Mason Mount has made an underwhelming start to his Manchester United career, but he wouldn’t be the first big signing to blossom once those initial awkward appearances have been forgotten.
Mount has toiled against Wolves and Tottenham as United have made a slow start to their Premier League campaign – but the midfielder will be reassured to know that some United heroes have started worse and recovered impressively.
We’ve picked out seven big United signings who overcame slow starts to become club legends.
Evra’s debut in January 2006 has passed into United legend.
“After the first five minutes I played against Trevor Sinclair,” the full-back said about his United bow in the Manchester derby. “I was cut here [on the head] I remember I was against the post and you know when you’re talking to yourself, I was like ‘what the hell am I doing here?’
“The football was so fast, so strong. I was chilling in Monte Carlo – I was named the best left-back four times. I was thinking I’d made it, that I was a big player. Then at half-time, that’s the first time I was introduced to the hairdryer by Sir Alex Ferguson.
“He destroyed everyone and he came to me and said, ‘You’re going to sit next to me and you’re going to learn English football’. I’ve played for the French national team, I’ve been in the final of the Champions League – and on my first game I’ve been subbed after 45 minutes.”
Luckily, the Frenchman went on to enjoy a superb career at Old Trafford, winning 14 trophies – including five Premier League titles and the Champions League – and played 379 times for the Red Devils.
Signed alongside Evra at the start of 2006, Vidic made his debut in a League Cup semi-final victory over Blackburn – but a previous run-out for the reserves had his team-mates doubting his ability.
Speaking to ‘Talk of the Devils’ YouTube channel, former United reverse player Phil Marsh said: “We played Wigan. We had a really good side in the reserves. We won the majority of the time. This one particular game Vidic was playing, no one knew much about him.
“We got battered 4-0 and he didn’t have a great game. He had a torrid time and slipped for one of the goals… we were all scratching our head and thinking ‘Who’s this guy?’”
“He got his chance in the first team and the rest is history but I remember my first impression being ‘What’s going on here, who have we signed?’
“To be fair, we did have a few of those over the years, like Kleberson and Djemba-Djemba… Vidic proved everybody wrong and everybody loved him. He went down as a hero.”
Damn right; while Vidic took half a season to acclimatise to England, he was imperious throughout the late Ferguson years and is rightly remembered as a club legend.
It might seem strange to place Ferdinand here, but we’ve previously written about how it took the centre-back a few years to become United standard…
After Roy Keane was unceremoniously booted out of Old Trafford in 2005, every man and his dog knew United needed a central midfielder to help wrestle the title from Chelsea’s grasp.
But few expected Carrick to become that man; signed from Tottenham for £18.6million, he was a completely different player to Keane and pundits queued up to call the England midfielder overpriced.
It might be a stretch to say Carrick started slowly at United, but his influence was consistently overlooked until the latter part of his career. Ferguson had got his decision spot on.
David de Gea
Forget that De Gea’s time at United ended with ignominious slips, numerous gaffes and screeching keyboard warriors demanding his execution on a weekly basis.
The goalkeeper was arguably the best player at Old Trafford throughout the 2010s, saving his side on numerous occasions and winning the club’s Player of the Year Award four times.
His achievements were more impressive considering his start in English football, where a callow and skinny teenager was bullied on a weekly basis by opponents at set-pieces.
Cole’s £7million move from Newcastle to Manchester in January 1995 was headline news – especially when Kevin Keegan stood outside St James’ Park to explain why the club had sold their star striker.
And, while Cole did score 12 in his first half season at Old Trafford, many chose to focus on his string of misses at West Ham that cost United the title.
The Nottingham-born goalscorer struggled throughout 1995-96, with supporters and pundits battering him for his lack of form. Two broken legs curtailed his involvement in 1996-97 too.
But Cole recovered and would eventually shine during the treble-winning campaign of 1998-99. He ended his stay at United with 121 goals from 275 appearances.
After Eric Cantona retired in 1997, Sheringham was signed from Tottenham as his replacement. No pressure, Teddy.
Despite thriving at Spurs, and alongside Alan Shearer for England, Sheringham initially struggled to catch fire at Old Trafford. He missed a penalty on his first league appearance – ironically at Tottenham – and only scored 14 times in his first season.
He spent much of 1998-99 as a substitute, although he did score in that Champions League final, but would eventually win the PFA and Football Writer’s Player of the Year Award in 2001 for his fine form.