Media Referee

5 of the biggest flop signings at Manchester United since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson


5 biggest flops signings at Man United since the departure of Sir Alex

Sir Alex Ferguson’s illustrious and distinguished reign at Old Trafford, which stretched over two-and-a-half decades from 1986 to 2013, was arguably the most memorable era in Man United’s history in English football.

Several legends of the beautiful game were a part of a period that saw the Red Devils consolidate their position as one of the powerhouses in Europe.

The proud Scot’s influential and charismatic stewardship was instrumental in guiding Man United to as many as 38 major titles over the course of 26 years, including 13 Premier League crowns, 5 FA Cups, 4 League Cups and 3 UEFA Champions League titles. 

However, things have hardly been the same since the talismanic and legendary manager brought down the curtains on his trophy-laden managerial career at the end of the 2012-13 season, which was the last time that United had managed to claim the bragging rights in English football with a Premier League triumph.

The Red Devils have been in some kind of a downward spiral since Sir Alex’s departure, with United only winning a handful of silverware over the course of the last six seasons, including the 2016-17 UEFA Europa League as well as the FA Cup and the League Cup.

The lack of silverware in the recent past is unlikely to tarnish the legacy that the legendary Scotsman built over such a long time, however, one cannot help but question the kind of transfer policy that the club has adopted since his departure.

David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, and Jose Mourinho each tried to impose their own brand of philosophy, both in terms of the style of play as well as the transfer approach, although neither of them proved proficient enough to last for a considerable time.

Being one of the most decorated clubs in the world, the financial backing in the transfer window was never a problem for all the managers who took over at Old Trafford since the departure of Sir Alex.

The club’s vice-executive chairman Ed Woodward has given his seal of approval to several high profile transfers over the past six seasons but his rate of failure has been quite alarming.

United haven’t got much out of the staggering money that they have spent since the retirement of Sir Alex, with the Red Devils opting to splash the cash on several ageing and established players with little or no success.

A former player under Sir Alex, Man United’s current manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has made an attempt to bring a sense of stability at the helm of affairs since taking over the reins from Mourinho back in December last year.

The Norwegian, who is pretty well-versed with Sir Alex’s age-old methods of building a strong platform for continued success, has already made his intentions very clear with the acquisition of top-quality homegrown domestic talents. 

United, however, still look more or less like a disjointed unit comprising of several players brought in by different managers. That is currently the challenge on Solskjaer’s hands and he would need time to build a squad in his own image and ultimately work towards the revival of the club.

Let us take a look at some of United’s most expensive flop signings since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson.

1. Paul Pogba – £89million

The expectations surrounding the return of Paul Pogba to Old Trafford were rocketing sky-high when United splashed a club-record fee of £89million to re-sign their former academy product from Juventus back in 2016. Three years down the line, the Red Devils would probably now look at the move as nothing but a waste of money. 

Indeed, Pogba enjoyed his most fruitful spell as a footballer in the 2018-19 season, having racked up a total of 16 goals and 11 assists in all competitions under Solskjaer and Mourinho.

While those stats on paper show that he was one of United’s best players last season, Pogba himself would probably know that he was far from his best. 

The Frenchman arrived at Old Trafford as a marquee and marketable asset and, though United have got their returns from the player, Pogba has failed to deliver the goods on a consistent basis.

Despite teasing the fans with some awe-inspiring moments of individual brilliance, Pogba seemingly doesn’t have the character and the mentality to take the club to greater heights. Not really what you would want from an £89million signing!

2. Angel Di Maria – £59.7million

United splashed a then club-record amount to bring Angel Di Maria to the club from Real Madrid and the Argentinian magician inherited the famous No.7 shirt at Old Trafford which was previously worn by the likes of David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo, George Best, and Eric Cantona.

The winger arrived with a massive reputation of scoring and creating goals for fun but what followed was less than impressive.

Di Maria’s classy finish in a victory over Leicester City became one of the few highlights of his short and ill-fated stay at United, as the Argentinian struggled to cope with the physicality of the Premier League.

It became more and more apparent that he didn’t have the necessary attributes to cut the mustard in the English top-flight and United had to cut their losses on him in the following summer.

3. Fred – £52million

The Brazilian midfield enforcer looked like a real coup for United when the Red Devils splashed a daunting £52million fee to nab him from Shakhtar Donetsk. However, one year down the line, United cannot help but feel that they have been way too wasteful with their finances in the transfer market.

Jose Mourinho was the man responsible for bringing the Brazilian to Old Trafford in the summer of 2018 but even he found it impossible to entrust Fred with a regular starting role in the team.

It is not very often that you see a £52million-rated player go without playing a game for nearly two months in a season while still being fit. That pretty much sums how shambolic Fred has been over the past twelve months.

The Brazilian showed some signs of promise under Solskjaer last season but he flattered to deceive more often than not, and nothing short of an excellent 2019-20 campaign could possibly save him from the chop.

4. Romelu Lukaku- £75million

Romelu Lukaku struggled for regular minutes at Chelsea earlier in his career but he arrived at Man United for £75millionas a bonafide goalscorer for Everton, having struck 87 goals in 166 appearances for the Toffees prior to his arrival at Old Trafford in 2017.

It looked as if the Belgian had all the attributes to be the next prolific No.9 at United when he netted 27 goals in all competitions in his first season at the club.

However, a sudden loss of form in the 2018-19 season saw him finish with a mediocre tally of 15 goals in all competitions and he fell out of favour under Solskjaer towards the end of the campaign.

A tally of 42 goals in 96 games do not look bad on paper but in all honesty, anybody who has watched him play would know that he lacks the technical abilities and the natural finesse to consistently rack up the goals at a club of United’s stature.

A glaring misfit for Solskjaer’s style of play, Lukaku was truly pathetic last season and United have made the right move by offloading him to Inter Milan.

5. Eric Bailly – £30million

The Ivorian has proven himself to be an impetuous defender with a poor injury record at Old Trafford and truth be told, he has never looked like a centre-back who has the quality to be a regular starter for any top-six club in the Premier League.

Bailly had a strong debut season at United and managed to establish himself as one of the first names on Mourinho’s teamsheet, making a total of 24 starts in the Premier League and also helping the Red Devils win the Europa League.

However, he slipped down the pecking order after that due to several injuries and even when he played, the Ivorian’s habit of letting his team down with moments of madness and lapses in concentration made him unpopular amongst the fans.

He has certainly not proved himself worthy of the £30million that Man United had spent to bring him to Old Trafford.