Sir Alex Ferguson’s forgotten Man Utd signing who went on to have “unbelievable career”

Sir Alex Ferguson file photo File photo dated 26-05-2019 of Sir Alex Ferguson. Issue date: Thursday April 22, 2021. FILE PHOTO FILE PHOTO PUBLICATIONxINxGERxSUIxAUTxONLY Copyright: xMartinxRickettx 59337009

Former Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson let David Gray, a Scottish defender signed as a teenager, leave the club in 2010 with Jonny Evans stating he had an “unbelievable career” after departing Old Trafford

David Gray was signed by Manchester United as a 16-year-old in 2004 for just £50k as he moved south from Hearts.

He’d impressed with the Scottish side’s academy and United, who were known for backing young talent, opted to bring him to Old Trafford. Gray would spend six years on the books in Manchester with Sir Alex Ferguson handing him his debut in October 2006.

The Scot played 77 minutes as they saw off Crewe in extra-time at Gresty Road. The young right-back played alongside the likes of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but that would prove to be his only outing in a United shirt. Gray rose through the ranks with the likes of Jonny Evans.

The Northern Irish centre-half began his career with the Red Devils and returned this summer. He has cited Gray as among the best players he played with that didn’t perhaps hit the heights expected, although Evans did underline his impressive exploits in Scotland.

He told the club’s website : “It’s quite hard to say what the top level is, isn’t it? I’d probably have to say, probably someone from my youth team. I mean David Gray was a good friend of mine growing up and he was a top player, with lots of good attributes. He went on to go back to Scotland and ended up having an unbelievable career at Hibs, yet he actually started off as a Hearts fan and player growing up.

“Man United actually signed him from Hearts but he went back to Hibs and had an amazing, amazing career with them. I suppose you could say he’s played at the top level in Scotland but maybe I think I would have liked to have seen him stay in England a bit longer.”

With Hibs he scored his first professional goal – almost a decade after his debut. Gray’s career highlight though came in the 92nd minute of the Scottish Cup final at Hampden Park against Rangers. The defender’s header meant he became part of the first ever Hibs side to claim the trophy.

Gray previously told the Hibee Buzz podcast on the iconic goal: “It was the greatest moment of my football career if not my life. I remember I was breathing heavily at that point. I was absolutely knackered because I’d done a bit of pressing just before it. It was the 91st minute, we won the ball back for a throw-in at half way, threw it quickly so we broke and then I remember thinking ‘can you get up for this corner here?’

“But I do remember vividly walking up and setting it up because we had talked about how big an opportunity set pieces were. Rangers had lost a lot of goals and we had boys that were willing to go and put their head on it.

“With Hendo just coming on and his delivery.. as soon as the ball left Hendo’s foot I knew I was getting it. It took quite a bit of time to come in but when I watch it back I actually think they should do better, I don’t think I should get it. The defender should clear it. But as soon as I got my head on it I knew the contact was good and that I had scored.

“From there I think I did six celebrations in one! I just ran away and the thing I do remember is referee Steven McLean apologising to me and saying ‘sorry I need to book you’. I was like .. ‘no problem!’ You can see I don’t really know what I’m doing. I remember looking at the advertising board thinking ‘I’m not getting over that’ so I kept running to a gap in the corner. I was like a horse out the stable!

“I saw someone in the crowd and just ran to them. I don’t know why. I had never scored a goal since I went to Hibs so I hadn’t thought about what I was going to do. I never touched the ball again in the game. I’ll be forever grateful for the opportunity to be part of that occasion.”

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