It’s fair to say Manchester United haven’t been great at identifying attacking targets of late.
Or, put more accurately, they’ve been great at finding players who have been good before and after playing at Old Trafford – it’s just the in-between bit that’s been an issue.
To prove that point, we’ve ranked the 11 men signed by the club since the start of 2010 who can be defined as ‘forwards’. Nick Powell is an attacking midfielder, before you ask, but if you were wondering what we thought about him, we maintain he was misunderstood.
A prolific goalscorer by the age of 18, Henríquez ought to have been a hit.
He went down the sensible path of a few reserve games followed by smart loan spells – at a smaller Premier League club, a Spanish-speaking environment and finally a team who could offer him Champions League football.
In another life, a 30-goal season at Dinamo Zagreb would have been the precursor to an Old Trafford debut, but instead he moved to Croatia permanently without playing a single minute for United.
At least Falcao played, and scored a couple, but he was a very expensive mistake – a thing it shouldn’t be possible to say about a man who only ever joined on loan.
United were unbeaten when Falcao found the net, which is relatively easy to do when the player in question only nets four times.
Even so, he was scoring at a decent rate for Monaco before the injury that kept him out of the 2014 World Cup and accelerated his move to Old Trafford, while his spell at United (and an equally disastrous Chelsea loan) was followed by a 30-goal season as Monaco made the Champions League semis. Weird.
Look, this was hardly Bebé’s fault. The Portuguese was signed by Alex Ferguson on the recommendation of Carlos Queiroz, with the United boss having never seen him play, so what was he expecting?
And it’s often forgotten that he actually impressed people in his early appearances and then scored in successive games. He had that shocker against Wolves, but for a kid playing in a new country who’d just made a stratospheric football leap, he was judged far too harshly at the time.
Viewed as a forward when he signed, Bebé has moved into a midfield role during his time on the continent, most recently becoming a regular for Rayo Vallecano as they were relegated from La Liga last season.
Zaha played fewer games and scored fewer goals than Bebé (zero; he scored zero goals), but that sell-on clause means he stays above the bottom three, something he’ll be fighting to do if he stays at Crystal Palace.
If you’ve seen Zaha play for United at Old Trafford, congratulations! You’re one of the 75,233 people who witnessed the defeat to Newcastle in 2013, and you didn’t leave before the 68th minute.
All is not lost, though. Crystal Palace have already returned some of the initial £10million outlay by buying the Ivorian back, while a sell-on clause could yet see United turn a profit.
Alexis is still there, so things could still improve. On the other hand, though, Alexis is still there.
Five goals in 45 games is tough to put a positive spin on, but at least they… got Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s wages off the books?
The Chilean would comfortably be bottom of most other teams’ corresponding lists, which tells you all you need to know.
Memphis wasn’t bad for Manchester United, Manchester United were bad for Memphis.
The Dutchman formed a great partnership with Luke Shaw. Then Shaw had his leg broken. Then José Mourinho replaced Louis van Gaal. Anyone would have been able to predict the next stage of that journey.
Since leaving England, he has scored 39 goals in two-and-a-half seasons with Lyon. He’d be a fool to go back.
When United signed Lukaku from Everton, they didn’t think they’d be getting a £75million cult hero in waiting, but that’s all we can really say about the Belgian after a rapid decline in importance.
A record of 42 goals in 96 games isn’t awful, but 11 of those came in his first 10 games, making the drop-off notable.
Still, they’ll always have the PSG game.
There aren’t too many players who have signed for United in the post-Ferguson era and enhanced their reputation, but Martial just about ticks that box.
The Frenchman might have given himself too much to aim for with those eye-catching early displays, but he’s probably a more complete player than he was at Monaco.
Still, when a man who has repeatedly been on the verge of an exit can find himself near the top of this list, it’s hardly happy reading.
Finally, a legitimate success at Manchester United.
The Mexican was snapped up before a World Cup where some impressive performances would have probably doubled his price tag, and his record of a goal every 148 minutes for United and West Ham is one of the best in Premier League history.
They even sold him for a profit, which separates him from almost everyone else on this list.
Considering Zlatan’s second season was an almost complete wash – just one goal, in a League Cup defeat to Bristol City – he really shouldn’t be so high.
However, that first season was one for the ages: he outperformed pretty much everyone’s expectations, scoring 28 goals – including two in a League Cup final victory – as United won two cups and returned to the Champions League.
He’s continued that sort of form across the Atlantic, averaging almost a goal a game for LA Galaxy and taking the worst team of the 2017 season back into the play-off picture.
There’s a pretty huge gap between first and second, and it’s telling that two of the top three are Ferguson signings (though for fairness’ sake we should point out that the Scot also signed two of the bottom three).
Van Persie was signed to give their outgoing manager a farewell title (even if we didn’t know at the time that it would be his final season), and he delivered.
The Dutchman even stopped the David Moyes season ending even worse than it might have done, scoring a huge Champions League hat-trick to edge past Olympiacos, and his final tally of 56 goals in 106 games is as good as anyone could have done in the circumstances.