This piece originally appeared on www.sabotagetimes.com.
Michael Ricketts – Manchester United 1-2 Bolton, 20 October 2001
Undoubtedly the highlight of Ricketts’ long and embarrassing career, the big striker somehow got himself into the England squad on the back of this goal. In February 2002, he played in the first half of the Three Lions’ friendly draw with the Netherlands and subsequently went six months without a goal for Bolton. Having shown signs of returning to form the next season, Middlesbrough signed Ricketts in January 2003 but his glaring lack of talent came to the fore and he was kept at the Riverside for only a year, scoring three league goals. The next seven years saw Ricketts sign and fail for a further nine clubs before his retirement in 2010, but he will always be able to honestly say that he has scored a winner against United.
Steve Howard – Manchester United 4-1 Derby County, 8 December 2007
The worst striker for the worst side in Premier League history, Howard scored a single goal in the Rams’ relegation season and it came at Old Trafford. True to the lack of talent shown both by Derby County and by Howard himself, it was the Rams’ first away goal of the season and possibly the ugliest ever scored at the Theatre of Dreams. 3-0 down with fifteen minutes to go, full-back Tyrone Mears swung a hopeful cross into the United area; the ball reached Howard, leading to a comical goalmouth scramble which ended with Wes Brown’s clearance ricocheting off the hopeless target-man and into the United net.
James Perch – Manchester United 4-3 Newcastle United, 26 December 2012
Newcastle have finally signed Mathieu Debuchy after pursuing the Lille full-back for at least a year. The reason for such long-standing interest is obvious: James Perch has been their first-choice right-back for the last two seasons. While never as calamitous as past Newcastle defenders like Jean-Alain Boumsong and Titus Bramble, Perch has never really been a Premier League quality defender. Coming into his third season with the Geordies, Perch’s recent opener was his first goal for the club.
Andrea Dossena – Manchester United 1-4 Liverpool, 14 March 2009
The Italian wing-back’s Anfield stay was brief and he became a name to drop for those criticising the somewhat scattergun transfer policy favoured by Rafa Benítez. A few days prior to the United game, Dossena scored against Real Madrid in the Champions League. Appearing as a substitute at Old Trafford, his infamous lob over Edwin Van Der Sar in the dying moments of Liverpool’s titanic victory was his only Premier League goal. These moments of glory were clear anomalies, however: the next season saw him make a total of five appearances, before returning to Italy in 2010.
Joseph-Désiré Job – Manchester United 2-3 Middlesbrough, 11 February 2004
Job can perhaps most accurately be described as the original Gervinho: always capable of producing the occasional moment of brilliance to make a chance for himself, only to be let down by infuriatingly erratic finishing. Not only that, he also was also an earlier pioneer of the Arsenal forward’s peculiar haircut. The tricky Cameroonian scored nineteen Premier League goals in six seasons at the Riverside including this winner at Old Trafford, but let the record show that he was otherwise awful.
Steve Howey – Manchester United 1-1 Manchester City, 21 April, 2001
A key defender in Kevin Keegan’s famously gung-ho side of the mid-1990s – and I use the term ‘defender’ very loosely – Howey’s expertly executed role was simply to stand around somewhere near the back while his more talented colleagues poured forward at every opportunity. On leaving the North East, Howey’s inability to defend became somewhat more of an issue and his first season at Manchester City saw the club relegated from the Premier League, shipping sixty-five goals on their way down. Howey’s moment of Old Trafford glory came in the eighty-third minute of a match more memorable for Roy Keane’s ultra-violent attempt to divide Alf-Inge Håland’s body into two equal pieces.
Grant Hanley – Manchester United 2-3 Blackburn, 31 December 2011
Given his youth and the time he has to come good it is perhaps harsh to include Hanley, but so far his displays in professional football have been less than encouraging. Originally thrown in at the deep end by Sam Allardyce, he became a regular under Steve Kean when it became clear that Christopher Samba was no longer interested in playing at Ewood Park. Hanley’s inept defending became a regular feature of Blackburn’s matches as they stumbled unceremoniously towards relegation. His greatest achievement thus far is his eightieth minute winner at Old Trafford. In a manner befitting such a talentless individual the goal was an aesthetic disaster, bundled into the net from half a yard.
Daniel Cousin – Manchester United 4-3 Hull City, 1 November 2008
The Gabonese striker was Hull’s number one transfer target as they prepared to begin life in the Premier League in the summer of 2008. Given that he only scored four league goals in his time at the club, it is safe to say that targets two, three and four must have been pretty appalling. If anything can be said for Cousin, it is that he saved himself for the big occasions: as well as scoring against Manchester City and registering a winner away to Arsenal, he also netted at Old Trafford in a thriller which preceded the collapse suffered by Phil Brown’s men in the second half of the season. Now aged thirty-five, Cousin has returned to his homeland to play for Sapins.
Malcolm Christie – Manchester United 0-1 Derby County, 5 May 2001
At the time of this game, United were celebrating their already-secured fourteenth title, while Derby fought relegation. As such, the Rams were afforded the luxury of facing a United side including Ronnie Wallwork, Michael Stewart and Luke Chadwick, but this result remained a huge surprise. Insult was added to injury by the fact that the winner was scored by a player who had been stacking supermarket shelves less than three years previously. Remembered more for the below miss at Old Trafford, Christie retired in 2009 and now works as a salesman for Aston Martin.
Jérémie Aliadière – Manchester United 4-1 Middlesbrough, 27 October 2007
It is quite a notable feat to be even worse than memory suggests, but Jérémie Aliadière was genuinely worse than you remember him being. Despite having sporadic bursts of something akin to good form at Arsenal, he never impressed enough to win over fans or, more importantly, Arsène Wenger. His three seasons at Middlesbrough saw him average four goals a season. Despite this paltry record, he too has notched at the home of the Red Devils, scoring his first Boro goal in a heavy defeat in 2007. Aliadière returned to France in 2010 to play for Lorient, where his record of nine goals in three years serves only to underscore what a monumentally bad footballer he is.