No manager will ever be able to replicate the legacy Sir Alex Ferguson forged at Manchester United.
His legendary stint as manager saw him completely overhaul the Red Devils from his 1986 arrival, re-establishing them as a footballing giant and dominating the modern era English football.
He retired in 2013 having won 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cups, two Champions Leagues and countless other accolades, closing the curtain on a sustained era of dominance that will likely never be matched by any one manager.
By the end of his tenure, the club was run around Ferguson, explaining why United have struggled so significantly in the time since his retirement.
From style, to attitudes, to recruitment, Ferguson left his mark everywhere. The Scotsman was always able to make the signings he wanted to from the moment he arrived, as was the norm in football in previous years, but maintained that control over incomings and outgoings over the years to come, developing an incredible eye for talent and taking players well beyond their potential.
Not everyone could cope with the demands of Ferguson’s management, but that’s why United were so successful. Those that could, flourished. He turned top players into winners, and even made players who probably weren’t at the required level look effective.
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Naturally, though, not every signing Ferguson made in his near 27 years in charge at Old Trafford paid off. It’s quite simply impossible to achieve such a track record in the hit and miss world of the transfer market, especially with the fluctuating and ever increasing transfer fees that raise the stakes.
However, while there was the bad with the good, there is also a smaller bracket of Ferguson’s signings that were seriously ugly. A select group of players that just did not fit the mould. Like, at all. Some unfortunate, others a complete gamble.
So, in honour of all those great United teams Ferguson assembled through the years, we at GIVEMESPORT have assembled one of our own, creating an XI of his worst ever signings.
GK: Massimo Taibi
Replacing Peter Schmeichel is no easy job, and United’s constant struggle until landing on Edwin van der Sar in 2005 was testament to that.
In the time between those two greats, though, there were a number of failed experiments, the worst of which was Taibi. Signed from Venezia in 1999, he was remembered for a small handful of error-ridden performances, including that goal against Southampton which somehow went through his legs.
RB: Phil Jones
We’ve gone a bit Tony Pulis to make it work here, so forgive us for using four central defenders across the back line.
Jones’ time at United has been conflicting. Some loathe him, others envy him, most wonder what could’ve been. He started like a house on fire as a youngster, and was once tipped by Ferguson to be the club’s greatest ever player. When you consider how it’s gone since, he has to go down as a flop.
CB: Pat McGibbon
Ferguson plucked a teenage McGibbon straight from Northern Irish outfit Portadown, merely a year after he’d signed his first professional deal, for a fee of around £100,000 in 1992.
Unfortunately, his talent radar wasn’t quite working as, on his debut, McGibbon was sent off in a 3-0 defeat to York City in the League Cup. He failed to make a league appearance for United and left for good in 1997.
CB: William Prunier
The French defender joined United on trial in late 1995 after they’d bought out his Bordeaux contract, but would find himself thrusted into the first-team and partnering Gary Neville in defence, following an injury crisis.
While his debut was a success, the following game against Tottenham was the opposite. Prunier was exposed and run ragged in a makeshift United lineup, conceding four against Spurs. He left swiftly after that.
LB: Neil Whitworth
Whitworth impressed United while playing for Wigan in 1990 which prompted Ferguson to snap him up for £45,000 that summer.
His debut came nine months later, but Whitworth would not play for the Red Devils again after that and was shipped out on a series of loans, before leaving for Kilmarnock in 1994. Complete miss.
We all know how this one went. Ferguson and United paid around £7.4m to sign Bebe in 2010, despite Ferguson later admitting to never actually watching him in person.
Signing for United is a moment he will never forget and Bebe has since gone on to make a career for himself in football, which is an incredible story considering his beginnings. But he was never cut out to make it at Old Trafford, which became very clear in the few games he played.
Kleberson signed alongside Cristiano Ronaldo in the summer of 2003 in a £6.5m deal, a year on from impressing in midfield as Brazil won the World Cup.
It became swiftly apparent that Ferguson had not got the player he saw at the World Cup, though, and he was out of the door after two mightily underwhelming years, heading to Besiktas. A monumental misjudgement.
CM: Eric Djemba-Djemba
So good they named him twice. If only.
Djemba-Djemba impressed at Nantes with his unrelenting play style and aggression in the tackle, and was eyed as a potential successor to Roy Keane. We don’t need to tell you that it absolutely did not pan out that way. He endured a difficult 18 months, of which the highlight was probably a goal against Leeds, before leaving for Aston Villa.
LM: Gabriel Obertan
Obertan arrived with an air of mystique in 2009. A young French winger from Bordeaux who was incredibly quick, Ferguson paid around £3m to snap him up.
Pace was just about all Obertan could show in a United shirt, though, as he struggled tremendously to make an impact or find a way into the team in what was a transitional United squad. Obertan was well below the required level, and was gone by 2012.
ST: Diego Forlan
While United fans will always hold a special place in their hearts for Forlan because of his brace at Anfield, the truth is that he underwhelmed massively as a Red Devil.
Considering the success he had after leaving United in 2004 makes it worse, as the Uruguayan was absolutely capable of being a hit at Old Trafford. He couldn’t settle, though, and competing with Ruud van Nistelrooy just made matters worse.
Impressing in a trial in late 2007, Manucho signed for United in January 2008, leaving the Angolan league at the age of 24 to head to one of the biggest clubs in world football.
Manucho would have had to have been a seriously hidden gem to arrive at United at that age from such a low level and hit the ground running. He wasn’t, and he didn’t. The Angolan forward failed to impress at the beginning of the 2008/09 season, looking well off the pace, and was sold in 2009.
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