An exit from Manchester United can often represent the beginning of a downwards trajectory in a player’s career.
Not only does the weight of United’s name often weigh down an individual’s CV, but their previous association with the club can also burden them wherever they might next end up.
From faded wonderkids, to former superstars, it is a pretty common occurrence for any ex-player to be compared to their appearances when wearing the red shirt at Old Trafford – a period of time which often overshadows any subsequent achievements in the game.
There is perhaps no better example in recent years than that of former United defender Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, a Louis van Gaal favourite who is now making a steady climb back up the Football League.
It almost feels like an alternate universe, but before Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was handing out youth debuts to the latest batch of academy prospects, Van Gaal was also putting his faith in youth amid frustrations with a number of senior stars.
Borthwick-Jackson rose to prominence under the guidance of the Dutchman five years ago and made 10 senior league appearances while being named the club’s U21 Player of the Year in 2016. Shortly after his breakthrough he was rewarded with a new long-term deal at the club – but following Jose Mourinho’s appointment he never played again.
Loan spells with Wolves, Leeds, Scunthorpe and Tranmere Rovers followed, before the youngster was recalled from Prenton Park in January 2020 and sent out to local side Oldham Athletic.
The loan spell at Boundary Park proved to be the confidence lift he needed as Borthwick-Jackson quickly established himself in the first team showcased the quality he still has to offer.
His release from United last summer officially brought to an end his 17-year association with the club, having joined at the age of six from Fletcher Moss Rangers, although the writing had been on the wall after mentor Van Gaal was sacked in 2016.
The 24-year-old wasn’t short of options when his release was confirmed, eventually deciding to re-join Oldham on a permanent deal where he again impressed with steady performances on the left hand side of defence.
His reward was a move to League One side Burton Albion, perhaps not the glamour he dreamed of at this stage of his career, but a steady sign of progress as he looks to rebuild his reputation and continue to move back up the divisions.
“We’re very happy to sign Cameron,” said new manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink upon his unveiling on Monday. “We have no left-backs in the building currently, and we needed to get one in. He has big potential, if we can get it right with him, and it’s a very exciting signing for us.”
In order to rebuild Borthwick-Jackson has himself already had to come to terms with his new standing within the game, using his frustration as fuel to prove doubters wrong rather than feel sorry for himself.
While he might watch on with slight envy as childhood friend Marcus Rashford looks to light up the European Championship later this week, Borthwick-Jackson is now focused on his big opportunity this summer.