The 17 Man Utd signings that cost £30million+ and how they fared
If there’s one thing Manchester United have loved to do in recent years, it’s to splash the cash on a big-money signing.
Since Sir Alex Ferguson left the club in 2013, four managers have spent over £1billion on new faces. There have been some notable success stories, but also a fair few flops that haven’t managed to get United any closer back to the summit of English football.
We’ve taken a closer look at United’s 17 signings to cost over £30million to date.
Rio Ferdinand – £30m
Signed considerably earlier than most of the players on this list, back in 2002 when £30million was still a mind-blowing amount for a transfer.
The centre-back remains Leeds United’s record sale nearly two decades on, and it’s safe to say he lived up to his price tag. He won six Premier League titles during his 12 years at the club, as well as the Champions League and two League Cups.
Alongside Nemanja Vidic, Ferdinand was one half of arguably the Premier League’s greatest-ever central defensive pairing. If only £30million got you that these days.
Eric Bailly – £30m
The first player signed by Jose Mourinho, Bailly came to Manchester United as part of the Special One’s rebuild following the Louis van Gaal years. Bailly certainly got off to a good start, picking up the Man of the Match award in United’s 2-1 win against Leicester City in the Community Shield.
Unfortunately for Bailly, since then injuries have become a constant source of frustration, while the odd erratic moment when fit has seen the Ivorian end up behind Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof and Raphael Varane in the pecking order a Old Trafford.
Still, no one approaches the game quite like him – and his many eyebrow-raising moments over the years have earned him something of a cult following.
Dimitar Berbatov – £30.75m
My fiance once woke up in the middle of the night because of the noises I was making while watching a compilation of Berbatov first touches. She was certainly relieved and somewhat confused by what was going on.
Berba really was the final piece in the puzzle for Fergie in 2008. Joining from Tottenham for £30.75million after netting 15 in 36 in the previous season for Spurs, the Bulgarian wizard was the perfect addition to play alongside Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and co.
He scored 91 times in 201 appearances for Manchester United, winning two Premier League titles, a League Cup and the Club World Cup.
Victor Lindelof – £30.8m
Lindelof has been a solid squad addition. He did struggle to hold down his spot under Mourinho but was given a new lease of life under Ole-Gunnar Solskjaer.
It looked as though he’d fall down the pecking order following the arrival of Raphael Varane in the summer, but the Swede has still featured prominently in 2021-22 and the early signs suggest that Ralf Rangnick might even prefer him to club captain Maguire.
“Last pre-season I was crying for a centre-defender!” 🤣
Jose Mourinho and Roy Keane agree that Manchester United ‘had’ to buy Harry Maguire but say there is no doubt he improves their defence.
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) September 22, 2019
Raphael Varane – £34.2m
The French centre-back has not quite had the transformative effect that many hoped, given his pedigree as a World Cup and four-time Champions League winner.
Few if any would lay any blame at Varane’s door, though, and for the most part he’s looked dependable. You’d still bank on this one turning out to be a brilliant piece of business in the long run.
Donny van de Beek – £35m
Hard not to feel sorry for him, especially given his general aura of being a non-threatening Dawson’s Creek cast member.
He’s never shown what made him look so special at Ajax, but to be fair he’s never been given a proper chance to – just four Premier League starts since his arrival in the summer of 2020. It’ll be fascinating to see if he can get his mojo back on loan at Everton.
Anthony Martial – £36m
The forward was just 19 years old when he made the move from Monaco, and at the time Martial had only scored on 15 occasions in his first-team career. After announcing himself to the world with a Thierry Henry-esque strike against Liverpool, he netted 17 times in all competitions for United in his debut campaign.
But he’s arguably never bettered that campaign, and every time it looked as though the Frenchman might kick on and realise his potential on a more consistent basis, he’s taken a step backwards.
The decision to loan him to Sevilla for the latter half of the 2021-22 campaign tells you all you need to know about Martial’s current standing at Old Trafford. It will be interesting to see if this stint with the La Liga title challengers rekindles his career.
Juan Mata – £37.1m
The diminutive Spaniard has now been at United for six seasons longer than he was at Stamford Bridge. He came in as a then club-record signing in what was pretty much the final attempt from David Moyes to save his tenure.
To be fair, Mata was just happy to get away from Jose Mourinho, who wasn’t keen on him at Chelsea for whatever reason – which made it slightly awkward when Mourinho then took over at Old Trafford.
Six goals and four assists in his first season wasn’t a bad return. He’s now made 276 appearances, netting 51 times in all competitions for United, and is one of football’s nice guys. Minutes have been increasingly few and far between in recent years, however.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) April 28, 2020
Nemanja Matic – £40m
There’s no question that before joining United, Matic was one of the best midfielders in the world, playing a huge role in Chelsea’s two title wins in 2014-15 and 2016-17.
While he never quite found that form since the move to Old Trafford, he still showed flashes of real quality in his first couple of seasons. In fact, he might have gotten a lot more flack than maybe he deserves.
Still, even his biggest fan would find it difficult to argue that the 33-year-old Serbian still has a lot to offer at the very highest level in 2022, having been swept away by the gradual rise of McFred.
Bruno Fernandes – £47m
The Portuguese playmaker was a revelation since moving from Sporting Lisbon in January 2020. His contributions in terms of goals, assists and chances created were nothing short of sensational across his first 18 months with the club.
Things dipped a little since the arrival of his Portugal team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer struggled to figure out how to get the two of them working in tandem, but there have still been some real moments of class.
Fred – £47m
Another £47million man, Fred joined from Shakhtar Donetsk back in 2018. For much of his time on Manchester though, his performances have hardly justified that inflated fee.
His displays throughout his first season were extremely lacklustre. He’s been labelled as one of the worst ever signings by Manchester United by fans and some journalists even claimed Mourinho never really wanted him.
However, the Brazilian went on to demonstrate why he was so highly-rated at Shakhtar with some excellent spells of form under Solskjaer, while coaches Michael Carrick and Kieran McKenna have helped with one-on-one sessions.
Fred is still yet to be totally dependable every week, but in a difficult 2021-22 season he’s continued to show flashes of being the midfielder that United are crying out for him to be.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka – £50m
The 24-year-old had his price inflated mainly thanks to the fact that he was age and being English.
Few could have complaints about Wan-Bissaka defensively – he’s made an art form out of the crunching challenge – many have questioned how much he offers going forward.
He’s still yet to be capped at senior level for the Three Lions, and you wonder if it’ll ever come given what Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold and Chelsea’s Reece James can do with the ball at their feet.
Another player that Rangnick has reportedly questioned whether they’re good enough.
Angel Di Maria – £59.7m
At the time, Di Maria’s move from Real Madrid was the highest in British history. His move was such a big deal that Sky Sports even dusted off the Player Cam feature especially for the 4-0 win over QPR, when he was named man of the match.
He scored a worldie against Leicester in the next game, effortlessly chipping Kasper Schmeichel.
Despite being a creative outlet for Louis van Gaal’s side, his lack of goals became quite telling, managing just three in the league, and he struggled to settle in Manchester. He was soon shipped out to Paris Saint Germain for around £44million.
Since joining PSG, he’s looked much more at home, winning five Ligue 1 titles, registering over a hundred assists, and finishing a runner-up in the Champions League.
Jadon Sancho – £72.6m
It’s far too early to write him off, but it’s been a tough debut season.
From averaging a goal or assist every 86 minutes at Borussia Dortmund to a goal or assist every 624 minutes at United – has the Bundesliga curse struck again?
Romelu Lukaku – £75m
There’s no question that Lukaku got a raw deal during his spell in Manchester. His first season went well, with him netting 27 occasions in all competitions – the 10th most scored by a United player in a single season.
But he gradually lost confidence after that first campaign amid criticisms of his form and fitness, and Solskjaer appeared to lose faith in the player.
Still, recouping £73million from Inter was pretty good going, while a move to Serie A seemed to give the Belgian a new lease of life. Lukaku was talismanic in their 2020-21 Scudetto triumph under Antonio Conte, but he’s struggled to bring that back to Chelsea.
Harry Maguire – £80m
It really hasn’t helped Maguire that he became the world’s most expensive defender, topping Virgil Van Dijk’s £75million move. With that label comes a lot of added pressure and scrutiny, both fair and unfair.
The England international has put in some towering performances at the heart of defence for the Red Devils, and at times has looked a solid choice as club captain.
But his stock has fallen somewhat since getting skewered by Roy Keane while suffering the worst form of his United career during Solskjaer’s final weeks in charge.
Paul Pogba – £89m
It cost big to get Pogba back into Manchester in 2016. Since then he’s rightly or wrongly divided fans and pundits alike.
He had to hold the label of being the world’s most expensive player for a short period of time, which certainly didn’t help ease some of the pressure on him.
Pogba put any doubts over his ability to rest with a starring role in France’s 2018 World Cup victory, and he has stepped up to show that quality on plenty of occasions at Old Trafford over the past six years.
Yet still there remains a major question mark over what Pogba’s legacy will be. It’s been four trophyless seasons with the club, and that run may be extended to five in 2022.
It looks increasingly likely that he’ll leave on a free for a second time this summer, which ultimately begs the question – was it all worth it?