Manchester United’s status as the world’s most cosmopolitan club is undisputed.
And this season Ivory Coast defender Eric Bailly and Armenia midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan have taken United’s League of Nations to 40 nationalities, more than any other club in the world.
From Italian Carlo Sartori, the first foreigner to play for United in 1968, to Mkhitaryan, who made his debut this season, the Reds have shown they have a truly global outlook when it comes to signings.
Unsurprisingly, English players make up the biggest nationality to have represented United, with 521 players, followed by Scotland, Wales, Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
But United’s truly global reach can be found in the scope of different nationalities they have encompassed in terms of signings, which mirrors their formidable worldwide fanbase.
That includes Angola, Bulgaria, Ecuador, Cameroon, Senegal, South Korea and Trinidad and Tobago, with United’s recently-expanded scouting network bolstered to ensure they continue to attract the very best prospects in world football.
But that worldwide casting of their scouting net has not stopped new signing Bailly having to learn English, to ensure he is able to communicate more easily with his team-mates.
While Mkhitaryan arrived at United able to speak fluent English, Bailly has found it hard to communicate with his colleagues, with boss Jose Mourinho insisting he learns the language.
Tom PurslowHenrikh Mkhitaryan has not enjoyed the starting role for the Red Devils he would have envisaged
Bailly, a £30million summer signing from Villarreal, admitted he needs to be able to speak better English so his team-mates can have more confidence in him when they play.
United’s Dutch defender Daley Blind has admitted communication with Bailly is tough because of the language barrier, with the 22-year-old new signing now immersing himself in English lessons.
“There are players who speak Spanish and French and they help me integrate,” said Bailly. “I’ve just started having English classes, too. Little by little.
“It’s important for the other players to have confidence in you. It was my dream since being a child to play for one of the biggest clubs in the world and now I’m here, I’m going to take that chance.”
Blind, who was paired in central defence with Bailly at the start of the season but has since switched to left-back, conceded his team-mate’s lack of English was not ideal.
“I think the key is to talk a lot,” said Blind. “It’s a bit more difficult with Eric because of the language barrier but we both understand football and you can also do a lot with your hands.
“We’ve had a good understanding already It’s important to be able to rely on each other and help each other, that helps build a team together.”
While Sartori was the first foreigner to play for United, he actually went through the United youth system after his family moved from Italy to Manchester when he was a youngster – their first overseas signing was Yugoslav Nikola Jovanovic, who then boss Dave Sexton paid £300,000 for from Red Star Belgrade in 1980.