Sir Alex Ferguson's 10 Biggest Transfer Flops at Manchester United

Terry CarrollContributor IIIJuly 20, 2012

Sir Alex Ferguson's 10 Biggest Transfer Flops at Manchester United

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    Bye bye Owen...I was there...

    Every United fan will have their own list of the worst signings ever and, as he's been in the job for 25 years, most of them would be down to Sir Alex Ferguson.

    Practically speaking, both Owen Hargreaves and Diego Forlan should appear on a top 10 flop list that the great Scot has signed. They both cost loads of money and United never got the value out of either.

    In the case of Forlan, the legend says he was hijacked from Middlesborough's clutches at the airport. Extraordinary to reflect that he is still regarded as one of the most effective strikers in the world as he failed to score in his first season at United.

    In fact he only scored 17 goals in 98 matches, which is probably more than many people think. To put it in perspective, he then scored 59 in 128 for Villareal and 96 in 197 for Atletico Madrid. To rub salt in the wound, he was top scorer at the 2010 World Cup and voted best player at the tournament.

    But you can't include him in a list like this; nor Owen Hargreaves.They were both outstanding players. Owen would have filled the gap left by Roy Keane perfectly and was regarded as a first choice for England when fit. This was partly because of his versatility; he could play left back as well as defensive midfield. He also took a mean free kick.

    The first name on our list of 10 falls into this category also—world class players who never really made it at Old Trafford.

    In Hargreaves' case it was injury; Forlan bad luck; our first choice may simply have been too good. 

    Please post your own choices after reviewing this list.

Juan Sebastian Veron

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    It pains me to include Seba in this list.

    He has now retired at the age of 37. He is one of the most sublimely talented footballers I have ever seen in 55 years.

    Fergie and I have an Achilles heel. We love such players. Imagine what it is like being able to own and manage one even for only a few years.

    Few managers get the chance to sign such talent in maturity. No doubt Sir Alex would have loved Kaka when he signed for Real Madrid. He seems desperately keen to reel in Lucas Moura at just 19—rated not far behind Neymar in the hierarchy of Brazilian talent.

    The never-ending question however is whether these talented players can hack it in the Premier League?

    OK, so they are far better protected physically by referees than they were, but one bad tackle can end or at least truncate a career.

    Look at the case of Eduardo at Arsenal. After a horrific injury he was never the same and was sold to Shaktar Donetsk.

    Veron was never shy, physically. He didn't just score goals; they were often spectacular. He did well in Europe for United and although he was often brilliant in the Premier League, he didn't quite make it.

    During his time at United he scored just eleven goals and only seven in 51 matches in the EPL. United did win the Premier League in both of those seasons, but Veron struggled to cope with the pace of the game in England, hence his limited appearances.

    Even within days of selling him to Chelsea, Ferguson was singing his praises.  Well he would, having paid £28 million for him but he took a £13 million loss to move him on.

    It is an eternal challenge for any United manager to balance the flair, style and attacking football that is their hallmark with the trophies that are an economic necessity.

    In a different world, Fergie might have kept Veron as an indulgence. Flair is necessary in Europe and players are usually given more time on the ball. Equally, he has hinted he would be happy to hold on to the similarly sublime skills of Dimitar Berbatov.

    The fact is that on cost alone, the player who was the most expensive in history until 2008 (based on total transfer fees) was an expensive failure.

    If you love ooh, aah moments at Old Trafford, however, these players are like champagne and Belgian chocolates on a rainy day. 

Eric Djemba Djemba

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    No we don't need a video. 

    This was a period when Sir Alex lost the plot for a while. Whether he was looking for "value in the market," attempting to spot ripe talent or relying on his scouts, the Boss made some awful signings between 2003 to 2005. David Bellion was another and no prizes for guessing who we shall feature later.

    But DD was a spectacular failure. He makes Anderson look like Pele or Maradona. 

    He was bought for £3.5 million to replace Roy Keane after establishing an uncompromising style for both Nantes and Cameroon.

    Apart from being embarrassingly bad at United, he completely lost the plot off the pitch. By the age of 26 his billionaire lifestyle had bankrupted him. 


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    Kleberson (whose name Paddy Crerand could never quite get round) was the first Brazilian to ever play for United.

    There will, as a result, be some trepidation in and out of Old Trafford at the prospect of paying over £30 million for a 19-year-old Brazilian, however talented he is. Kleberson is the reason why.

    When you look at his international career, as with Veron, you ask how he could have failed at Old Trafford?

    Pretty much the same reasons. His £6.5 million signing was to replace Veron. Clearly Sir Alex hadn't given up on midfield class. Injured in his second match, he played only 20 matches in total for United, scoring two goals.

    After two seasons, United took an almost £5 million loss to unload him to Besiktas. Back in Brazil in 2007, Kleberson has made a total of only 248 appearances in 13 club years, which just about sums him up sadly.


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    The lad has talent. But how much? Certainly not £7.4 million.

    We shan't go into his background here. It was alleged he was discovered playing in the Homeless World Cup, but this has now been refuted.

    Sir Alex's former right hand man and possible successor, Carlos Queiroz recommended Bebe after Real Madrid and Benfica were said to be interested.

    He is apparently the only player Sir Alex has ever signed without seeing him play, meeting him only the day before.

    He may not be Sir Alex's own acknowledged worst signing but, out on tour at the moment and likely to make an appearance this weekend, he comes very close.

Ralph Milne

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    The fans were on Ralph's back from the moment he arrived. 

    Sir Alex's former sidekick Archie Knox had recommended him. He lasted just six months and 23 matches before leaving United. 

    He never played club football again.

    Sir Alex has admitted that Ralph was his worst ever signing although Bebe may yet change his mind.

Pat McGibbon

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    Nobody has yet adequately explained why Pat McGibbon was signed for £100,000 in 1992 after only one game in professional football.

    He only played one game for United as well, before going to Wigan for a £250,000 profit. He can't have been too bad, because he made 163 appearances for the Latics in five years.

    But he only played once for United in a similar period. One day Sir Alex will tell us why.

Massimo Taibi

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    If you want a good reason for Taibi to be on this list, watch the video about one and a half minutes in.

    When keepers like Van der Saar and Schmeichel can go almost an entire season without a gaffe, you can't afford a Gary Sprake-like blunder.

    He was bought for £4.5 million to replace Schmeichel and ended up being nicknamed the "Blind Venetian". This wasn't his only blunder, but probably the worst in his grand total of four appearances.

    Even he may not be the worst ever.

William Prunier

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    No this is not a faded picture of Jaap Stam.

    In fairness, even though he has previously been voted by fans as the sixth worst signing of all time, he was actually only a trialist.

    Originally intending to give William a run in the Reserves, Sir Alex found himself shorn of his three first choice central defenders. 

    Prunier was thrown in at the deep end with Gary Neville against QPR (above) and actually did pretty well. The following match against Spurs was his last, however. He had a shocker; United shipped four goals and William went to plough his furrow elsewhere.

    Some people would have Laurent Blanc on this list also, but he was also brought in to plug a gap and was a class defender.

Liam Miller

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    Martin O'Neill was going to build the Celtic team around young Liam Miller apparently, but Sir Alex snaffled him on a free to the outrage of the Parkhead fans.

    Two years and nine appearances later, the Old Trafford fans weren't arguing when he left on a free.

Mark Bosnich

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    Not much footage of Mark Bosnich and this one won't have appeared on his cv.

    Sir Alex has signed two of the best goalkeepers in history, but also has a history of duds.

    We've already seen Massimo Taibi and could have included Roy Carroll or even Ricardo, signed for £1.5 million. At least Carroll was given a chance.

    "KitKat" might feature on some peoples' lists of worst goalkeepers also, which would be slightly unfair.

    For a number of reasons, Bosnich makes our list, not just for his exploits at United.

    He was originally signed as a 16-year-old from Australia, making just three appearances before returning home.

    He was re-signed in 1999 on a free transfer as a replacement for Peter Schmeichel and actually wasn't a bad keeper. He had a short stint as first choice before French international Fabien Barthez was signed.

    You have to question why Sir Alex signed him after his appalling behaviour at Aston Villa. Even on a free he was a liability.

    Eventually he left for Chelsea, where his contract was terminated after he failed a drug test. He was later said to have developed a cocaine addiction, so we can only speculate what he was doing while at Old Trafford.

    In all, he played 289 times in a 20-year career in professional football. A wasted talent.