Manchester United will now endure yet another season with no silverware after they were dumped out of the Champions League by Atletico Madrid on Tuesday.
The Red Devils are fast approaching ten years without a Premier League title, and United have failed to recover from Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure, despite investing billions into the transfer market. United’s gross transfer spend is £1.4 billion over the past ten years, and they have very little to show for it.
United keep investing millions to try and get their side back to winning ways, but their transfer policy has been nothing short of a disaster over the past decade, and the fact that they’ve only won two knockout ties in Europe since 2011 sums up their lack of dominance since Ferguson’s exit.
With over a billion lost in transfer blunders, here Mirror Football takes a look at the biggest mistakes United have made in the transfer market over the last decade…
Angel Di Maria
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In 2014, United made a huge statement by signing Angel Di Maria from Real Madrid in a deal worth £60m, but it was a complete disaster. The star clearly regretted the move instantly as he spent just one season in England, and United sold him to PSG the following summer, making a £15m loss after 12 months.
Di Maria is an excellent talent, but it never worked out for him at United as he only scored three league goals in 27 games. The Argentine refused to join United’s pre-season tour in 2015, and forced a move to PSG, where he has won 17 trophies since.
Southampton were oozing with talent in 2014, and after United swooped in to sign Luke Shaw, they returned a year later to sign Morgan Schneiderlin to resolve their midfield issues. However, the Frenchman wasn’t the answer, and the Southampton legend only made 31 appearances in the Premier League across two seasons after signing for £25m.
The midfielder then joined Everton in 2017, and began to find his feet in the Premier League once more, but is now playing for French side Nice. United’s midfield is still a problem area now in 2022, but it’s been an area that they’ve failed to strengthen to the required standard for eight years.
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Paul Pogba remains United’s record signing, but the Frenchman is on the verge of leaving the club for nothing for the second time in his career. United re-signed Pogba for £89m in 2016 after he initially left Old Trafford for Juventus, and he could depart the club again at the end of the season when his contract expires.
Pogba hasn’t been a total disaster since returning to United, but he was meant to take them to the next level. However, it would be difficult to argue he’s come close to living up to the expectations placed upon him.
When United parted ways with Di Maria, Louis van Gaal replaced him with promising youngster Memphis Depay, but the Dutchman suffered a similar fortune. Depay took over the no.7 shirt, which became cursed at United for some time, and the £25m that was paid to Dutch side PSV was a waste as he only scored two league goals in 33 appearances.
The Dutchman left Old Trafford two years later, and joined French club Lyon, where he proved exactly what he was capable of, and demonstrated the reason that United signed him in the first place. After scoring 63 league goals in four seasons for Lyon, Depay joined Barcelona in 2021, and is still currently at the Catalan side.
When Anthony Martial scored on his debut as a teenager against Liverpool, United and the rest of the Premier League thought that a star had been born, but things haven’t worked out that way for the Frenchman. Martial arrived at Old Trafford from Monaco in 2015 for a deal that could rise to £59m, and there was even famously a Ballon d’Or clause as part of the move.
But the Frenchman has failed to hold his place at United, and he is now on loan at Spanish side Sevilla. It looks unlikely that he will be able to work his way back into the side any time soon.
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Fred was signed by United in 2018 for £47m as they beat Manchester City to his signature, but until recently, they probably wish they hadn’t. The Brazilian was meant to be their catalyst in the midfield, but United’s issues in the centre of the park remain and Fred wasn’t the answer.
Fred has seen a vast improvement under Ralf Rangnick, and fans have even joked that he is starting to ‘look Brazilian’, but his high price-tag is yet to be justified. A few good performances here and there haven’t done enough to warrant a regular place in the side for Fred.
United also beat City to the signing of Harry Maguire, as they splashed out a whopping £80m to sign the former Leicester centre-back. However, the defender continues to be scrutinised, and although in an England shirt he appears fantastic, he lacks consistency in the famous red colours of United.
Maguire remains the most expensive defender of all-time, and the weight of that expectation continues to affect the United captain, who can’t seem to catch a break at Old Trafford. A summer exit isn’t out of the question for the defender.
Aaron Wan Bissaka
After signing Maguire who became the most expensive defender of all-time, United then made Aaron Wan Bissaka the sixth-most expensive, paying Crystal Palace £50m for him. The full-back arrived with a lot of expectation, and initially looked the real deal, but he has since been dropped for Diogo Dalot as he struggles to remain consistent.
Back in 2019, Wan Bissaka was even being compared to Trent Alexander-Arnold by some fans, but there is no longer a debate, with the pair enjoying very different career trajectories. Like Maguire, a move away from Old Trafford could be on this summer.
Donny van de Beek
Donny van de Beek was wanted by all of Europe in 2019 after starring in Ajax’s golden generation side that made the semi-finals of the Champions League. United beat Real Madrid to the signing of the Dutchman in 2020, as they spent £40m on the midfielder, but he has been an outcast since moving to England.
Van de Beek has already been loaned out to Everton, and has only made 27 league appearances since making the move, in a bizarre sequence of events at Old Trafford. The 24-year-old has seen his confidence deteriorate at United, and he’s now facing a relegation battle with Everton.
Romelu Lukaku is the most bought player of all-time as his transfer fees combined have seen £285m be spent on the Belgian over the course of his career. One of the sides that contributed heavily to that was United, who paid £75m to Everton back in 2017, although he only lasted for two seasons.
Lukaku seemingly wasn’t the right fit for United, and they sold him to Inter Milan for £65m, where he evolved into one of the best strikers in the world. Chelsea then paid £97.5m for him this summer, although he has had to settle for life on the bench in recent weeks due to the rise of Kai Havertz.