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Played For Both: SAFC and Manchester United

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There have been many, many, many players that have played for both Sunderland and Manchester United over the years - far too many for me to regale in this piece. Alas, I've chosen three players at random based on suggestions made by you lot on our Facebook page.

Dwight Yorke

Now I might be alone here but I bloody loved Dwight Yorke. His legs had gone and he was effectively brought out of semi-retirement when Roy Keane signed him from Sydney FC in 2006 but the one thing brilliant players never lose is their quality, and Dwight had plenty of it.

Although he was brought in to Sunderland to play as a holding midfielder - think the Andrea Pirlo of the Coca Cola Championship - Dwight earned his corn as a centre forward for the vast majority of his career, playing well over two hundred games for Aston Villa before his head was turned by Manchester United in 1998 - a situation which still leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of Villa fans to this day.

Yorke's decision to leave was wise. He was the centre piece of a simply brilliant side that decimated almost everyone on their quest to win the much fabled 'treble' - that's a Premier League title, Champions League and an FA Cup all in one season - forming a formidable partnership with another player you might have forgotten once pulled on the red and white stripes, the 'outstanding' Andrew 'Andy' Cole (any excuse to post this), topping the Premier League scoring charts in the process. He finished the following season with twenty two goals, winning yet another Premier League title in convincing fashion.

He was shifted on to Blackburn Rovers in 2002 and latterly Birmingham City, where he played for one season before heading to Australia to play in the A-League for Sydney FC as their captain and central midfielder.

Yorke was an experienced head and a fine example of Keane using his connections in order to benefit our cause - he didn't play every minute of every game but having a wise owl amongst the ranks at a time where stability was needed in order to ensure we returned to the Premier League at the first time of asking was a brilliant move. One of the greatest individual performances I've ever seen at the Stadium of Light came from the Tobagan when he absolutely bossed Cesc Fabregas in a 1-1 draw at the Stadium of Light against Arsenal in 2008, earning the man of the match award and the respect of many Sunderland fans who weren't convinced that he offered us all that much anymore. If he'd been a wrestler the crowd would have been chanting "You've still got it" at him.

There are a couple of Dwight Yorke goals included in this video package from our 2006 Championship winning campaign.

Jimmy Nicholl

Jimmy Nicholl, a Canadian born Northern Irish international, might not be a name that immediately comes to the mind of our younger fans and it might surprise some to know that he had two, albeit brief, spells as a Sunderland player in the early eighties.

A right back by trade, Nicholl played the majority of his career at Manchester United, coming through their youth side before making over two hundred appearances and taking his place in the winning FA Cup side of 1977. After spending eight years in the first team at Manchester United he lost his place in the side and was eventually loaned to Sunderland in 1982, playing five games before heading off to the 1982 World Cup to play as part of that famous Northern Irish side that managed to progress to the latter stages of the tournament. Upon his return from Spain he made his move to Sunderland permanent that summer, playing the entire 1982/1983 season as an integral part of Alan Durban's side.

Although I'm faaaaaaaar too young to have ever watched Nicholl play for the lads I am reliably informed that he was a fine player and was a massive miss when he left, moving abroad to play for Toronto Blizzards in the North American Soccer League where he played until the league and club dissolved in 1984. Some might say he's only just been replaced - not since those days have we had a curly headed right back. Thank the lord for Billy Jones.

I couldn't find any footage of Jimmy Nicholl at Sunderland but here's an absolute screamer that he scored for the Red Devils back in 1975.

David Bellion

In hindsight selling David Bellion to Manchester United was one of those rare occasions when a club manages to well and truly pull down Alex Ferguson's trousers. At the time, however, it wasn't viewed quite like that.

Spotted by Ricky Sbragia whilst playing for reserve side of AS Cannes, Bellion spurned offers from top French sides and Fulham in order to sign for Sunderland in 2001 aged just eighteen, spending a season aclimatising to English football before becoming a regular first team player in the side that was eventually relegated from the Premier League in 2003. Bellion's only goal for Sunderland came against Aston Villa at the Stadium of Light and it was that goal which propelled him to the forefront of Howard Wilkinson's mind, starting in the majority of games from October onwards without notching again.

Despite having to come into an ailing side under difficult circumstances, Alex Ferguson had seen enough of the young Frenchman to think he was worth signing. Bellion turned down a contract towards the end of the 2002/2003 season from Sunderland and it emerged that he had effectively been 'tapped up' by Manchester United, which resulted in us receiving between two and three million pounds for the player.

From then on, it was relatively downhill for Bellion, who had expected that his career might have taken a slightly more expressive and successful path. Throughout the duration of his time at Manchester United, Bellion was used sparingly and eventually was allowed to leave the club in 2007, signing for Ligue 1 side Bordeaux, who he left to join a third division side this summer after spending seven years at Les Girondins effectively as a backup player. Although it feels like ages since he was in a red and white shirt, Bellion is still only thirty-one years old.

Roker Report interviewed Bellion back in 2012 - you can read it here. Below is footage of that solitary strike for Sunderland, a fine goal against Aston Villa.

Can you think of any other players who have played for both? Leave your suggestions in the comments section below!

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