Manchester United have embarked on a soul-searching mission after the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson almost a decade ago.
The side have gone through a mammoth 41 signings, spending over £850m, to try and hoist themselves back to the summit of English and European football, with some working far better than others.
Going through four different permanent managers, with just an FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League triumph to show for it, is far from what the club would have wanted to follow in the wake of the legendary Scottish manager, but with Executive Vice-Chairman Ed Woodward’s disastrous spell at the club finally coming to an end, there’s perhaps a little more hope for future than usual.
With all that in mind, here are the 41 signings post Ferguson ranked, with the best at number one and worst at 41.
41. Alexis Sanchez- Swap
United landed one of the Premier League’s best players on a free transfer, and yet somehow got completely robbed. Joining from Arsenal in a swap deal for Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Sanchez was a shadow of his former self, only scoring five times in 45 games. Reportedly paid close to £500,000-a-week, the Chilean left the club for Inter Milan in 2020. To sum up just how terrible this transfer was, the Red Devils are still paying part of his wages until the end of this season.
40. Angel Di Maria- £59.7m
Di Maria broke the English transfer record at £59.7m and was supposed to be the catalyst for United heading into a new era. Half-way through his debut season he looked disinterested and disillusioned. Eventually scurrying off to Paris after just one year at a cut price £44m.
DISAGREE? Who do you think has been United’s best and worst signings of the post-Fergie era? Let us know in the comments section.
39. Harry Maguire- £78.3m
When your £78.3m centre-half and captain has continuous question marks hanging over him, and is seen by many to need replacing, you know it hasn’t worked. Undeniably a good defender, Maguire doesn’t fit United’s system or style and is often targeted by nimble attackers as he has the turn of foot of a double decker bus going up a hill. A back five set-up probably favours him best, but that isn’t an option with this United crop. For someone so dominant in the air, seven goals is a poor return. There’s no chance of United getting half of that fee back even if they had the bottle to move him on.
38. Aaron Wan-Bissaka – £49.5m
Thinking they’d signed their right-back for the next 10 years, £49.5m looked a good deal for one of England’s and the league’s best young talents after a brilliant break-through season at Crystal Palace. As strong as his one-on-one defending is, he has not flourished at everything else and two years after joining he hasn’t got close to the England squad. Barring a massive turn around in form and talent, there’s no chance of recouping the fee paid for him.
37. Falcao- £6m loan fee
He was the deadliest and most revered striker on the planet a couple years prior to his arrival at Old Trafford, but Falcao was a huge disappointment after joining a plethora of striking options under Louis van Gaal. A serious knee injury sustained shortly before arriving robbed him of his best form, and the crowd of a true fan favourite. His loan fee plus astronomical wages materialised to just four goals in his only season with the club.
36. Morgan Schneiderlin – £25m
He looked a shrewd signing for a side in desperate need of a holding midfielder after impressing for Southampton as they qualified for the Europa League in the 2014/15 season. However, he turned out to be bang average in the van Gaal’s system and only started three games under Jose Mourinho before being shipped out 18 months after arriving. The only saving grace was somehow the Red Devils recovered £20m as he left for Everton.
35. Paul Pogba- £89m
United broke the world transfer record to bring Pogba back four years after he left the club for free. The marquee signing, supposedly bought to get the club back to the top, simply hasn’t worked out as planned, with just a League Cup and Europa League triumph to show for his troubles. He’s shown his unequivocal talent at times, but far too sparsely to justify the mammoth price tag. When he’s in full swing he’s one of the most talented midfielders on the planet, but those days are too few and far between. The constant noise from agent Mino Raiola in the background doesn’t help either and he looks certain to leave on a free in the summer.
34. Donny Van de Beek- £35.1m
A potentially harsh inclusion so far down the list given he wasn’t given a proper chance before leaving on loan in January, but Van de Beek has still been at the club for 18 months and has thus far failed to prove himself or produce anything like the scintillating performances he did for Ajax for four years prior to his move to Old Trafford. There’s still a chance he can hopefully find his feet, albeit it in a struggling Everton side, and become the player everyone thought he was going to be.
33. Memphis Depay- £26.3m
Signed from PSV with huge excitement, Depay looked to be worth the hype as he put in a fabulous performance against Club Brugge, scoring two and assisting another in the Champions League qualifier. But that would prove to be the pinnacle for the Dutchman’s United career, who managed only five more goals before leaving for Lyon 18 months later for £16m.
32. Marouane Fellaini- £27.5m
Fellaini was the first major signing of the post-Fergie era and in some ways epitomised the disastrous decade that would follow. Signed on deadline day for a higher price than his release clause earlier in the window, the Belgian was often unfairly scapegoated across his five-and-a-half year stint with the club, but at no point suggested to fans that he was worth getting behind. He played 177 games for the club but his best role was as a panic battering ram used by Mourinho when chasing results.
31. Romelu Lukaku- £75m
Seemingly worth every penny during his time at Everton, Lukaku started well in Manchester, scoring 27 across all competitions in his first year, but it all went downhill pretty quickly for the big Belgian who looked a little out of shape and out of touch for the remainder of his time. He left for Inter Milan after only two seasons, having never shown the Old Trafford faithful what he was capable of.
30. Bastian Schweinsteiger- £6.8m
Picked up way beyond his best years, the ‘Deutscher Fussballmeister’ was extremely popular amongs the fans due to his incredible career with Germany and Bayern Munich. However, he could never adapt to the league and often struggled with fitness. He was dropped to the reserves by Mourinho and forced out to America soon after.
29. Marcos Rojo- £16m
Extraordinarily, Rojo was never sent off despite his overly enthusiastic tackling style. The defender was signed following Argentina’s 2014 World Cup run to the final, and while he did have a decent spell under Mourinho, it was quickly stopped by a knee injury. With the club unable to shift him he spent 7 years as a utility player at Old Trafford before finally leaving.
28. Andy Kellett- Loan
Originally thought to be a wind-up when he was told of United’s interest, you’d be forgiven if you’ve never heard of him before. Joining United on-loan for the second half of the 2014/15 season, Kellett was a replacement for Saidy Janko (again you’ll be forgiven), who went the other way in the deal. He currently plays for Guiseley AFC in the National League North. The closest he got to the first team is this list.
27. Victor Valdes- Free
It’s still incredible to think this happened. Valdes joined United after his Barcelona contract came to an end, signing as backup for David De Gea, and the three-time Champions League winner appeared just twice before moving to Middlesbrough.
26. Lee Grant- £1.5m
Grant has been United’s third, and then fourth, choice keeper over the last few years, after being picked up following a man of the match performance for Stoke City at Old Trafford. He’s played just two games in almost four year, and at 39-years old, it’s fair to say he’s living the dream.
25. Tom Heaton- Free
Another goalkeeper who had the best seat to watch De Gea in training. Heaton left the club in 2010 after coming through the academy. Going on to become a safe pair of hands everywhere he went, he returned at the start of this season to be third choice, his only appearance came as a sub during a Champions League game against Young Boys. He has the best all-time clean sheet ratio of any United keeper.
24. Matteo Darmian- £12.7m
One of those players you forgot at times actually played for the club, even when on the pitch. A relative unknown when bought, Darmian started well but was soon found out. He was torn apart by Sanchez in the 3-0 defeat at the Emirates in 2015 and was used only sporadically when Luke Shaw suffered with injuries and fitness.
23. Guillermo Varela- £2.3m
The first signing of the post-Fergie era, Varela was signed from Uruguayan side Penarol after impressing at the 2013 South American Youth Championship. He made his debut in December 2015 and became a useful option for van Gaal at right-back amid an injury crisis. He assisted Marcus Rashford’s second against FC Midtjylland and played a huge part in Rashford’s two goals against Arsenal the following weekend.
22. Dan James- £16m
He was once compared to Ryan Giggs, but in reality, the only thing they had in common was their nationality. He scored an emotional debut goal against Chelsea before following it up with a rocket against Southampton. His limitations were soon clear and realisation he wasn’t at the required level were obvious.
21. Facundo Pellistri- £7.65m
Yet to feature for the senior side, the 20-year old is on loan at Alaves to gain first-team experience after his talent was clear in the U23’s. Capped by the Uruguayan senior side, he looks to have a bright future ahead of him and costing only £7.65m, seems a very smart investment.
20. Alex Telles- £13.5m
United were desperate for a left-back with a struggling Luke Shaw the only option. Telles arrived with a good reputation from Porto but has shown his vulnerability, especially defensively. His best impact at the club was pushing Shaw to regain his form, and apart from his great strike against Villarreal, when given the chance he’s left fans unfulfilled – though at £13.5m it’s not the worst signing.
19. Nemanja Matic- £35m
Another player signed a little too late, Matic could never quite replicate the fine form he showed for Chelsea in a United shirt. During his first season he looked to be the man to finally fill holding midfield void in the squad, but soon after that his lack of legs became too evident, and he struggled to play 90 minutes after that. The Serb still has great talent, but the clock is very quickly ticking down on him.
18. Amad Diallo- £18.9m
After United missed out on Jadon Sancho in the 2020 summer window, they spent that money on Pellistri and Diallo. A fee that can rise vastly above £18.9m, Diallo has looked impressive when brought on, even scoring against AC Milan in the Europa League. Currently on loan at Rangers, he’s got his whole career in front of him and could prove to be well worth the money.
17. Daley Blind- £13.8m
A player of great ability and intelligence, his knack of reading the game continually impressed, but his biggest hinderance, bar his pace, was his versatility. Van Gaal and Mourinho deployed him at centre-half, left back and holding midfield with him unable to make a spot his own.
16. Victor Lindelof- £30.9m
A strange signing by Mourinho with his style completely different to a typical centre-half the Portuguese would usually favour. Lindelof’s lack of physicality has been exposed and is the main reason he hasn’t gone on to be a mainstay. His passing is fantastic but the Premier League isn’t for him, could be a real talent in a less physical league.
15. Henrikh Mkhitaryan- £26.3m
An exciting signing from Borussia Dortmund, Mkhitaryan showed his true quality in the Europa League, even scoring in the final against Ajax in 2017, with his performances a huge part in the success. He failed to crack the Premier League and struggled despite scoring one of the league’s greatest goals against Sunderland. He was forced out the door 18 months later with the side using him as a sweetener in the Sanchez deal.
14. Eric Bailly- £30m
He enjoyed a great start to life at the club with performing at similar levels to the league’s best. However, a serious knee injury against Chelsea began injury problems that still plague him today. He’s shown in patches he could be a real star centre-half, but erratic moments paired with constant injury problems have hampered his career as his time at the club fades away.
13. Juan Mata- £37.5m
He was he big money January signing to turn David Moyes’ tenure around, and Mata arrived as one of the best players in the league following his time at Chelsea. His brace at Anfield will always be remembered but he’s really struggled since van Gaal departed. He’s looked finished at the club for the past three seasons, and there’s little chance the Spaniard will be sticking around beyond the summer, having failed to properly replicate the stunning form he showed in London.
12. Diogo Dalot- £19m
Before Ralf Rangnick’s arrival, Dalot would’ve found himself a lot higher in the list. However, his performances under the German coach have been promising with him displacing Wan-Bissaka at right-back. Mourinho claimed he was the best young full-back in Europe but he hasn’t looked any where near that in truth, but still only 23 he has time to improve and now with poor competition for the spot, now could be his time.
11. Fred- £52m
He’s had a small resurgence in the last couple years. Fred struggled when he joined the club and £50m for the Shakhtar Donetsk player seemed absurd given what rivals Manchester City were getting for around the same money. He improved under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and became a regular started in the side. Not £52m worth but played his part in big wins, notably away in Paris and in Manchester Derbies.
10. Edinson Cavani- Free
The kind of cult hero the fans have yearning for for years. Cavani rolled back the years at the end of last season, netting 10 times in the last two months of the campaign. This season he’s struggled with injuries but the feeling is most of those are fabricated due to an unwillingness to play. He’s set to leave at the end of the season with those memories of his 2020/21 campaign leaving fans wishing he was around in the prime of his career.
9. Anthony Martial- £44m
Martial had the potential to be a club hero, but ultimately hasn’t fulfilled his potential. Went straight to the hearts of United fans as he buried the red and blue half of Merseyside in his first season. First Liverpool with his famous debut goal, then Everton with his last-minute FA Cup semi-final winning goal. He played a huge part under van Gaal and was the man in his debut season. Struggled under Mourinho with inconsistency in selection. Enjoyed good spells under Solskjaer but couldn’t recover his golden touch. His United career isn’t over, but time is running out.
8. Sergio Romero- Free
He was one of the best number two keepers in world football and was as dependable and reliable as they come as he deputised for De Gea. He played every knockout game, including the final during the Europa League winning campaign, he conceded an incredible four goals in 12 games. Just a shame for him he was behind United’s best player at the time.
7. Raphael Varane- £36.5m
Known to his French teammates as Champions League Varane, the four time winner of the competition finally joined the Red Devils at the start of this season, 10 years after he was initially wanted by Ferguson. He has struggled for fitness but when he’s played there’s no doubt the side are stronger, if he stays fit he’ll be a massive part of the United side going forward and has brought the best out of Maguire on occasions when they’ve partnered.
6. Ander Herrera- £29m
Enormously popular with the fans with some calling for him to be captain due to his passion and seemingly embodying the understanding of playing for club. He struggled at first under van Gaal but became a key player for the Dutchman and Mourinho. He started well under Solskjaer before injuries disrupted the end of his season. He sorely left on a free to PSG after 189 games for the club.
5. Cristiano Ronaldo- £13.5m
After 12 years away, the day all United fans dreamed of finally came as Cristiano Ronaldo returned, re-joining the side he won his first Champions League and Ballon d’Or with. But his impact on the side divides opinion outside Old Trafford. He played a major part in United getting out of their Champions League group stage this season, and is the side’s top scorer this season with 18 goals so far, double that of Bruno Fernandes in second.
But to many, the side wouldn’t need those late winners if the side had been more balanced in the first place, owing to the 37-year-old’s reluctance to press.
4. Zlatan Ibrahimovic- Free
The Swedish hero showed the Premier League what it had been missing. The 35-year old oozed class as he spearheaded a United side to their most recent trophies, scoring 28 times in his first season, including the winner in the League Cup final. An ACL injury ended his season and ultimately time in Manchester early, but he still picked up a Europa League winners’ medal. He returned the following season well off the pace and moved to LA Galaxy shortly after.
3. Luke Shaw- £31m
Shaw became the most expensive teenager in football when he was signed and after a rollercoaster time at the club, became the best left-back in the Premier League last season. He struggled in his first season with fitness before he suffered a horrendous leg break in his second season. He unsurprisingly struggled with confidence and fitness issues on return but Solskjaer finally unlocked his potential after a fractious time under Mourinho. Currently struggling for form but last season proved the player United bought him to be can still be reached.
2. Jadon Sancho- £76.5m
It’s still early days but United have got their hands on one of football’s brightest talents. His control and close quarters play is exceptional and after a tough start he is becoming the player United had courted since his days in City’s academy. Still with much to give but with this much talent at only 21, he could finally be the face of the rebuild.
1.Bruno Fernandes- £49.5m
Far and away the best piece of business done by United post-Fergie. He completely changed the fortunes of the side in his first season at the club and became a world-class talent in his second season. Breaking Frank Lampard’s previous record of most goals in a season by a midfielder playing in the Premier League, and with fewer penalties. He’s slowed down this year due to him deployed in different roles in an ever-changing system, but he could have the catalyst affect needed to propel United back to the top.