There was a time when the prospect of an American player making an appearance for Manchester United would have been laughable.
However, that which would have been unimaginable in the late 1980s became a reality in the early noughties, when Tim Howard was United's first choice goalkeeper for an extended period of time. Yet, there is another American player who appeared for United during this time period: Jonathan Spector.
In 2004, United once saw two American players on the pitch at the same time. In the 2004 FA Community Shield Final, Howard started for the Reds and Spector came on as a late substitute for John O'Shea. Spector was spotted by a United scout as a member of the US U-17 squad at the 2003 Milk Cup. The United States had qualified for the 2002 FIFA World Cup Quarterfinals, and with young, new players breaking through at the biggest club in the world it seemed the US was about to break through as a world football superpower.
Of course, that is not what happened. The American National Team regressed, crashing out at the group stages of the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Unfortunately for him, Spector's career path has really followed that of the USMNT over the last 11 years. He regressed a bit, and was never able to establish himself at United, only making three appearances.
In 2006, Spector was loaned out to Charlton Athletic, and impressed while appearing 20 times. Unfortunately for Spector, he did not impress enough to convince Sir Alex Ferguson to give him a chance to play regularly, and Spector was sold to West Ham United for £500,000.
The American went on to spend five years with the Hammers, and enjoyed a career renaissance. In spite of missing nearly all of the 2008-2009 season with an injury, he was a member of the United States 23-man squad at the 2009 Confederations Cup tournament. Spector had the pleasure of playing a part in one of the greatest moments in US history when they upset Spain in the quarterfinals. La Roja entered the match as the number one team in the world, and had won 15 matches in a row while going unbeaten in their previous 35. The Americans continued on, and nearly upset Brazil in the final, where Spector assisted on Clint Dempsey's opening goal before the US blew a 2-0 lead in the second half to lose 3-2.
That would be Spector's high water mark with the national team. Although he maintained his place as a regular call up by manager Bob Bradley and he played regularly the next year for West Ham, Spector was a member of the 23-man squad for the 2010 FIFA World Cup but never made an appearance.
Spector remained a staple of a Bob Bradley roster, but stopped being called up regularly once Jurgen Klinsmann took the reigns after the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Since then, he has only made one appearance: as a substitute in the USA's 1-0 victory over Italy in Genoa in 2012.
After the 2011 season, West Ham released the American defender, and he moved to Birmingham City in the English Championship. He has been a staple of their first team, appearing at least 24 times for the first team each season. In the 2014-15 season, he has made 26 appearances with 24 coming in the league. Recently, the 29-year-old and Birmingham City announced that they had agreed a two-year contract extension.