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What ever happened to Manchester United youngster Dong Fangzhuo?

Old Trafford 3

Signed as a youngster from Dalian Shide the Chinese youngster impressed while at Old Trafford on various loan deals. So where is he now and what happened after he failed to make the grade in Manchester?

Manchester United brought in the highly touted Japanese star Shinji Kagawa this summer and he became the latest player from the Far East to move to Old Trafford. When asked about his feelings on the others he quickly spoke of his admiration for Park Ji-Sung; one of the best Asian players of all time.

When asked about the other he exclaimed:

"Sorry, I don't know who that is?’’

The player in question was Dong Fangzhou and enough time has probably passed since his Manchester exit now for some of the Old Trafford faithful to be forced to squint their eyes and look to the heavens trying to pluck his name from the obscure reaches of their brains memory. So what happened to the Chinese sensation who in four years at United featured just once in the Premier League?

At first it seemed United were onto a winner.

As is often the case the Chinese youngster did not qualify for a work permit at 18-years-old so he was sent out on loan to popular feeder club Royal Antwerp. He scored one goal in nine appearances in his first season and seven in 22 in his second in Belgium but after a strong pre-season he came out firing in his third season at Antwerp. He finished as the club and league top scorer scoring 18 goals in 30 appearances. The following season he was joined by Jonny Evans, Fraizer Campbell and Darron Gibson in Antwerp and was again prolific in front of goal for half of the season with 11 goals in 15 appearances.

At that point he was granted a work permit and returned to United for the second half of the 2006-07 season to try and fight for a first team spot. Instead he started a long barren spell in front of goal. Hope was obviously high after his impressive goal-scoring antics in Belgium however it would be over four years before he scored another club goal. He returned to China with Dalian Shide before a stint in Poland with Legia Warsaw ended swiftly and under the reported recommendation of Cristiano Ronaldo found himself at Portuguese outfit Portimonense. Eventually he scored for Portimonense on the 17th October 2010 with a stunning long range strike against CD Cinfaes. That was his first goal since he scored the second against Dender in a Belgian Second Division match on the 15th December 2006.

The goal at Portimonense was not the start of a beautiful resurrection; in fact since then he has played in Armenia with FC Mika and now operates in the Chinese second tier with Hunan Billows; they finished 11th in the league table with Fangzhou scoring just seven goals.

Nowadays of course Dong’s dreams of Premier League football are long behind him. At 27-years-old he is approaching 10 years since he was originally courted by Manchester United. While many may say moving to Old Trafford was a mistake and effectively put paid to his career you doubt he would change anything given the chance today.

What do you make of Fangzhou’s demise?

image: © Gordon Flood

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