Norwich. Moyes never pulled the trigger on him, though, leaving him free to return to Dortmund by 2014. A great shame.
Ferguson signed Kagawa with one eye on Rooney’s future being elsewhere. But the Englishman proved too good to drop in 2012/13.
Truthfully, United kept hold of Rooney for too long after that season; one of many costly and incorrect decisions in the new era. He played just about everywhere and became the club’s leading scorer before his 2017 return to Everton.
Given shirt number 20 upon signing from Arsenal, Van Persie firing United to title number 20 was simply destiny.
The Dutchman had waited for this chance his entire career and didn’t pass it up. He was electric, with 30 goals and 15 assists in all competitions. That was as good as it got, but that’s all it needed to be. He left in 2015 for Fenerbahce, and retired with Feyenoord.
18 goals from 36 games was a fine return for the Mexican who had to settle for a rotation role towards the back of the queue.
That summed up Chicharito’s career in Manchester; the super sub. Real Madrid signed him on loan in 2014/15, and he left permanently for Leverkusen in 2015. He returned to the Premier League with West Ham two years later, but couldn’t make it work and has since become a talisman in MLS.
Two goals wasn’t good enough, no matter how often Welbeck was played wide or from the bench. That should’ve been it for his United career.
It wasn’t, but Arsenal were still silly enough to purchase him for £16m in 2014. Injuries ravaged ‘Dat Guy Welbz’ after that, but he has still managed to impress down the ladder with Watford and Brighton.
Fletcher started struggling with ulcerative colitis in 2011. Despite making a return in 2011/12, it was short-lived.
He made a return again in 2012/13, but eventually underwent surgery to try and curb the illness for good. Fletcher would return more regularly in 2013 and was vice-captain under Van Gaal until his 2015 departure.
Signing from Crewe at the start of the season, Powell was a young talent Ferguson had put faith in for whoever took over him.
It didn’t happen. A 2013/14 loan spell was promising, but injuries and reports of lacking effort halted his progress. A strange substitute appearance in the Champions League as United were dumped out in December 2015 was as good as it got for him in Manchester.
Young midfielder Wootton was handed brief minutes in the Champions League and the League Cup, but never broke through.
He moved to Leeds in 2013, and has since spent his years popping between different divisions of the football league, most recently with Plymouth Argyle and Wigan.
Spending a chunk of the season on loan at Blackburn, striker King just about appeared for United, turning out for five minutes or so in the Champions League.
He signed for Bournemouth in 2015 after a spell with Blackburn and nearly ended up back at United in January 2020 when they were desperate for a striker. Fine, fine margins.
Famously remembered for his debut goal against Aston Villa in 2009, Macheda had stalled massively by 2012/13.
Just three senior appearances suggested his time was up. He left permanently for Cardiff in 2014, and left England two years later. Since 2018, he’s been a prolific figure for Panathinaikos in Greece.