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Man Utd’s 10 worst transfers of all time

Martin Macdonald
Jadon Sancho, Erik ten Hag
© ProShots/FootballTransfers

Premier League giants Manchester United are one of the biggest clubs in the world, and some of the greatest players in history have spent large proportions of their career at Old Trafford.

Particularly under the tenure of Sir Alex Ferguson, the Red Devils became famed for stringing together various successful squads that spanned a number of years.

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Ferguson was an expert at freshening up his squad whenever it became stale, and the Scot made some of the shrewdest transfers of all time in his 26 years at Old Trafford.

READ: Arsenal’s 10 worst transfers of all time

The likes of Roy Keane, Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, and Cristiano Ronaldo all arrived and drove the club to huge successes.

But United have also been scattergun in their approach to transfers – especially in recent years . Here are 10 of the worst they have made.

READ: Chelsea’s 10 worst transfers of all time

10) Memphis Depay – £25m from PSV, 2015

Signed for £25m, big things were expected of Memphis Depay, but he failed to deliver upon his promise during his short spell at the club.

Given the famous No.7 jersey, the shirt weighed heavy on Memphis’s shoulders, and he scored just two Premier League goals in his only full campaign at the club.

After disappointing on the field, Memphis also fell short for United off it, the club recouping just £15m of his fee when they sold him to Lyon in January 2017.

Bebe, Falcao and Man Utd’s 10 worst signings of all time
© ProShots

9) Radamel Falcao – £6m LOAN from Monaco, 2014

United paid £6m to sign Radamel Falcao on loan from Monaco back in 2014, and it’s fair to say it didn’t work out.

Much was expected of a player who had torn up La Liga with Atletico Madrid, but Falcao managed to score just four Premier League goals during his time at the club.

Falcao failed to adapt to the pace of the Premier League and while the signing seemed to make sense at the time with the Red Devils needing reinforcements up top, it didn’t work out.

Unsurprisingly, after just four league goals, United elected against making his move permanent for £43.5m (€55m).

8) Kleberson – £6.5m from Atletico Paranaense, 2003

Kleberson was a World Cup winner with Brazil when Man Utd decided to spend £6.5m the midfielder from Atletico Paranaense.

In the year between the World Cup and him actually signing for Unitd, several big clubs like Real Madrid and Barcelona were interested, but he opted to stay in Brazil until his girlfriend turned 16 and so could get married.

Injuries ravaged his United career and just like Djemba-Djemba, was unable to make his way into the team.

7) Alexis Sanchez – SWAP from Arsenal, 2018

Involved in perhaps the worst swap deal in history, Alexis Sanchez arrived in Manchester as one of the Premier League’s biggest talents, and left as a failure.

Beloved at Arsenal, Alexis never produced the same form after making his long-awaited move to Old Trafford.

He scored just three Premier League goals in his 18 months at the club, and joined Inter on a free transfer, after his loan spell there, in 2020.

Swapped with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Sanchez’s wages were reportedly around £14m-a-year after tax – he cost the club a chunk and simply didn’t perform.

Alexis Sanchez, Man Utd
© ProShots – Alexis Sanchez, Man Utd

6) Massimo Taibi – £4.5m from Venezia, 1999

Man Utd had a goalkeeping crisis after legendary shot-stopper Peter Schmeichel left after winning the continental treble in 1999, leaving just Mark Bosnich and Raimond van der Gouw in their ranks.

When those two got injured, United panic-bought unknown goalkeeper Massimo Taibi from Venezia.

Taibi did, remarkably, emerge as the Man of the Match in his debut against Liverpool, but it was downhill from there.

He became a darling for blooper reel creators, with an attempted save against a weak Matt Le Tissier becoming a famed image of the early Premier League era.

5) Antony – £85m from Ajax, 2022

Antony joined Man Utd in the summer of 2022, representing a signing that Erik ten Hag had tried really hard to push through.

Ajax did not want to sell, so the price for the winger was raised and Man Utd ended up spending a little more than they bargained for.

It was a risk that Ten Hag was willing to take – but it has, so far, not paid off. The Brazilian has struggled to find his form and looks out of place in the physically-dominate Premier League. The youngster needs to improve to stand any chance of succeeding at Old Trafford.

4) Jadon Sancho – £73m from Borussia Dortmund, 2021

After a two-year pursuit of Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund, Man Utd finally got their man in 2021 as they broke the bank for one of the most exciting young talents in European football.

He certainly wasn’t worth the wait as he endured a disastrous career at Old Trafford.

Sancho has scored just 12 goals in 82 appearances and has regularly been a bench player during his time at the club.

When he did play he was largely dismal, while he had numerous problems off the pitch – including a very public falling out with manager Erik ten Hag which saw Sancho exiled for months.

In the January 2024 transfer window, Sancho returned to Dortmund on loan until the end of that season.

3) Juan Sebastian Veron – £28m from Lazio, 2001

One of the saddest parts about Juan Sebastian Veron’s Old Trafford career is that you’d be hard-pressed to find a more talented and complete midfielder to play for the club since.

Veron arrived for just over £28m from Lazio in the summer of 2001. Ferguson had wanted to add another option to Paul Scholes and Keane, and he made a rare move for a genuine world class talent.

The Argentine wasn’t suited to the pace and physicality of the English game, though, and after just seven goals in 57 Premier League games, he joined Chelsea for a £13m loss two years later.

Bebe, Falcao and Man Utd’s 10 worst signings of all time
© ProShots

2) Harry Maguire – £80m from Leicester, 2019

Harry Maguire became the most expensive defender – and centre-back – in football history when he joined Man Utd from Leicester in the summer of 2019.

He overtook the previous record-holder Virgil van Dijk in making this move.

Right from the start, this astronomical price tag was questioned as Maguire was deemed too unrefined and clumsy to command such a fee.

The critics proved to be right. Although his first two seasons at Old Trafford were steady if not spectacular, his next three campaigns were an unmitigated disaster.

He made error after error in the 2021-22 season before finally losing his place early on in the 2022-23 campaign under manager Erik ten Hag. He has played more in 2023-24, albeit in a team that is performing abysmally.

1) Paul Pogba – £89m from Juventus, 2016

After leaving United on a Bosman in 2012, Paul Pogba developed into one of the best midfielders in the world at Juventus.

Four years later, the Red Devils brought him back to Old Trafford at the age of 23 for a then-world-record fee of £89m.

It was hoped that Pogba would be the man to make Man Utd the dominant side in England and beyond once again after three miserable years since Ferguson’s retirement.

But Pogba was hugely underwhelming during his six years back at the club. Although there were some sporadic spells where he demonstrated his quality, he was wildly inconsistent and never seemed to fit into the team tactically.

He became increasingly injury-prone and irrelevant towards the end of his time and he decided to leave on another free transfer to Juve in 2022. He won just one EFL Cup and one Europa League during his second spell at Old Trafford.

Paul Pogba, Manchester United, Premier League, 2021/22
© ProShots

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