Man Utd: Phil Neville recommended Salford player in 2015


Mention the name Sadiq El Fitouri to Manchester United, Manchester City and Salford City FC fans and they may all give you a blank look while racking their brains.

However, the defender was on the books of all three clubs at various points during his early career.

El Fitouri started out in the Manchester City youth system but was released in 2013 after it became clear to the club that he was unlikely to blossom into a top player.

Following that setback, the Libya-born right-back only played football with his mates in the park before being snapped up by non-league Salford City in 2014 after a trial.

El Fitouri made one appearance for Salford before catching the eye of part-owners Phil Neville and Paul Scholes.

Phil Neville Salford
SALFORD, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 16: Phil Neville, England Women’s manager and Salford City Co-Owner takes a selfie photograph with Salford City Co-Owner David Beckham, Romeo James Beckham and two fans prior to the Vanarama National League match between Salford City and Dover Athletic at Peninsula Stadium on February 16, 2019 in Salford, England. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

This happened at the same time Salford invited TV cameras in to film ‘Class of 92: Out of Their League’ – and the lad’s journey from non-league to Old Trafford subsequently made the documentary.

“The minute I saw him I thought ‘this kid can play’,” Neville explained at the time. “There’s something mystique about him – he has a bit of swagger. Sometimes you get a gut feeling on a player and I had it.

“He’s not played football for a year and a half, it’s incredible. Jonno and Bernard [joint-managers Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley] want to play the solid lads, which I can understand. They like him but they don’t want to change the team.

“Paul said: ‘Look, ring Warren Joyce at Man United. He’s the best judge of a young player that you’ll see’.”

Phil Neville Salford
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – AUGUST 08: TalkTalk’s Group Marketing Director, David Parslow and Class of 92 icons Paul Scholes, Phil Neville, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville pose as TalkTalk celebrate a new five year partnership with Salford City FC at Hotel Football, Old Trafford on August 8, 2019 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Barrington Coombs/Getty Images for TalkTalk)

Neville told the youngster to “go looking smart” after organising a trial at Man United, scheduled for the following day. 

During a conversation with Gary Neville, another of Salford’s part-owners, Scholes said: “His physique and everything, he just looks like a footballer.”

After hearing Scholes and his brother talk so positively about El Fitouri, Neville was confused why the defender wasn’t getting into Salford’s team.

“It’s interfering isn’t it?” Scholes said. “We can’t do it. Same player every player. What can we do?”

Phil appeared convinced that he’d unearthed a gem. At one point in the documentary, Scholes joked: “Are you still going on about Sadiq? Is he your love child?”

And it was Phil who travelled to El Fitouri’s house after the trial, where he was informed that Man Utd had given the lad an 18-month deal.

El Fitouri told the former England international: “After we finished training, he pulled me over to the side and said: ‘Well done, you’ve been training well. We want to offer you an 18-month contract’.”

Neville, buzzing with the news, said: “This situation with Sadiq, I think has never happened in the history of Manchester United.

“It’s like a fairytale. To think five weeks ago he was third-choice right-back at Salford. He turned up to training and they didn’t think he was strong enough, couldn’t defend and then all of a sudden he’s signed an 18-month contract with Man United. It shows that if people believe in you and you have the right attitude then anything is achievable in life.”

Phil’s brother, Gary, tweeted: “Incredible story on @SalfordCityFC on Sadiq El Fitouri. Well done to Phil and Scholesy for showing belief in a lad who was out of the game!”

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What happened to Sadiq El Fitouri?

But what happened next?

Sadly there was no fairytale ending for El Fitouri, who managed to make a few appearances for United’s Under-21s but never came close to breaking into the first team under Louis van Gaal or Jose Mourinho.

Sadiq El Fitouri
LONDON, ENGLAND – APRIL 19: Sadiq El-Fitouri of Man Utd battles with Josh Onomah of Spurs during the U21 Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United at White Hart Lane on April 19, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

The defender signed for Chesterfield after being released by the Red Devils in 2017 but was let go by the League One outfit after making just two appearances.

Sadiq El Fitouri
NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 11: Sadiq El Fitouri of Chesterfield in action during the Sky Bet League One match between Northampton Town and Chesterfield at Sixfields on February 11, 2017 in Northampton, England. (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)

El Fitouri then returned to Libya to play for Al-Ahli Tripoli, although his spell there didn’t last long either.

In 2018, he signed for Poli Iasi in Romania before rocking up at Al Hilal Omdurman in Sudan in 2019.

He appeared to be without a club for a couple of years before non-league Maine Road FC posted the following tweet in February:

Phil Neville had visions of El Fitouri playing in the Champions League, not the North West Counties League Division One South.

But regardless of whatever else happens, the 27-year-old will always be able to boast that he was once signed by Manchester United, one of the world’s biggest football clubs, and not many people can say that.

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