Man Utd’s 10 most expensive sales & how they fared after leaving

Quick Reads
David Beckham celebrates scoring during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Charlton Athletic at Old Trafford, Manchester, May 2003.

While Manchester United have become renowned for spending ridiculous amounts of money, they’ve also made some big-money sales over the years.

Some players decided to leave in search of regular first-team football but others were snapped up by one of United’s European rivals.

We’ve looked at the 10 most expensive sales United have made in the Premier League era and how those players fared after leaving. Note: we’ve used initial transfer fees and Henrikh Mkhitaryan hasn’t been included as his departure was a swap deal.

10. Memphis Depay 

Depay was tipped to be the next big thing after joining United from PSV in 2015 but scored just two goals in 33 Premier League appearances. 

The Netherlands international joined Lyon in a £14.75million deal in January 2017 and then started to fulfil his undoubted potential, registering 76 goals and 55 assists for the Ligue 1 side. 

He’s since been given another chance at one of Europe’s biggest clubs, joining Spanish giants Barcelona on a free transfer in 2021 – although Barca spent the entirety of the recent transfer window trying to offload Depay.

9. Juan Sebastian Veron

Having watched Veron struggle with the pace and physicality of the Premier League during his two years at United, Chelsea still decided to take a £15million gamble on him in 2003.

The midfielder scored on his debut at Liverpool but that was as good as it got. After making only 14 appearances, Veron was loaned out to Inter Milan in 2004 and never played for the Blues again.

He then returned to boyhood club Estudiantes and remained there until his retirement, helping them win two league titles and the Copa Libertadores. 

“I felt that going to Chelsea could have been a good chance for me to get a longer sequence of matches, but I shouldn’t have gone there,” Veron told FourFourTwo in 2021.

“I don’t say that because of Chelsea, though. It’s nice to have a club wanting to sign you, excited that you can do something for them. To make an investment like that, the club has to believe in you and trust you.

“I actually found it tougher to live in London than Manchester because I’m from La Plata, which is quite a small city. I wish I could have stayed at United longer, as I believe I could have done things differently.”

READ: A tribute to Juan Sebastian Veron, Man Utd’s right man at the wrong time

8. Danny Welbeck

Despite being a fan favourite at Old Trafford, Welbeck was deemed surplus to requirements by Louis van Gaal and joined Arsenal in a £16million deal in 2014.

The striker came back to haunt his former club a few months later, netting the winner in Arsenal’s 2-1 FA Cup quarter-final victory over United in 2015.

But injury problems hampered his career in north London and he was released in 2019, having scored 32 goals in 126 appearances for the Gunners.

The 31-year-old had a brief spell with Watford in 2019-20 and is now enjoying something of a reinassance at Brighton. 

7. Jaap Stam

After joining United from PSV in 1998, Stam helped the club win three successive Premier League titles and the famous treble of 1999.

But Sir Alex Ferguson surprisingly decided to cash in and accepted a £16.5million offer from Lazio in 2001, citing concerns over his recovery from an Achilles injury.

The centre-back proved his former manager wrong in Italy, winning the Coppa Italia for Lazio before reaching the 2005 Champions League final with AC Milan. He then returned to his native Netherlands in January 2006 and saw out his playing career at Ajax.

“He’d been out for months and, when he came back, Steve McClaren (assistant manager), and I thought he had lost a yard of pace,” Ferguson later admitted.

“We played Fulham and he didn’t have a good game and at that moment Lazio come in and offered £16.5million. So then Jaap goes to Lazio and he played fantastic. So it was a bad decision. I should maybe have waited a bit longer.”

6. Morgan Schneiderlin

Schneiderlin only played 11 minutes in the Premier League in the first half of 2016-17 but Everton still agreed to pay an initial £20million for him in January 2017.

The midfielder enjoyed a good half-season at Goodison Park but things went south soon after. Alongside Kevin Mirallas, he walked out of a training session in November 2017 and became openly hated among some sections of the Everton support.

After playing a bit-part role in the following two seasons, the 32-year-old returned to his native France with Nice in 2020.

5. David Beckham

After a breakdown in his relationship with Ferguson and that boot-kicking incident, Beckham left United and joined Real Madrid for £24.5million in 2003.

The former England international couldn’t have joined at a worse time, though, as Real went trophyless in Beckham’s first three years at the Bernabeu.

Despite being dropped by Fabio Capello after signing a pre-contract agreement with LA Galaxy in January 2007, he worked his way back into the side and helped Madrid win La Liga.

The midfielder spent five years in America but also had brief spells at AC Milan and PSG before hanging up his boots in 2013. 

4. Daniel James

James proved a useful squad player for United but was sold to Leeds for £25million following Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Old Trafford in 2021.

The Wales international, who nearly joined Leeds in 2019, seemed tailor-made for Marcelo Bielsa’s style of play but had an underwhelming start to the season.

He showed signs of improvement as Leeds avoided relegation by the skin of their teeth but that didn’t stop James being sent on loan to Fulham in August.

3. Angel Di Maria

After one underwhelming season at United, Di Maria was allowed to leave the club for a substantial loss, joining PSG in a £44.3million deal in 2015.

The Argentina international has looked much more at home in France, winning five Ligue 1 titles and registering over 100 assists for the club.

Despite sharing a changing room with the likes of Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, he remained one of the first names on the team sheet until moving to Juventus at the end of his contract.

2. Romelu Lukaku

Lukaku was a much-maligned figure during his two years at United and it seemed like a good deal when he joined Inter Milan for an initial £64.7million in 2019.

The striker then proved his doubters wrong in Italy, scoring 64 goals in 95 appearances in all competitions and helping Inter win their first Serie A title since 2010. 

His performances for Inter saw him complete a £97.5million move to Chelsea in 2021 but struggled to rediscover that form at Stamford Bridge and has since returned to Inter.

1. Cristiano Ronaldo

Ronaldo joined Real Madrid in a world record-shattering £80million deal in 2009 but soon managed to make that look like a bargain.

He cemented his status as one of the greatest players of all time during his nine years at the Bernabeu, scoring 438 goals in 450 appearances and winning two La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues.

The Portugal international left Madrid in 2018 and spent three years at Juventus, becoming the first player to score over 100 goals with three different clubs.

But we’re not sure what he’s up to these days. Must have retired…

READ MORE: The two great forgotten Cristiano goals ruined by no goal-line tech