He was the toothy teenager whose searing pace on the wing and uncanny ability to drift past defenders for fun was supposed to push David Beckham into a central midfield role. When injury strikes, however, realism kicks in and dreams have to be modified.
Ten years on from his debut as a Fergie fledgling, Luke Chadwick is little more than a footnote in the storied history of Manchester United.
He isn't looking for sympathy because, while fate took one opportunity away from him, it has finally delivered another, the chance to etch his name in the annals of a club with no history, Milton Keynes Dons.
Chadwick's tale is a lurching, staccato affair. Injuries have limited him to just 167 league starts in a decade for eight different clubs, including Burnley, tomorrow's FA Cup third round visitors at stadium:mk.
Where he stands now is as a 29-year-old looking to claw back lost time. He said: 'I'm hoping to get it back at the end of my career. Coming into this season was the best I had felt since I was 18 or 19. Fitter and stronger. Hopefully I deserve to have that bit of luck to steer clear of injuries from now on.'
From the groin surgery which robbed him of his greatest asset, speed, even before he turned 22, to a freak knee injury which cut into his muscles to a shoulder operation and even collapsing unconscious on the pitch through dehydration on the opening day of the season while at Stoke, Chadwick has been a walking disaster. Well, not so much of the walking, actually.
What he has been spared is bitterness. He recalls his days at Old Trafford with fondness, the Champions League trips on which he and his youth team-mates Wes Brown and John O'Shea hoped for a cameo substitute appearance to help their bank balance and an unlikely ally among United's senior players.
Superstar's super-sub: David Beckham makes way for Chadwick in 2001
He added: 'If you just got a couple of seconds at the end of a Champions League game you'd get the full bonus. It would be about half-a-year's wages for us. A lot of money.
'It happened once for me. I think it was in Basle. It was freezing. I came on for the last 30 seconds and didn't get anywhere near the ball but I was absolutely buzzing. We used to have a laugh about it.
'Of the senior players, Roy Keane was great with the young lads. He'd help us out. He was the captain. Any problems we had, we'd go to him and he'd sort stuff out for us. Anything really. Contracts, stuff like that.
'You could just ask his advice and if he could help, he would. If the manager was putting pressure on you to do something, he'd be the go-between who could sort it out.
'I had to have a couple of operations on my groin and after that I never really had the same speed I had before. The chances got fewer and fewer at United, I went on loan a few times and I knew that my future wasn't going to lie there.
'It did take a while to adapt to losing that incredible pace to beat players when really that was what my game was all about, running with the ball as fast as I could. I've probably only really got used to playing in a different way in the last couple of years. More passing and moving than running with the ball.
Golden memories: Chadwick celebrates scoring against Leeds United in 2001
'I'm just happy to be still playing football. I can't really help what people think, whether they know about the injuries or not, I have to just go out and do my best for myself.'
As befits a new club, Chadwick found no preconceptions in Milton Keynes. His body has latterly been free from aches and pains and he has adapted to a new role just behind the strikers.
The limitations of his past have given way to a future without boundaries in a city, driven along by MK Dons' effervescent chairman Pete Winkelman, which will form part of England's 2018 World Cup bid.
'I've never met a chairman who is so enthusiastic, always around and buzzing about the place. His enthusiasm gets everyone to push in the same direction. It's a really good club to be at, it's just so new, a chance to put the place on the map.
'For the players it's a good thing that the club doesn't have a history. It's your opportunity to make a history for the club. It's unique in that way. It's not steeped in 100 years of players coming through.
'It's only six or seven years old, the gates are growing and the goal of the chairman is to get all the way up to the Premier League. With the facilities here, I don't see any reason why we shouldn't get there.
'I was on loan at Burnley for a season. There was a good fanbase there, a lot of the people who live in the town support their local team, but if you went to the two clubs and you didn't know about football, you would assume this was the Premier League club here. The cup tie is a chance to show that this club can move forward.'
And that Luke Chadwick can be more than just another United footnote.
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