“I will love it if we beat them!”
Kevin Keegan’s outburst at Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United during the 1995/96 season is in the annals of Premier League history. Then, the two teams would fight for the top honours as the rivalry simmered between two of English football’s historic giants
Manchester United vs Newcastle has not been a clash of the titans by any means, but with Newcastle’s resurgence, there’s more significant behind the fixture than usual.
However, due to the competitive imbalance before this season, many players have played for both the teams during the Premier League era. Moreover, most of these cases would be of players who either broke out at Newcastle, then flourished at United, or were spent at United, then played out their careers at Newcastle.
Still, there have been some top players who have played for both clubs. Their contributions for one might be more iconic than the other, but as players, they were quality.
Here are top five players to have played for both Newcastle and Manchester United:
One-half of arguably the Premier League’s most memorable strike partnership along with Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole made his name in English football with Newcastle. The centre-forward scored 34 goals in 40 appearances during the 1993/94 season. He scored a total of 55 goals in just 70 Premier League appearances for the Magpies.
This made Manchester United make a move for him midway through the next season. The club signed him for £6 million with Keith Gillespie going the other way, making Cole the most expensive British player at the time.
"Playing with Dwight Yorke was like meeting a special woman and falling in love." – Andy Cole
Cole & Yorke scored 53 goals between them in all competitions during the 1998/99 season to win the treble. INCREDIBLE duo 🙌🇾🇪#Ad | #ThePlaylist | @888Sportpic.twitter.com/YBBJuQqFj4 https://t.co/Tvl5SGr6Bm
— UnitedReds (@UnitedRedscom) March 16, 2023
Five Premier League titles, two FA Cups, a Champions League and a historic treble later, Andy Cole has firmly established himself as a legend at Manchester United. He wasn’t as prolific for United as he was in his Newcastle days, but he put it all on the field and made the team better. Still, he scored 121 goals in 275 appearances across all competitions for United. His legacy can be summed up in one sentence. Whenever a United strike pairing shows early signs of development, the gold standard for comparison is the “Cole and Yorke” duo.
Forever the under-heralded but equally important part of the famed Class of ’92, Nicky Butt played for Newcastle United for seven years after spending 13 trophy-laden years at Manchester United.
After coming through the Manchester United academy, Butt broke through in a big way and repaid Sir Alex’s trust when he took over from Paul Ince in midfield in the 1995/96 season. Alongside Roy Keane, Butt formed the backbone of a sparkling midfield that ushered in United’s most successful era.
Butt played a crucial part in that success, winning six Premier League titles, 3 FA Cups and a Champions League title. He joined Newcastle United in July 2004 after handing in a transfer request at United. Butt was frustrated at the lack of first-team opportunities. He had a tough start at the club but once again, his strong mentality shone through.
Coming through a period of setbacks, Butt would go on to establish himself as a key member of the side, even being named club captain for the 2009/10 season. He shepherded Newcastle through a topsy-turvy spell as the club got relegated, then promoted back to the Premier League under his captaincy.
Here’s a pub quiz question. When did Louis Saha, the 20-times capped French striker turn out for Newcastle?
Everybody remembers Saha’s breakout in the Premier League with Fulham. This earned him a move to Manchester United where, despite an injury-riddled time, he contributed greatly to United’s success. However, before all that glory was a small loan spell at Newcastle when a 21-year-old Saha was trying to gain his foot in the game.
During the winter window of 1999, Saha went on loan to Newcastle after a falling out at FC Metz in France. He made just 11 appearances for the club and scored a solitary goal as his career threatened to diffuse into mediocrity. However, Saha has gone on to reveal that the spell at Newcastle turned out to be a wake-up call for him, in that he understood the hard work and sacrifice it took to succeed at the top level.
He took those lessons with him to Fulham, where he flourished before earning himself a move to Red Devils. He became a 2x Premier League winner, a Champions League winner and won a League Cup during a five-year spell with 42 goals in 124 games.
OTD 04 – United sow the seeds of their forthcoming treble-defence, Louis Saha's equaliser earning them a draw at Highbury. pic.twitter.com/lInp5Zs7pL
— United Rewind (@unitedrewind) March 28, 2023
In many ways, Ronny Johnsen personified that ‘character over superstars’ culture at United under Sir Alex Ferguson. An unassuming member of the squad, Johnsen could always be relied upon at the back.
He was a crucial cog in the team that won the treble, a feat that hasn’t been repeated by an English team since. He won the lot in English football during his seven-year stay at the club after becoming the most expensive Norwegian defender at the time.
He won four Premier League titles in addition to an FA Cup and the Champions League. Alongside Jaap Stam, he was the defensive backbone of the team that defeated Bayern Munich in perhaps the most thrilling European Cup final of all time. His spell at Newcastle, though, was less than ideal.
After being given a free transfer by United at the end of the 2001/02 season, he spent 3 fruitful seasons at Aston Villa but was hampered by injuries. He signed for Newcastle post this spell but could only make three appearances. The club released him over concerning fitness levels. Thus, a glittering career in English football ended with a whimper.
Perhaps one of the biggest cases of “what if” of a footballer’s career. Alan Smith came through at Leeds United as a hard-working striker who would run himself to the ground. This style of play earned him love from the fans of whichever club he played for.
19-year-old Alan Smith for Leeds United during the 2000/2001 season:
Huge part of a very strong Leeds that reached the semi-final of the Champions League and finished 4th in the Premier League. One of LUFC's best academy graduates ever. pic.twitter.com/Qtmey6gIn2
— Football Talent Scout – Jacek Kulig (@FTalentScout) January 20, 2022
For Manchester United, that spell would come at the start of the 2004/05 season. After Leeds got relegated, the Red Devils signed him for £7 million. He never quite managed to establish himself as an undisputed first-team player. Mostly, injuries hampered his progress as he made just 93 appearances across all competitions in three years at the club, scoring 12 goals. While that goal tally looks underwhelming, it is worth noting that Smith’s willingness to sacrifice himself for the team also saw him play as a holding midfielder at United.
Newcastle signed him at the start of the 2007/08 season on a five-year contract. Unfortunately, his injuries never really allowed him to flourish. He made just 94 appearances during his five-year stay, spending one year in the Championship as well. He failed to score for the club as his position was shifted continuously. He was released by the club at the end of his contract.
Besides the players mentioned above, there have been numerous other players who have graced the jersey of both these giants. Peter Beardsley came through the academy at Newcastle and ended up becoming one of their most loved players after taking a circuitous route. This route included an ill-fated spell at Manchester United where he made a single appearance in a League Cup tie.
Then there’s Keith Gillespie, the player who went the other way in Andy Cole’s transfer. Never really making it for United, he became a crucial player for Newcastle, making a total of 143 appearances for the club.
Michael Owen and Gabriel Obertan are also on the list of players to have played for both clubs, although neither is remembered very fondly by either club’s fans.
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