Sir Alex Ferguson was famed for never letting individual egos get in the way of his team ethos at Manchester United.
The legendary manager ended the Red Devils’ title drought as he guided his side to glory during the 1992/93 season – and won an incredible 12 more Premier League crowns as United dominated for the next two decades.
But the Scot didn’t achieve that without breaking a few players’ hearts. If the player was no longer right for the team, he was out.
Ferguson has admitted that telling players they had to go was the thing he hated most about being United boss – whether they were youngsters hoping to make it at the Theatre of Dreams, or seasoned pros whose time at the club needed to come to an end.
Here, Mirror Sport looks at some of the high-profile stars who Fergie ousted from Old Trafford.
Beckham was one of the stars of the United team which famously proved Alan Hansen wrong after the former Liverpool defender said Ferguson wouldn’t “win anything with kids”.
Under his manager’s tutelage, Beckham became widely regarded as the best right-sided midfielder in Europe, and was a member of six title-winning teams at Old Trafford – including the treble winners of the 1998/99 season.
But Ferguson grew tired of the media circus that surrounded Beckham following his marriage to ‘Posh Spice’ Victoria Adams.
In 2003, Beckham found himself on the wrong side of the gaffer’s famous hairdryer treatment, with the England star needing stitches after a football boot ended up hitting him in the head.
Bookmakers started taking odds on which of the two men would leave Old Trafford first, but there could only be one outcome – the following summer, Beckham was sold to Real Madrid.
Keane was United’s captain fantastic, winning seven titles with the club and skippering them to the treble in 1999 – albeit he was forced to miss the Champions League final through injury.
But the outspoken midfielder ended up falling out with Ferguson following training-ground arguments and outbursts in interviews in which he criticised team-mates.
The Irishman would go on to claim that United’s management were looking to push him out of the club because of his age.
Either way, following a row with Ferguson in 2005 it was agreed that Keane would be allowed to leave, and he joined Celtic, the club he had supported as a boy.
Ruud van Nistelrooy
Ruud van Nistelroooy hit the ground running after joining United in 2001, scoring 23 Premier League goals in his first season at the club.
He experienced tough love from Ferguson after United failed to win the title that season, with the manager dropping him for the final game, meaning he couldn’t overhaul Thierry Henry in the race for the Golden Boot.
Van Nistelrooy fired United to the title the following season, netting 25 league goals to make sure of the top scorer’s prize this time around.
The striker continued to be prolific for United, but was sold to Real Madrid in 2006 following a training-ground row with a young Cristiano Ronaldo.
Much of United’s success was built on solid defence as much as exhilarating attack, and treble winner Stam was one of a succession of highly accomplished centre-halves at the club.
A title winner with the Red Devils for three years in a row between 1998 and 2001, Stam was sold in 2007 after Ferguson reportedly perceived that his tackling numbers were declining.
Stam was returning from an Achilles injury at the time, and Ferguson would later admit that getting rid of the Dutchman was a mistake.
Andy Cole helped fire United to five league titles during the 1990s and early 2000s, as he struck up prolific partnerships with Teddy Sheringham and Dwight Yorke despite tough competition in United’s attacking ranks from the likes of Eric Cantona, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Paul Scholes.
During the 2000/01 campaign, Cole became the Red Devils’ record scorer in European competition at the time, having helped secure the treble two seasons earlier.
But the following summer saw more competition arrive in the shape of Van Nistelrooy, and this time it meant the end for Cole, who was sold to Blackburn Rovers.
Sheringham’s place in United folklore is assured by his role in the 1999 Champions League final, during which he scored the injury-time equaliser before his headed flick-on set up Solskjaer’s dramatic last-gasp winner.
That season he won the first of three successive league titles under Ferguson – but like Cole he became a casualty of Van Nistelrooy’s arrival at Old Trafford.
In the summer of 2001, Sheringham was offered a one-year contract, but turned it down, returning to former club Tottenham.
Like Sheringham and Cole, Yorke was also a treble winner and a veteran of three straight league triumphs.
And he likewise fell victim to the evolution of United’s strike force, although he lasted one season longer than his two team-mates.
With his goal output having fallen, the Trinidad & Tobago star was not issued a squad number for the 2002/03 season, and was sold to Blackburn that summer.
One of the stars of the ‘Class of 92’, Butt was a consistent and reliable performer who won six Premier League titles with United.
He often had to compete with Keane for a place in United’s midfield, but played the whole of the 1999 Champions League final in the skipper’s absence, and was named in the 1997/98 PFA Team of the Year after his team-mate was injured for much of that season.
But from the late 1990s onwards his opportunities became more limited, particularly with Scholes having returned to United’s engine room after being played in a more advanced role.
Butt, who also counted six Premier League titles and three FA Cup triumphs among his huge haul of honours, was eventually sold to Newcastle in 2004 after handing in a transfer request earlier that year.
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Another Class of 92 graduate, Neville could play as a full-back or in midfield, but faced tough competition for all those positions throughout his time at United – not least from his brother Gary, who was England number one right-back for over a decade.
Nonetheless, the younger Neville brother’s versatility made him a useful option for Ferguson, and he enjoyed 11 seasons with United before being sold to Everton in 2005.
While Neville didn’t last as long at United as his older brother, who spent his entire career at the club, he still left Old Trafford as a winner of six Premier League titles, three FA Cups and the Champions League.