Born and bred in Halesowen, West Midlands, Lee Sharpe was just 16 years old when he made his professional debut for Torquay United, in Football League Division Four, but made just 14 appearances for the Seagulls inthe 1987/88 season. He quickly attracted the attention of Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson and duly joined the Red Devils, for £185,000, in June, 2008.
Unsurprisingly, Sharpe took some time to adjust to life at Old Trafford, but was named PFA Young Player of the Year in 1990/91 and, in an eight-year period, would go on to make 264 appearances in all competitions for Manchester United. He won the Premier League three times, the FA Cup twice, and the League Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup once apiece, so to label him a ‘nearly man’ may appear, at first glance, unfair.
However, a personality clash with Ferguson – whom Sharpe described as ‘a very scary man at the best of times’ – not to mention a liking for the celebrity lifestyle off the field, led to ‘a few run-ins’ over the years and ultimately led to his sale to Leeds United in 1996. To be fair to Sharpe, injuries and illness did not help his cause and he was shuffled down the pecking order behind Ryan Giggs, David Beckham and Denis Irwin but, at the age of 25, his Manchester United career was over. His subsequent career, with Leeds United, Bradford, Portsmouth and, finally, Icelandic club Grindavik, was an anti-climax.
Aged 17 years and 256 days, Sharpe had the distinction of being the youngest player to play for the England Under-21 national team, but he made just eight full appearances for England; the last of them came in a World Cup qualifying match against the Netherlands in Rotterdam in October, 1993