Rating the £486million Man Utd have spent on forwards since Ferguson
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.
14. 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.”
— Premier League (@premierleague) October 21, 2021
13. 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 may be sold on by Erik ten Hag.
12. 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.
11. 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?’”
Depay didn’t do much for Manchester United but this rabona nutmeg was filth. pic.twitter.com/UYyJfv1yMz
— Lewis Allen (@lallen125) June 6, 2019
10. 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.
9. 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 Sunderland but is highly regarded at Old Trafford and could move up this list in the near future.
8. 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.”
7. 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.
6. 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.
— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) April 13, 2021
5. Cristiano Ronaldo – £12.8m
We’re not forgetting the 118 goals Ronaldo scored during his first spell at the club. Or that he top-scored for United last season too.
But, after his contract was cancelled for out-simpering Piers Morgan, it’s hard to believe that it was worth bringing Ronaldo back to Old Trafford. At least they’re saving on his £500k weekly wage now.
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 Ten Hag would be foolish to give up on Sancho just yet.
3. Antony – £82.2m
Expensive, yes, but Antony has already shown he’s a United cult-hero in the making with his ridiculous effort and even more outrageous skills…
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.
On this day in 2015, Martial did THIS to Liverpool on his Manchester United debut 😤
— B/R Football (@brfootball) September 12, 2021
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.
Mata probably stayed at United for a few years too long, but he will be remembered fondly at Old Trafford.