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From Luanda To Valladolid Via Old Trafford

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Every once in a while, all the top clubs take a risk on signing players from abroad who 90% of fans have probably never have heard of.  

Sometimes this approach works and the risk comes off to be a world-class player. It’s very easy to forget of course that Ole Gunnar Solksjaer – who turned out to be Manchester United legend – was a relatively unknown striker outside of Norway when we signed him.

Ole was a success right away and after scoring on his debut played a major part in our success during his time at the club, reaching heights very few fans would have ever imagined back in 1996 when we signed him from Molde.

Sometimes of course buying unknown players does not quite come off. We all know about the signing of Bebe last season from Guimarães. Bebe of course has not found it easy to settle in life at the club and has been shipped out on loan to Besiktas next season to gain regular first-team experience, which will clearly benefit the young Portuguese forward as he looks to develop his career.

As much as I would like to write about Bebe – after all I haven’t thrown in the towel onto his United career just yet (which you can read about here) – I would like to look back at our former Angolan forward Manucho who had a brief stay at Old Trafford before being sold to Real Valladolid in Spain two summers ago.

Very little was known about Manucho when the club announced that we were going to sign him back in December 2007. All fans knew of the forward was that he was fairly tall and had been at the club on a three-week trial and had obviously impressed Sir Alex to warrant us handing him a three-year deal.

The deal to sign the forward was completed in January before Manucho joined up with Angola to play in the African Cup of Nations tournament being held in Ghana.  With the pressure of leading his country’s attack Manucho impressed and scored four goals.

At the time there were pundits comparing him to proven African Premier League forwards such as Didier Drogba and Emmanuel Adebayor. That perhaps was a bit harsh on Manucho as firstly the standard of defending at the tournament was not that great and unlike Adebayour and Drogba he had no experience playing in Europe that would suggest he had the quality to succeed in England.

After the tournament Manucho was sent out on loan to Panathinaikos in Greece in a deal that had already been arranged before the tournament. It was a good move for the Angolan and under Portuguese coach Jose Peseriro enjoyed a successful time in Athens as the side qualified for the Champions League.

Unluckily for the forward he was unable to challenge for a place in our squad early on the following season and only made 3 substitute appearances before being sent out on loan to Hull City in January.

Under Phil Brown he got chances and scored twice in 13 appearances including a vital winner away to Fulham which helped City secure three vital points which helped them avoid relegation back down to the Championship.

Still though, it was anticipated that Manucho would be sold in the summer as he had not done quite enough to justify a place at Old Trafford ahead of the 2009/10 season. It therefore was not a surprise when the club announced that they had sold the forward to Real Valladolid in July.

The move to Spain looked a good one for the forward on paper as it represented Manucho a real chance to challenge for a first team place on a regular basis and really develop as a player. Sadly despite being given a run for the Pucela, he had a disappointing season scoring only four goals as Valladolid suffered relegation to the Segunda Division on the last day of the season.

Last season Manucho played in Turkey’s top flight as a result of two loans spells from Valladolid in order for him to get regular first team experience. He did ok for both Bucaspor (in the first half of the season) and Manisaspor (in the second half) but again doubts remain about his future in Spain.

Yes Manucho has not exactly set the world alight in Europe, but is being a journey-man striker in Europe really that bad for a striker who up until the end of 2007 was virtually un-heard of outside of Angola.

There have been far worse players who have enjoyed a career in European football than Manucho and clearly he has something about him as a forward that is tempting clubs to give him a chance.

Whilst I doubt he has the ability to be a first-choice striker in one of Europe’s top leagues, there’s no doubt if given time at a side he could be a good option as a third/fourth striker as with his height he remains a good option to bring on in games and hold up the play.

Either way the boy from Luanda has certainly achieved more than most people would have imagined when he was scoring goals in the Angolan first division and is certainly living the kind of lifestyle as a footballer in Europe that most young African children can only dream of. 

By Adam Dennehey @ADennehey87

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