Top five Manchester United debuts

Ahead of Juan Mata's potential debut, Sports Mole picks out five players who impressed on their first Manchester United outings.

It was always going to take something special to upstage Ole Gunnar Solskjaer upon his first return to Old Trafford since his retirement in 2007.

The potential debut of £37.1m signing Juan Mata is likely to do just that. Having completed his switch from Chelsea over the weekend, the Spaniard has been tipped to pull on a Manchester United shirt for the first time this evening when Solskjaer's Cardiff City travel to Old Trafford.

With that in mind, Sports Mole has selected five players who made an instant impression on their Man United debuts.

1. Sir Bobby Charlton, 1956
Injuries to Tommy Taylor and Duncan Edwards the week before at Arsenal meant that Sir Matt Busby required the services of a 19-year-old Charlton for the very first time when Charlton Athletic visited Old Trafford. The problem was that the midfielder was suffering with an ankle complaint himself. He refused to let that prevent him from making his United bow, though, and despite only using his painful right foot in an emergency, Charlton went on to score two goals in a 4-2 victory over the Addicks.

Bobby Charlton takes a corner for Manchester United on January 01, 1971.© Getty Images

2. Paul Scholes, 1994
By the time that 1994-95 season had come around, Sir Alex Ferguson was starting to put his trust in the youngsters who had won the FA Youth Cup two years earlier. Many of them had made their debuts prior to the League Cup trip to Port Vale, but not Scholes, who was included in the side for the first time at Vale Park. Playing as a striker, the 19-year-old with flame hair scored both goals in a 2-1 win. It was the start of a United career that would see Scholes feature on 718 occasions for the club.

Ruud van Nistelrooy, 2001
A cruciate knee ligament complaint delayed the Dutch striker's transfer to United by 12 months, but he immediately showed that the serious injury had had no adverse effect on his clinical instincts. He scored during the Charity Shield defeat to Liverpool a week earlier and the £19m hitman started to repay the fee on his competitive debut against Fulham on the opening weekend of the Premier League. With United trailing the Londoners 2-1, Van Nistelrooy scored two goals in as many second-half minutes to secure a 3-2 victory.

Ruud van Nistelrooy celebrates scoring on his Manchester United debut against Fulham on August 08, 2001.© Getty Images

Cristiano Ronaldo, 2003
Earlier that summer, the United players had urged Ferguson to sign the spindly teenager, who had terrorised them in Sporting Lisbon colours during a pre-season friendly. He duly arrived at Old Trafford for £12.4m and was named as a substitute on the opening day of the campaign against Bolton Wanderers. In the 61st minute, the Portuguese winger, then just 17, came off the bench to replace Nicky Butt with United holding a slender 1-0 advantage. When the final whistle was blown, United had won 4-0, thanks in part to the teenager. He won a penalty after being fouled by Kevin Nolan, as well as being involved in the move that resulted in Ryan Giggs scoring. Although not many would have predicted just how good he would become, Ronaldo, with the famous number seven on his back, had provided some real excitement during his 29-minute cameo.

Wayne Rooney, 2004
United saw off the challenge of Newcastle United to land Rooney from Everton. However, they were made to wait for his debut because upon his arrival he was still recovering from the broken metatarsal bone that he suffered during the 2004 European Championships with England. He regained fitness to feature for the first time against the Turkish side Fenerbahce in late September and made up for lost time instantly by scoring a 37-minute hat-trick, which was completed with a curling free kick from 25 yards out.

Sir Matt Busby poses for a photograph on January 01, 1991.
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