Manchester United‘s transfer business has come under plenty of scrutiny since the departures of Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill in 2013.
David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and now Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have been the men identifying (but not always getting) the players they would like, with Ed Woodward taking over the role of overseeing transfers.
We’ve ranked every first-team signing under those three managers. In an ideal world, about 17 of these players would be ranked joint-20th, but we didn’t allow ourselves to do that so you can tell us how wrong we are.
It was thought United had pulled off something of a coup by landing Sanchez, who was also wanted by Manchester City and Chelsea.
The former Arsenal forward moved to the Red Devils as part of a swap deal which saw Henrikh Mkhitaryan depart in the opposite direction.
Forty-five games, five goals, countless awful performances and millions of pounds later, he’s been shipped off to Inter Milan on loan in an attempt to off-load his extortionate, and we mean extortionate, wages (according to The Athletic, United are still paying Sanchez £200,000 a week to play for Inter).
Basically, it’s been a bloody disaster ever since he played that piano in his announcement video.
After 500 appearances between the sticks for Barcelona, Valdes signed an 18-month contract with United in 2014.
He made two appearances before being placed on the transfer list by Van Gaal after refusing to play for the reserves.
The Uruguayan, who signed from South American club Penarol, was David Moyes’ first signing as United manager, though he had been on trial at Old Trafford before the Scot’s arrival.
Varela failed to appear under Moyes, instead spending a season on loan at Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid Castilla, but broke into the first team amid an injury crisis under Louis van Gaal, playing 11 times in all competitions in 2015-16.
The right-back was sent on loan to Eintracht Frankfurt the following campaign, only to miss the German Cup final and have his deal terminated after going against the club’s wishes and getting a tattoo which ultimately became infected.
Upon his return to Old Trafford, he was sold back to Penarol.
After joining from Stoke City for £1.5million in 2018, Grant made his debut as a substitute in United’s League Cup defeat to Derby County, where they lost on penalties.
His second appearance came in a Europa League defeat to Astana in November, but as far as third-choice keepers go, he’s fine.
The No.7 shirt means a great deal to United supporters.
But Depay failed to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham, Eric Cantona and was instead sold to Lyon after 18 months, 53 appearances and seven goals.
He’s been pretty good in Ligue 1 since, mind…
The France international was part of the exciting Southampton side which also included the likes of Sadio Mane and Adam Lallana. Unlike those two, Schneiderlin’s big move did not pay dividends.
Like Depay, the midfielder lasted 18 months at Old Trafford before being sold by Mourinho in January 2017. It’s arguably gone even worse for him at Everton.
The right-back signed from Torino in 2015 and started across the defence in his first season at the club.
However, his appearances steadily dropped in each of his seasons at Old Trafford, to the point of him making just seven in 2018-19.
At the end of that season, he finally got his long-rumoured return to Italy when he signed for Parma.
Depending on how much onus you put on money paid in return for performances and goals, Di Maria could be even further down this list – but he was decent at times.
Coming in as a British record signing under Van Gaal, Di Maria enjoyed a good run in the lead up to Halloween, but the Argentina international’s form deserted him entirely thereafter, and he was sold to PSG for £44million the following summer.
“He was unhappy at the club,” Di Maria’s translator, Debora Gomes, told Esporte Interativo in 2017. “Firstly, he couldn’t communicate with anyone. And second because he realised the club bought him not because the club thought, ‘Oh, he will bring titles to us because he is a good player.’
“No. Because they simply wanted to sell his shirts. This I heard inside the club, the people talking. ‘Di Maria sells T-shirts, so let’s buy him’. So he was not happy.
“Then I realised, after Sir Alex Ferguson left the club, the club lost interest in football. It’s money, money, money. It’s making money and that’s it.”
A textbook case of a legend of the game coming to England too late in their career.
After being voted Bundesliga Players’ Player of the Season, Mkhitaryan moved to United tasked with adding the creativity to Mourinho’s attack.
After a slow start, the Armenian showed glimpses of his quality but fell out of favour and joined Arsenal in January 2018 as part of the swap deal for Alexis Sanchez.
Signed by Van Gaal in 2014, Rojo is another defender whose spell at Old Trafford has been marred by injury.
The Argentina international made 41 appearances in all competitions as United won the League Cup and Europa League in 2016-17, but he has made only 27 since then, with most being in second-string cup sides.
Still, he usually does a job in these games and is a useful back-up to have.
Maguire became the most expensive defender ever when he joined United for an eye-watering amount of money in the summer of 2019, and that’s largely why he’s not higher on this list.
He’s been steady, but for that sort of money, you’d be expecting Van Dijk level performances. So far, Maguire hasn’t hit those heights. Having inherited the captain’s armband following the departure of Ashley Young, the England international is going to be under even more scrutiny.
The Brazilian was United’s marquee signing in the summer of 2018, but he rarely got the pulses racing during his first season at Old Trafford.
His second season at the club has shown slight progress, notably trying to drag his side back into the game in the defeat at Anfield, but that price tag still weighs quite heavy on his shoulders.
United have been crying out for top quality full-backs for years, especially as Antonio Valencia has aged. Many believed Wan-Bissaka was just the man, and so far he’s been solid, if not much more.
He’s undoubtedly excellent at the defensive side of things and rarely gets passed or caught out of position. In order to justify his price tag, though, he needs to offer more going forward like most modern-day full-backs. At the age of 22, he has to improve that side of his game.
Like a lot of players on this list, Lukaku was OK on the whole but didn’t quite live up to expectations that came with his potential and transfer fee.
His first campaign at United yielded a healthy 27 goals in all competitions, but that dropped to 15 in 2018-19, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer often leaving him out following his appointment.
The Norwegian subsequently sold Lukaku to Inter Milan in the summer of 2019, and things are going pretty well for the Belgian so far in Italy.
Shaw’s progress was curtailed due to a horrendous leg break, and the left-back had a fractured relationship with Mourinho.
The 24-year-old now faces competition from youngster Brandon Williams at left-back but continues to show glimpses of why he was such a highly-rated youngster.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) September 4, 2018
Dalot signed from Porto in 2018 and made 23 appearances in three positions in his first season at United, playing on the wing and filling in at left-back as well as at his natural right-back role.
Perhaps better bombing forward than defending at this stage of his career, Dalot has improving to do – but at 20, he has plenty of time to do it.
Mourinho described Dalot as the “
Blind followed Van Gaal to United in 2014 and became a reliable member of the squad thanks to his versatility before returning to Ajax in 2018.
He was steady if unspectacular, which is a compliment when it comes to this list.
Reuniting with his former AZ manager Van Gaal, Romero was signed as a back-up goalkeeper in 2015.
He has largely been deployed in cup competitions, keeping a clean sheet in United’s 2-0 win over Ajax in the Europa League final.
Bailly was signed from Villareal in 2016 as Mourinho’s first signing. And he’s often been United’s most impressive centre-back when fit.
Staying fit, however, has been the problem.
Many eyebrows were raised when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer not only made a 21-year-old who had never played above the Championship his sole attacking signing in the summer of 2019 but then thrust him straight into the starting XI.
An electric start has been followed by a more difficult period, but given his rapid rise into a club suffering a nervous breakdown, James has acquitted himself well.
A fee which could still rise to £56million, Martial remains a favourite of supporters – and us – but there’s also a nagging feeling there’s a next level he ought to have found by now.
A record of 53 goals in 183 appearances over four and a bit seasons isn’t bad for a player who’s often been utilised on the wing, but most would have been expecting more when the France international announced himself back in 2015 with that memorable debut goal against Liverpool.
Pogba was the world’s most expensive player when he returned to United from Juventus in 2016.
His form has been up and down throughout his three seasons at Old Trafford, frustratingly so, and come the end of 2018-19 the same question was being asked: is he a player United should build a team around, or should they give up and move on?
Despite receiving plenty of criticism, Fellaini was a regular under three different United managers, lasting longer than many more illustrious names.
He found himself a handy niche as a battering ram but was also trusted as a holding midfielder in some big games by Mourinho before being let go by Solskjaer in January 2019.
The Sweden international is unlike many of the players on this list in that he’s improved as he’s gone on since joining in 2017.
Brave, a good reader of the game, comfortable on the ball and an obvious leader, he is one of few players United shouldn’t need to worry about needing to improve on any time soon.
“At this moment, he is a giant, not for his size but for the way he plays,” Mourinho told Goal in summation of one of his favourites.
Admittedly he now looks like the most immobile player in the history of the game, Matic has been one of the Premier League’s best defensive midfielders over the past decade and is also capable of pulling out something special on occasion.
His first season was alright, and that’s enough to get him this high up the list.
Matic with a brilliant goal against the Palace! ⚽️✔ pic.twitter.com/NHGqKYpg7N
— Manchester United (@ManRedDevils11) March 7, 2018
A slow starter at Old Trafford, Herrera found the role which has most suited him during Mourinho’s first season in charge.
The Spaniard was no longer an automatic pick after the arrival of Matic, but he remained a popular player until the end and was a surprisingly good shithouse, which always goes down well with the fans.
Signed by Moyes, Mata impressed under Van Gaal and adapted to Mourinho when many expected the duo to be incompatible.
He’s also written absolutely loads of blogs. Frankly, we love him.
Many people doubted whether Ibrahimovic could make an impact on the Premier League after joining United at the age of 34.
Twenty-eight goals in all competitions silenced the doubters only for his season to be cut short by a knee injury which he struggled to recover from before joining LA Galaxy.
Still, he has been one of the few players to rise to the occasion at Old Trafford since Ferguson’s departure, and as a free transfer, he was an outstanding signing.