Sir Alex Ferguson

Manchester United have had some stars, but they have also let some leave.

Today is Jaap Stam’s birthday, with the former defender turning 43.

The Dutch international is best known for his time Manchester United, where he won three Premier League titles, the FA Cup, the Champions League and the Intercontinental Cup.

He enjoyed great success, but left the club just three years after he signed. There were rumour he annoyed Alex Ferguson due to comments made in his autobiography, and at the age of 29 he was sold for roughly £16 million - making it a good deal.

However, there was always the sense that he left the club too early, and his continuing top level ability made Ferguson’s decision look crazy with each passing year, as Arsenal and Chelsea moved ahead of the Red Devils as England’s main team in the early 2000’s.

Clearly it did little damage in the long-term, but Stam’s departure goes down as one of Ferguson’s transfer mistakes, and we take a look at five other players to have left Old Trafford far too early.

David Beckham

Although he was replaced by Cristiano Ronaldo for half the fee Beckham was sold for, the departure of the English legend will always go down as a strange move. His personal life had reached breaking point with Ferguson though, but four La Liga titles with Real Madrid suggested his talent was certainly still there.

Ruud van Nistelrooy

After 150 goals in 219 games, van Nistelrooy left United to sign with Real Madrid. The Red Devils lost arguably the most natural goalscorer the have owned in recent history, and a real fan favourite. Yet Ferguson’s decision was rewarded at the end of the season - as United won the Premier League title for the first time in four years.

Paul Pogba

A decision that is still being felt at Old Trafford, with Juventus star Pogba set to become one of the best players in the world. He left due to contract and wage disputes with Ferguson, and has used the need to prove himself to his advantage - proving himself time and time again.

Gerard Pique

From making his debut at Crewe Alexandra in 2006 to World Cup, European Championship and three-time Champions League winner, Pique’s sale certainly looks a mistake. The 28-year-old centre-back moved to United as a youth product in 2004, moving back to Barcelona four years later after just 23 appearances.

Paul Ince

A successful spell at Old Trafford was ended in 1995 when Ince moved to Internazionale of Milan, but the best football of his career came following his return to England. Playing for Liverpool, he was a dominating midfielder, and proved that he still had the ability to be one of the best players in English football

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