Manchester United’s 9 best bargain buys of the Premier League era
Manchester United may be known for splashing the cash – but they have still made a number of astute signings throughout the Premier League era.
The Red Devils have become more known for signing expensive flops in recent years but have previously pulled off a number of impressive deals.
We’ve taken a look back at nine of their best bargain buys since the inception of the Premier League.
Had United left it until after the 2010 World Cup, Hernandez would likely have cost much more than the reported £6million fee they had agreed for the Mexico striker prior to the tournament starting.
Coming off the back of a 21-goal season for Guadalajara, Hernandez was one of the breakthrough stars of the 2010 World Cup, scoring four times in four games for Mexico having already agreed to move to Old Trafford in April.
While he may never have been the main man at United, Chicarito still managed to score 59 goals in all competitions across four seasons as a regular first-team player.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Would you pay £1.5million for a striker who goes on to score the winning goal in the Champions League final? Yes, you would.
Would you pay £1.5million for a striker who goes on to score a further 125 goals in a further 365 appearances, 149 of which were as a substitute? Yes, you would.
READ: A tribute to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Man Utd’s great bargain and Mr Reliable
Despite him being nominated for UEFA’s ‘Best Forward’ award in 2005 alongside Ronaldinho, Andriy Shevchenko, Samuel Eto’o and Adriano, United were able to sign Park for just £4million from PSV.
“He was truly fantastic, particularly in big games,” Alex Ferguson told the club’s official website after Park left for QPR seven years later. “I loved playing him in the big games. His record against Arsenal, for instance, was fantastic.
“The Milan games over there and at Old Trafford, when I asked Park to play directly against [Andrea] Pirlo, are memorable.
“He was selfless. He played for the team and whatever role you gave him, he would stick to that role. He was a really wonderful, disciplined professional for us.”
Signing one of your greatest rivals’ most talented players, who ultimately became a catalyst for two decades of unprecedented success, for £1.2million is quite a good deal, isn’t it?
READ: The story of Eric Cantona and his incredible impact on Man Utd
Edwin van der Sar
Six years after Peter Schmeichel left United, and a few dodgy replacements later, United finally landed a goalkeeper worthy of stepping into the great Dane’s boots/gloves.
Given Van der Sar cost just £2million, was United’s No.1 for a further six years and won four Premier League titles and a Champions League, he was worth the wait.
“It might surprise you to hear that Nemanja, who arrived from Spartak Moscow, was not the powerful centre-back he became over his years with the club,” Paul Scholes said of his former team-mate, who United signed for £7million in January 2006. “There was nothing of him when he arrived.
“He was skinny and relatively easy to push off the ball. He took a battering in his first few weeks at the club – in training as well as matches.
“Nemanja must have realised quite early on that he was not strong enough to play in the centre of defence at that time, so he did something about it. For the next year, every time I walked past the gym, I would see Nemanja in there lifting weights.”
By the time Vidic left Old Trafford in 2014, the Serbian had established himself as one of the most fearsome, and successful, centre-backs in Premier League history.
Spending £3.5million on a 31-year-old was not the kind of calibre of signing many Manchester United fans expected to replace Eric Cantona but, after a difficult start to life at Old Trafford, Sheringham made it work.
Come the age of 35, Sheringham was better than ever, winning PFA and FWA Player of the Year after a 21-goal season that left Alex Ferguson pleading with the striker to reject a return to Tottenham.
READ: Teddy Sheringham talks replacing Eric Cantona and 11 days in May 1999
We actually started researching this list by starting from Manchester United’s most recent season and working backwards. It was pretty bleak to start with, but then we got to 2005-06 and they really got their shit together.
Edwin van der Sar, Park Ji-sung, Nemanja Vidic all joined at some stage of the season, with Evra also arriving in the January.
The left-back was signed for £5.5million from Monaco and, like Vidic, endured a difficult start to life in England only to eventually establish himself as a cornerstone of United’s defence.
Signing an 18-year-old for £12.24million might seem expensive, but when you go on to sell him for £80million as one of the two best players in the world (and history?), it looks like quite a good bargain.
Bringing him back in for pretty much the same price in 2021 may prove less wise – more because of his wages than the initial fee – but he’s still banging in the goals, isn’t he?
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