United haven't always got their way in the transfer market.

Where are they now? Man Utd’s top missed transfer target every year since 2013

Manchester United might be one of the richest and most famous clubs in world football – but that hasn’t always meant they get their way in the transfer market.

A succession of managers have found it difficult to secure their main targets, with many going on to thrive elsewhere while United struggle to recapture former glories.

We’ve identified United’s biggest missed transfer target in every post-Ferguson season and found out what they’re up to these days.

2013: Cesc Fabregas

David Moyes was desperate to secure a top-class central midfielder in the summer of 2013 and United launched numerous bids for Fabregas.

Woodward left their tour of Australia to attend to what was described as “urgent transfer business”, but the summer-long saga came to nothing.

The Spain international decided to spend another year at Barcelona before completing a £27million move to Chelsea in 2014.

“Cesc Fabregas, who I spoke to on the phone several times, was not sure of his place in the Barcelona team,” Moyes told BBC Radio Five Live in 2017.

“I remember him saying to me, ‘If I don’t start the first game at Barcelona then I’ll definitely be looking to join you,’ and he started the first game at Barcelona.”


Fabregas is now assistant coach of Italian outfit Como, who are looking to gain promotion to Serie A.

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2014: Toni Kroos

After missing out on Fabregas and Thiago Alcantara, Moyes lined up a move for Kroos but was sacked before his second summer transfer window.

“I knew before that Manchester wanted me. And Moyes underlined that absolutely,” Kroos told GQ in 2019.

“It was a really nice afternoon with very nice people. We talked a lot about United’s footballing plan which convinced me. In the end, we agreed to do it. We agreed verbally.

“I am not somebody who worries about contingencies. Yes, it was close. I almost went to Manchester United. But it did not happen that way.”

The midfielder eventually penned a six-year deal with Real Madrid that summer and has since won four La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues.

2015: Sergio Ramos

“Sergio Ramos is determined to leave Real Madrid and join Manchester United this summer, according to sources close to the player,” wrote The Guardian on June 29, 2015. Street parties were announced in Trafford and the surrounding areas.

United were understood to have bid €40million for the defender, whose contract negotiations had stalled at the Bernabeu, while Los Blancos were pursuing star goalkeeper David de Gea at the time.

“Manchester United’s pursuit of Sergio Ramos is over, with the Spain defender ready to extend his contract at Real Madrid next week,” wrote The Guardian on August 13, 2015, adding that the Spain international had been told by the club he would not be sold under any circumstances.

Upon the confirmation of his new five-year deal, Ramos said: “I know this renewal has taken a while, but my heart and head have always been with Real Madrid so I couldn’t be happier.”

We wouldn’t expect anything else from football’s prime sh*thouse, who is now happy with Sevilla in the autumn of his career.

2016: Renato Sanches

United reportedly scouted Sanches whilst he was a teenager at Benfica, but Bayern Munich gazumped them to his signature in May 2016 – getting in there nice and early before his stock went through the roof with his starring role in Portugal’s Euro 2016 triumph.

“Renato had an offer from Manchester United,” former Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge explained later that summer.

“But I heard, one day before our game against Atletico that the transfer wasn’t closed due to United not having a coach.

“We acted immediately. We invited Benfica’s president and the player’s agent to Madrid. The environment after the game wasn’t good, but we agreed the transfer that night and closed the deal with a handshake.”

Eight years later, Sanches failed to live up to his immense early promise but forged a respectable career for himself. The midfielder is now at Roma, on loan from PSG.

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2017: Ivan Perisic

United failed to sign Inter Milan star Ivan Perisic in 2017 because Ed Woodward refused to pay an extra £3million for the Croatia international.

Perisic was high on Jose Mourinho’s wishlist and had been identified as the perfect winger to supply Romelu Lukaku with service from wide areas.

The forward was desperate to move to Old Trafford but Inter Milan valued him at around £48m.

This was slightly above United’s £45m valuation of the winger and Woodward refused to budge in the dying days of the window despite knowing the deal could get done, according to the Evening Standard.

As United toiled, Perisic demonstrated his class both in club football and with his virtuoso performances with Croatia at the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

He’s now back in his homeland with Hajduk Split, on loan from Tottenham who he’s expected to leave permanently this summer.

2018: Harry Maguire

Mourinho chased Maguire for a while after Maguire’s exploits at the 2018 World Cup and the centre-back certainly didn’t hide his desire to join United either.

Towards the end of the 2018 summer transfer window, he said: “Every player wants to play at the highest level. I’ve just come back from playing at a World Cup, where I really enjoyed the high pressure of the games, it was something that I really thrived off.

“Leicester have been unbelievable to me and I’m really happy there but I’m also an ambitious player and everyone wants to play at the top.”

But Maguire would only arrive after Mourinho’s departure. His time at Old Trafford has been a roller-coaster, with many expecting him to leave in 2023 before he knuckled down and won supporters over with his commitment to the cause.

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho during the 2017 Europa League final against Ajax. May 24th 2017, Friends Arena, Stockholm, Sweden.

READ: 13 players Jose Mourinho missed out on as Manchester United manager

2019: Paulo Dybala

According to reports from the likes of The Guardian and Sky Sports, United explored a possible swap deal that would see Romelu Lukaku join Juventus with Paulo Dybala moving to Old Trafford in 2019.

With an agreement seemingly close, the Argentina international reportedly phoned his broker to instruct him to cancel the talks as he’d had a change of heart and no longer wanted to leave Juventus.

“It wasn’t an easy summer,” Dybala told Corriere della Sera in October 2019. “Hearing your name linked to every team and every place, where you don’t want to go, isn’t a nice thing.

“But this is football, even if before the transfer window opened I said, ‘I want to stay here.’ I think it was more important to let [my performances on] the pitch do the talking, even if until the last day no one knew what would happen.”

Dybala eventually left Juve in 2022 and joined Roma, where he’s scored 34 goals in 74 appearances.

2020: Jadon Sancho

Sancho was top priority for United in the summer of 2020, having scored 20 goals and made 20 assists in the 2019-20 campaign for Borussia Dortmund

Despite Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood getting 63 goals between them, depth in attacking options was a requirement from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

While United got as far as personal terms with Sancho, Dortmund did not consider anything other than £108million in full as club chiefs and players said he would be staying.

The winger eventually moved to Old Trafford in 2021 for £73million but never lived up to the hype and was loaned back to Dortmund in 2024 after a spectacular falling-out with Erik ten Hag.

2021: Kieran Trippier

Back in the summer of 2021, it was widely reported that United were after Trippier, fresh from his title-winning exploits with Atletico Madrid.

The England international ended up staying put in the Spanish capital but moved to Newcastle six months later, and there he’s proven a key asset for Eddie Howe’s Magpies.

Meanwhile, the right-back situation at Old Trafford remains unresolved, with United reportedly keen on signing an upgrade to Aaron Wan-Bissaka this summer.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has named a number of signings he'd have liked to make at Manchester United

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2022: Frenkie de Jong

A transfer saga that dominated Ten Hag’s first summer as United manager.

The Dutchman had identified De Jong as his primary target and Barcelona were open to selling him, despite the midfielder being lukewarm at the prospect of life in Manchester.

An initial £63million deal was agreed, but the move never materialised and De Jong has remained at Barca ever since.

Speaking to Gary Neville in an interview with Sky Sports, Ten Hag has admitted that a player like De Jong would have helped bring out the best in Casemiro…

“It would have been Frenkie de Jong and Casemiro,” the beleaguered United boss said. “They would really be connected with each other.

“They would be really complementary to each other. That’s a typical player, if you want to play the Ajax style, you need that type of player.”

2023: Harry Kane

It had long been suggested that United would swoop in for Kane when he eventually left Tottenham.

They could promise him the shot at breaking Alan Shearer’s Premier League goalscoring record and an increased shot at silverware in England.

But even as things ramped up with Bayern Munich in the final weeks of the 2023 summer window, the Red Devils refused to budge.

They’ve not been averse to superstar signings in recent years but they instead invested £72million in the raw potential of Rasmus Hojlund.

The Mail Online reported that the United hierarchy baulked at Kane’s considerable salary demands after recently getting David de Gea and Cristiano Ronaldo off their wage bill.

Kane has gone to score 43 goals for Bayern this season, despite missing out on the Bundesliga title to Bayer Leverkusen, but still has a chance at silverware in the Champions League.