Rio Ferdinand believes Manchester United made a mistake when they allowed Danny Welbeck, Javier Hernandez and Rafael to leave.
All three were fringe players by the time Louis van Gaal got rid of them either side of the 2014-15 season. However, former teammate Ferdinand thinks they all still had something to offer. Indeed, Welbeck came back to bite United seven years after his departure by scoring against them for Brighton on Sunday – although his former club still managed to win.
United academy graduate Welbeck previously scored 29 goals in 142 appearances for the club. He has had his fair share of injury troubles since leaving, but showed what he can still do when fit.
Hernandez, meanwhile, spent four full seasons as a United player. In that time, he scored 59 goals in 157 games. Since, he has played for Real Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen, West Ham and Sevilla, while he is currently in the MLS with LA Galaxy.
And Rafael made the most appearances of any of the trio, with 170 across a seven-year spell. He reached the Champions League semi-finals with Lyon last season and is currently at Istanbul Basaksehir.
While all three may be playing for smaller clubs now, Ferdinand believes they could have still been useful for Man Utd.
“I thought we got rid of good people in Hernandez, Welbeck and Rafael,” Ferdinand told the FIVE YouTube channel. “They were good United people with character.
“They wanted to play for Manchester United and knew what it meant – they wanted to win and they were part of that previous era that knew how to win.
“They could have carried that on and given it to other people. It was their turn and their chance to pass it on but I thought Manchester United wasn’t set up in the way that they probably are today. They wouldn’t allow that to happen today.
“Welbeck epitomised everything about Man Utd, he was hard-working and he understood what it meant to be a United player.
“He had quality, he could come in from being on the bench and score. He knew what it meant to be a squad player as well. When he was there to start, he produced the goods.
“I used to judge players by how hard they were to train again and he was hard to play against. People would always say he was a nightmare to play against because he doesn’t stop moving, he receives the ball well, he can run behind, he’s quick, he’s got everything.
“Maybe his finishing wasn’t as clean as some others to make him an elite, elite player, but he was giving you enough to stay here. He had more than enough.
“I loved Welbeck as a footballer and a lad. He was great for the changing room. He was the type of kid you wanted in the dressing room, a pure-hearted guy.
“Danny Welbeck was the best striker on the pitch yesterday with his performance. He should never have been allowed to leave United. When fit, I’d take him above loads and loads of players.
“I think Rafael should have been allowed to stay at Manchester United. He could still be in the team now if he stayed.”
Welbeck still has ‘affection’ for Utd
Speaking after scoring against them at the weekend, Welbeck admitted he still has a lot of fondness for United.
“It’s a club that I’ve got a lot of affection for, that gave me my chance,” he said. “But once you get on the pitch it’s 11 v 11, we want to get the points.
“You’ve just got to be professional and do your job.”
He added of Brighton’s performance against his old club: “Obviously very disappointed not to get the three points.
“Second half wasn’t too great with the ball and we didn’t really create many chances. We needed to see the game out. Some things went against us. It’s a bit cut-throat today, so it’s difficult to take.
“We played it well in the first half. In the second half it didn’t really come to fruition. We knew they’d come with something different.”