Rating the £404million Man Utd have spent on forwards since Ferguson

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Angel Di Maria playing for Manchester United at Old Trafford, November 2014.

Manchester United have invested a lot of money in attacking players since Sir Alex Ferguson retired – but has it been money well spent?

Ferguson signed some brilliant forwards during his time at Old Trafford, including Eric Cantona, Andy Cole, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo.

But United have not had the same success in that department in recent years and are yet to add to the 20th league title that Ferguson won in 2013.

We’ve taken a look at the forwards they’ve signed since 2013 and ranked them all, from worst to best. 

Note: we’ve not included forwards that joined the club on a free transfer or in a swap deal so that rules out Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Edinson Cavani and Alexis Sanchez.

13. Angel Di Maria – £59.7m

Having produced a man-of-the-match performance for Real Madrid in the 2014 Champions League final, expectations were high when Di Maria joined United.

The Argentina international was excellent during his first few weeks at United – his fabulous chipped goal against Leicester City was a particular highlight – but everything went downhill from there.

He had a very poor relationship with Louis van Gaal and was allowed to leave the club for a substantial loss just a year after arriving.

“My problem at Manchester was the coach,” Di Maria told TyC Sports in 2021. “Van Gaal was the worst of my career.

“I would score, assist, and the next day he would show me my misplaced passes. He displaced me from one day to the other, he didn’t like players being more than him.”

12. Facundo Pellistri – £9m

Ferguson was renowned for buying previously unknown foreign players and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer tried to follow in his footsteps by signing Pellistri from Penarol in 2020.

But the 20-year-old is yet to make his competitive debut for United and is currently struggling for first-team opportunities on loan at Alaves. 

11. Radamel Falcao – £6m

One of two loan signings on this list, Falcao was regarded as one of the best strikers in the world when he joined United in September 2014.

But the Colombia international scored just four goals in 29 appearances in all competitions in 2014-15 and left Old Trafford with his reputation in tatters.

10. Memphis Depay – £25m

After winning the Eredivisie Golden Boot with PSV Eindhoven in 2014-15, Depay was tipped to be the next big thing and United won the race for his signature.

He provided a few flashes of his quality but failed to live up to expectations at Old Trafford, scoring just seven goals in 53 appearances in all competitions. 

There were also question marks over his attitude, and the Netherlands international completed a £14.75million move to Lyon in January 2017.

“Memphis? He came on at Stoke away and messed up for their goal so Louis van Gaal made him play for the reserves the next day,” Wayne Rooney told The Times in 2018. “I said, ‘Look, it’s a bit difficult [for you]. Just don’t come in with all your fancy stuff.’

“And he turned up for the reserve game in his Rolls-Royce, wearing a leather jacket and a cowboy hat. And I just thought, ‘What’s the point?’”

9. Odion Ighalo – £10m

United’s frantic search for a striker in the 2020 January transfer window saw them sign Ighalo on a loan deal from Shanghai Shenhua.

His move to Old Trafford took everyone by surprise, but he scored five goals in 11 cup games during a year-long stint at Old Trafford

Despite only playing 99 minutes of Premier League action for United, Ighalo did the job required of him and is probably one of the few players on this list that exceeded expectations. 

8. Amad Diallo – £19m

Despite only making four Serie A appearances for Atalanta, Amad did enough to convince United to pay an initial £19million for his services.

The 19-year-old winger has nine appearances for the club at the time of writing and scored a brilliant header in a 1-1 draw with AC Milan in 2021.

He’s currently on loan at Rangers but is highly regarded at Old Trafford and could move up this list in the near future.

7. Daniel James – £15m

After James scored three goals in his first four Premier League appearances, United looked to have unearthed a gem at a bargain price.

But that’s as good as it got for the Wales international, who gradually fell out of favour before joining Leeds United in a £25million deal in 2021.

“I was coming away from who I was as a player and why I got bought in the first place,” James told The Times. “I felt partway through I’d become safe. If you’re going to be safe you’re going to be out of the team.”

6. Romelu Lukaku – £75m

The second most expensive signing in United’s post-Ferguson era, Lukaku arrived in the summer of 2017 and was tipped to fire them to the Premier League title.

He scored a respectable 42 goals in 96 games during his two seasons at United, but 11 of those came in his first 10 games, making the drop-off notable.

The Belgium international eventually became a much-maligned figure at Old Trafford and was shipped off to Inter Milan in 2019.

5. Henrikh Mkhitaryan – £26.3m

Mkhitaryan starred for Borussia Dortmund and was named the Bundesliga Players’ Player of the Season – ahead of the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Robert Lewandowski – in 2016.

He then completed his move to United but failed to adapt to life in the Premier League and never really recaptured the form he had shown in Germany.

But the Armenia international did still play an integral role in their Europa League success in 2016-17, scoring six goals in 11 appearances in the competition.

After a difficult start to the following season, he then became part of the ill-fated swap deal that saw Alexis Sanchez join the Red Devils in January 2018.

4. Jadon Sancho – £73m

Having developed into one of the most exciting young players in world football, Sancho left Borussia Dortmund and joined United in 2021. 

He’s shown flashes of his immense talent but hasn’t been able to consistently showcase his best form during a difficult debut season at Old Trafford.

The 22-year-old still has plenty of time on his side and Erik ten Hag would be foolish not to build the United team around him.

3. Antony Martial – £36m

Martial immediately repaid his transfer fee and attained cult hero status at United by scoring a brilliant solo goal against Liverpool on his debut.

But the France international has since struggled with inconsistency and Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer both ran out of patience with him.

While Martial has scored more United goals in the post-Ferguson era than any other player on this list, it’s hard not to think about what could have been.

2. Cristiano Ronaldo – £12.8m

After a lot of struggles in the transfer market, United turned to one of Ferguson’s greatest signings and brought Ronaldo back to the club in 2021.

The Portugal international is yet to revive the glory days at Old Trafford but has been one of their standout performers during a difficult 2021-22 season.

Despite being 37 years old, he’s still able to roll back the years and has already managed to outscore most of the players on this list.

And that’s not including the 118 goals he scored during his first spell at the club.

Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo during their victory over West Ham in Manchester, England, January 2022.

READ: Ranking every player to wear No.7 for Man Utd in the Premier League

1. Juan Mata – £37.1m

After a dreadful start to the post-Ferguson era, David Moyes tried to turn things around by signing Mata from Chelsea in January 2014.

While the Spain international hasn’t hit the heights he reached at Stamford Bridge, he’s still been one of United’s best signings in the last nine years.

An FA Cup final goal and those two strikes at Anfield – including that acrobatic bicycle kick – mean Mata has provided United fans with some moments of real joy.

The 34-year-old has fallen out of favour in recent seasons and probably stayed at United for a few years too long, but he will be remembered fondly at Old Trafford.


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