Wout Weghorst next? The 12 players Manchester United have signed on loan in the Premier League era and how they fared

Henrik Larsson, Radamel Falcao and Odion Ighalo at Manchester United. TEAMtalk montage. Credit: Alamy
Henrik Larsson, Radamel Falcao and Odion Ighalo at Manchester United. TEAMtalk montage. Credit: Alamy

Manchester United are closing in on a temporary move for Burnley striker Wout Weghorst – but they’ve had mixed success with the loan market over the years. 

Weghorst is currently on loan at Besiktas but United look set to pay a compensation fee to the Turkish side before bringing the striker to Old Trafford. 

United have also signed Crystal Palace’s Jack Butland on loan this month as the Glazers have reportedly tightened the purse strings.

We’ve taken a look at the 12 players United have previously signed on loan deals and how they fared at Old Trafford.

Andy Arnott

One of United’s first signings in the Premier League era, Arnott joined the club on loan from Gillingham in the summer of 1992.

He featured in a Blue Star youth tournament in Zurich and started all of United’s games as they reached the final, scoring two of their six goals in the competition.

But the midfielder didn’t make a first-team appearance for the Red Devils and returned to Gillingham in December 1992.

Fraser Digby

Digby began his playing career as an apprentice for United before joining Swindon Town on a free transfer in 1986.

The goalkeeper found himself on the bench at the start of the 1992/93 season and returned to Old Trafford on a temporary deal as United needed cover for Peter Schmeichel.

Despite being selected as a substitute on several occasions, he never came onto the pitch.

“You go from rock bottom and being dropped to then having the opportunity to go up to United and work with the players there,” he later told the Washbag.

“Working with Peter Schmeichel was probably the best two months I’ve had in my whole career. It helped me out in a phenomenal way.”

Andy Goram

United had a goalkeeping crisis in March 2001 when Fabian Barthez and Raymond Van Der Gouw were both sidelined by injuries.

Having managed Goram during his time in charge of Scotland, Ferguson rang up the then-36-year-old and signed him on loan from Motherwell.

He made two appearances for the club and conceded two goals in both of those games but Ferguson still arranged for Goram to receive a Premier League winners’ medal for his brief service.

Luke Steele

Another goalkeeper, Steele left boyhood club Peterborough and made two appearances for Manchester United’s reserves during a month-long loan spell in March 2002.

He did enough to impress United’s coaches and the move was made permanent for £500,000 in the summer of 2002.

Despite winning the prestigious FA Youth Cup in 2002/03, Steele never made a competitive first-team appearance for the club and was sold to West Brom in 2006.

Tomasz Kuszczak

As part of the agreement that saw Steele leave for West Brom, Kuszczak joined United on an initial loan deal ahead of the 2006/07 season.

He gave away – and saved – a penalty against Arsenal on his debut before making another five league appearances over the course of the season as United won the Premier League title.

The move was made permanent in 2007, and the goalkeeper acted as an understudy to Edwin Van der Sar until his departure in 2011.

Henrik Larsson

Larsson returned to his native Sweden with former club Helsingborg in 2006 but then joined United on a three-month loan deal during the Allsvenskan’s off-season.

The striker netted on his United debut against Aston Villa in the FA Cup in January 2007 and added further strikes to help Ferguson’s side beat Watford in the Premier League and Lille in the Champions League.

Despite only making 13 appearances for the club, he became a cult hero at Old Trafford and was held in high regard by his team-mates.

While United wanted to extend the loan deal, Larsson had made a promise to Helsingborgs and subsequently returned to Sweden at the conclusion of the winter break.

“I should have stayed, as it would have meant I got a Premier League winner’s medal, that’s the only regret I have in my career,” he later told FourFourTwo.

“I would have stayed for one more season. But I still had a contract with Helsingborg and I feel that when you sign a contract, you have to see it out.”

Carlos Tevez

After scoring at Old Trafford and helping West Ham avoid relegation to the Championship, Tevez joined United on a two-year loan deal from whoever it was that actually owned his economic rights.

Alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney, he formed part of an iconic attacking trio as United won two Premier League titles and the Champions League over the following two seasons.

United had the option of purchasing the striker at the end of the 2008/09 season for a fee of £25m but Ferguson ultimately decided that he wasn’t worth thremoney.

The former Argentina international then ruined his cult hero status among United fans by completing a permanent move to arch-rivals Manchester City.

Rafael Leao

No, not the current AC Milan winger.

United signed Leao on loan from their Brazilian feeder academy Desportivo Brasil in 2011.

The midfielder, who had been compared to 1994 World Cup-winning captain Dunga, played alongside the likes of Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard and Ravel Morrison in the reserves but never made a first-team appearance for the club.

“Ferguson complimented me a few times when we met in the cafeteria, told me to stay that way and encouraged me,” he later told ESPN Brasil.

“When my contract ended, Ferguson said to me, ‘Rafael, I would like to thank you for the time you stayed with us. We like you very much, but we would have to loan you to a third or fourth division team in England, it is better for you to return’.

“I thanked him, but later I learned of another situation. Manchester United wanted to keep me for another year on loan, but Desportivo only accepted to sell me because my contract was ending.”

Radamel Falcao

United signed Falcao on a season-long loan deal on transfer deadline day in 2014 after negotiating a £6m loan fee with Monaco and agreeing to take on his £265,000-a-week wages.

He arrived at Old Trafford with a reputation as one of the best strikers in Europe but failed to live up to that billing, scoring just four goals in 29 appearances in all competitions.

United unsurprisingly decided not to take up the £43.2m option to buy the Colombia international, who then had a poor loan spell at Chelsea in 2015/16.

Andy Kellett

A Bolton academy graduate, Kellett spent the first half of the 2014/15 season on loan at Plymouth Argyle in League Two.

With that in mind, then, it came as quite a shock when Manchester United announced that they’d hijacked Plymouth’s deal and signed the defender on loan in February 2015.

“He thought I was winding him up,” former Bolton manager Neil Lennon told Sky Sports News. “Once I sat him down and he stopped shaking, he seemed to take it all in.”

It soon became apparent that he had moved to Old Trafford to play for their reserves, who were short on numbers following a series of injuries and departures.

Kellett went on to make nine appearances for United in the Under-21 Premier League and also featured against his parent club in the semi-final of the Manchester Senior Cup.

Odion Ighalo

United’s frantic search for a striker on transfer deadline day in January 2020 saw them sign Ighalo on an initial six-month loan deal from Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua.

Despite the eyebrows that were raised at such a signing, the former Watford striker acquitted himself well at Old Trafford, scoring five times in 19 appearances in 2019/20 and earning a six-month extension to his loan deal.

But he was always confined to a backup role and fell further down the pecking order following Edinson Cavani’s arrival, making just four substitute appearances for United in 2020/21.

 Credit: Alamy
Credit: Alamy

Martin Dubravka

After United sent Dean Henderson out on loan to Nottingham Forest in 2022, they needed cover for David de Gea and signed Dubravka on loan from Newcastle.

The goalkeeper didn’t feature in the Premier League but made two League Cup appearances for the club, conceding twice in a 4-2 win over Aston Villa before keeping a clean sheet against Burnley.

He then requested to end his loan spell at Old Trafford early, prompting Newcastle to recall the Slovakia international in January 2023.

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