As we enter the January window, Manchester United’s need for new pariahs has arguably never been so great. With one unwanted waste of talent making his way to the nearest ‘ausfahrt’ and another clinging onto his wage packet for dear life, it feels a fitting moment to reflect on the worst signings made in the decade since their last title win in 2013. Let us take you for a walk through the Theatre of Ineptitude.
The Ten Worst Manchester United Transfers Of The Last Decade:
10. Victor Lindelof – Signed from Benfica: £31 million
To begin the countdown, we start with Victor Lindelof, who was signed by Jose Mourinho in the 2017 summer transfer window. Some may consider his addition to this list a little unfair, but he’s never really established himself as a United centre half. Upon arriving, Mourinho was told by scouts in Portugal that Lindelof had all the attributes to make it at the very top level, yet his performances against the pace and power of those in the Premier League have often been lacking. Many would rush to argue Maguire was a worse signing considering his fee and moments of embarrassment as the captain of the club, but it’s easy to recognise what Maguire’s qualities are. Lindelof, less so.
9. Angel Di Maria – Signed from Real Madrid: £59.7 million
At number 9 on the list – Angel Di Maria. There is no doubt that Di Maria had an abundance of talent and trickery with the ability to find his teammates in the right positions. His final season culminated in 26 assists in all competitions and with his ability to play from either side, it was felt Di Maria could finally fill a void on the right flank not seriously filled since before Antonio Valencia’s rebirthing as a right back.
His debut? A stalemate at Turf Moor where Di Maria operated in deeper-lying midfield positions. His supporters would argue that Van Gaal was not the right manager to get the best out of him, or that he still finished his sole season with 11 assists in the league. But considering the outlay, the hype and the subsequent failure to make a meaningful impact on the team, he therefore finds a space on this list.
8. Morgan Schneiderlin – Signed from Southampton: £24 million
There may be some readers out there thinking ‘Who?’ or perhaps ‘No way, I forgot about him!’ Schneiderlin’s move to United came on the back of some solid performances in a Southampton side that was punching above its weight. He described the move to Old Trafford as his ‘dream move’ and worked tirelessly in the engine room – something that was lacking in the side. But like many a player to make the move to the red side of Manchester in the last decade, Schneiderlin found the pressure and intensity of playing for United too much. Lots of the qualities that had brought him to the attention of United’s scouting department were largely absent and he was unceremoniously shipped out to Everton for a small loss. Gone and (almost) forgotten.
7. Paul Pogba – Signed from Juventus: £89 million
At number 7, we have Paul Labile Pogba. Unquestionably one of, if not, the most divisive players in United’s entire history. After being overlooked as a teenager to start for the club, Pogba and his agent, Mino Raiola, decided to try their luck in another country. It proved a masterstroke.
So when Pogba arrived back at United four years later with a tall reputation, the expectations were exceptional – perhaps impossibly so. He had all the physical attributes to be a real star of the Premier League. Solid range of passing, strength, and flair. Whilst his skills could have been considered ‘top tier’, his mentality was national league. He developed an ‘NBA mentality’ of wanting to look flashy and have everyone talk about him but refused to contribute to some of the basics for the good of the team, which left supporters incensed. After being offered a fair contract to stay at the club, Pogba and his agency team decided to pursue new goals and ‘make United regret not offering’ what he thought he was worth. His limping out of a humbling against Liverpool was a fitting epitaph to his United career.
He is currently serving a worldwide ban from football for adverse drug findings.
6. Radamel Falcao – Signed from AS Monaco: £6 million loan fee
El Tigre. At one point, one of the most feared strikers in Europe. He was not magnificent in stature but could score goals with either foot and was exceptional in the air. Attributes like these would naturally attract any top team to the talents of a centre-forward like Falcao.
An ACL tear curtailed his 2013-14 season at Monaco, where he had notched a respectable 9 goals in 17 matches. When he was ushered through the doors to enhance the attacking options of Louis Van Gaal, it was thought he could rediscover some of the form that made him such a respected talent. What followed was a largely forgettable season with a return of 4 goals in 29 appearances. The highlight perhaps winning a penalty against Southampton in a game that lacked real quality. With his wages thrown into the mix, Falcao’s goals worked out at just a tick under £5 million apiece. Certainly not value for money and kindly shown the door to endure further nightmarish form at Chelsea.
5. Wout Weghorst – Signed from Burnley: £2.7 million loan fee + compensation to Besiktas
Most United fans wanted it to work out with Weghorst. He was a willing runner who would press opposition defences and look to use his size to hold the ball up for his teammates. Pretty much anything a modern-day striker is not. When he was brought in during the January 2023 window, expectations were pretty low given Burnley – then a Championship side – was willing to loan him out in their quest to get back into the Premier League. But Weghorst had started brightly in Türkiye and rediscovered his Midas touch that had earned him a move to English shores. After compensating Besiktas for his early loan termination, Weghorst was bled straight into the team and was praised by Erik ten Hag for his tenacity, even if goals were not on offer straight away.
Sadly, the goals never came at all. 31 appearances: 0 league goals, 1 League Cup goal, 1 Europa League goal. Perhaps being at number 5 carries a certain recency bias, but he failed to have a telling impact and his failure to land a permanent deal came as a surprise to no one.
4. Donny Van de Beek – Signed from Ajax: £34 million
English fans became enamoured with the attacking exploits of Ajax during their unexpected journey in the Champions League during the 2018/19 season. One player who caught the eye on more than one occasion was a player by the name of Donny Van De Beek. You may remember him from such shows as ‘Live from the Old Trafford Bench’ and ‘The Treatment Room: I Hardly Knew Thee’.
It is incredible to think that he only managed six league starts in the United since signing for the team back in 2020. Given he has competed with Bruno Fernandes for the number 10 role in the 4231 system, most fans would acknowledge that he was always facing an uphill battle against a player of such pivotal importance. He was afforded a loan to Everton under an unsuccessful Frank Lampard and still failed to crack the first team, leading to more images like the one seen above. Frustrated, forlorn and thirsting for a return to action, he has, as of January 2024, sealed a loan to Eintracht Frankfurt. You have to question after so many years idling away on various benches, whether we will ever see Van de Beek find form again.
3. Antony – signed from Ajax: £87 million
This top 3 could be altered on any given day, but when weighing up the expectations of the three players and his efforts to transition backwards with the team, Antony finds himself at number 3. At his best, he is reminiscent of a Futsal player rather than an elite footballer. At his worst, he resembles your drunk uncle trying to prove that Michael Flatley was nothing special, with pointless leg spasms and his infamous Beyblade spin driving fans into a state of apoplexy.
His fee is sizeable; he can’t seem to beat a man; he can’t find his teammates in the box; he hasn’t scored in what seems like an age. All this within 18 months is pretty spectacular. With a certain other winger making the move ‘back home’, the scrutiny with which Antony’s performances are regarded will only intensify. With INEOS representatives watching matches with increasing frequency, you sense time may be running out for the Spin lord of Sao Paolo.
2. Jadon Sancho – Signed from Borussia Dortmund: £73 million
We’re all familiar with Sancho’s story. He went to Dortmund to prove Pep had made a mistake and was rewarded for his bullishness by becoming a stalwart in a young and exciting Dortmund attack. After baulking at the nine-figure fee quoted, United waited until the following summer to land their man in a move that cost £73 million and made him one of the best-paid players in the world. Not bad at the age of 21.
He arrived with an outrageous amount of hype and was seen as the apparent solution to United’s right-wing problems. But it’s just never clicked for him. Various stories about his professionalism began to emerge, most notably after his public falling out with Erik ten Hag. What sticks in the craw for a lot of supporters is the amount of time and resources offered to get him into the best place he could be by the senior management at the club. He cut off his nose to spite his face in failing to make amends with the manager. Sancho now claims to feel ‘back home’ and has been videoed kissing the BVB badge, liking tweets from Fabrizio Romano to announce his transfer. Let’s hope he can be bothered to show up to his own medical on time.
1. Alexis Sanchez – signed from Arsenal: Swap deal involving Henrikh Mkhitaryan
For anyone wondering where Alexis Sanchez figures in this list, wonder no longer. To say United managed to swap Mkhitaryan for Sanchez sounded like, on the face of things, a great deal. Another feather in the cap of this signing was managing to convince a seemingly City-bound Sanchez to don the red of United over their bitter rivals. The small matter of £500,000 a week (excluding bonuses) probably helped turn the odds in United’s favour.
From the outside looking in, they were getting a phenomenal attacking talent. Nearly a goal every other game for Arsenal and Barcelona suggested that this boy was the real deal. But his unveiling video on that magnificent grand piano was about a sweet note as he struck in his time there. Social media was awash with endless statistics illustrating just how detrimental his performances were in thwarting United’s attempts to control games. He truly stank out stadium after stadium and the regard he entered Old Trafford with, had evaporated sensationally. 18 months later it was all over for Sanchez at United with a heavily subsidised loan move to Inter Milan bringing down the final curtain on an exasperatingly poor transfer. An estimated £40 million in wages – or around £8 million per goal. The worst transfer of the last decade? Without the faintest of doubts.
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