10 Manchester United Transfer Signings Who Never Delivered on Their Hype
Manchester United are not immune to failed signings. Sir Alex Ferguson has had his share. Not surprising really given that he's been manager for 26 years next month.
Ron Atkinson and Tommy Docherty take the biscuit though. Each was manager for five years and each failed to win the title.
When you come to consider transfer signings that never delivered at Manchester United, there are plenty of candidates. Is it fair to include players like Owen Hargreaves and Louis Saha who had such bad luck with injuries?
Hargreaves looked like the answer to the conundrum of how to follow Roy Keane. He had a history of injury at Bayern Munich and maybe the United doctors should have looked more closely at his tendonitis.
Sir Alex paid £17 million for a player who made only 39 appearances in four years, 34 of them in his first.
Louis Saha cost £12.4 million and, while he made a total of 124 appearances, scoring 42 goals, became the proverbial "sick-note."
A couple of other near-misses include Ted McDougall, Ralph Milne and Ian Ure.
Ted was signed from Bournemouth after a phenomenal return of 126 goals in 165 appearances. United were struggling to replace Denis Law and Bobby Charlton. Wilf McGuinness had been and gone as successor to Sir Matt Busby.
Frank O'Farrell stayed long enough to pay £200,000 for Ted, whose reputation had been created by scoring nine goals in an 11-0 FA Cup win for Bournemouth. Tommy Docherty arrived soon after and Ted left for West Ham where his stay was even shorter.
Some people might consider Ralph Milne to have been dreadfully unlucky. Many fans hated him. Sir Alex paid £170,000 and later admitted it was his worst ever signing. Ralph left Old Trafford a broken man.
Ian Ure was much hyped before he joined United in 1969 aged 29 after a successful career and 202 appearances for Arsenal.
He made just 47 appearances for the Red Devils where he was Wilf McGuiness' only signing. He only ever played three more top flight games.
So there are many to choose from, for various reasons. You no doubt will have your own suggestions. Here, in no particular order, are ten to consider.
Juan Sebastian Veron
Juan Sebastian Veron
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Where else to start but with "Seba." He has always divided the fans' opinion at Manchester United. Some thought that he was lazy and a waste of money.
Others, including this author, consider him to be one of the most sublimely gifted players ever to grace the hallowed Old Trafford turf.
But then so was Dimitar Berbatov.
Apart from his apparent inability to cope with the physicality of the Premier League, he and Berbatov shared the impression of a languid stride in a League that demanded pace. He was often caught in, and robbed of, possession.
This was one of Sir Alex's greatest money drains. He came on a fancy salary in July 2000 and cost £28.1 million. This made him the most expensive player in English League history.
You must remember that football purists of Sir Alex's generation grew up watching the great Real Madrid side with Gento and Di Stefano, or the magnificent Hungary with Puskas and of course Brazil with their silky skills.
To be able to buy a "galactico" like Veron was just too hard to resist and he didn't fear the Premier League.
To be fair he did better in Europe and had his moments, but he never quite clicked. He stayed only two seasons.
Roman Abramovich also loves sublimely gifted players and United managed to offload Seba for £15 million to Chelsea, where he played only seven matches.
He can't have been that bad because he played another nine seasons of top-flight football, only retiring at 35. He also had 35 caps for Argentina.
Sir Alex likes "Rolls-Royce" players and has fiercely resisted criticism of Veron, Berbatov and Michael Carrick. He never really won the fans round to his way of thinking for three players who cost a total of £77 million.
Veron's own transfer fees were £77 million, making him the most expensive player in history by total, until Nicolas Anelka and Cristiano Ronaldo successively eclipsed him.
Anderson Luis De Abreu Oliveira
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Believe it or not, Anderson has been five and a half years at Old Trafford. For most of that time, fans have wondered if he will ever live up to his potential.
He had been spotted as a Brazilian "wonderkid" when he debuted in the Brazilian Seria A aged just 16 and his progress had been monitored by many clubs in Europe, both before and after he joined Porto.
His mother had to relocate to Portugal to facilitate Anderson's transfer because he was underage. He played just 18 games in season 2006-2007 because his leg was broken.
It seems likely that this injury deterred several prospectors, but Sir Alex was prepared to take a £20 million gamble on an 18-year-old who had previously been identified as a future superstar.
His time at United has been punctuated by injury and loss of form for various reasons. Now in his sixth season, he has never matched the 38 games he played in his first two at Old Trafford.
Last season it looked like he and Tom Cleverley would allow Sir Alex to move to the next generation after they helped beat City in the Community Shield. Sadly, both were then affected by injuries and it seems likely that both came back too soon.
So 2011-2012 came and went. "Ando" is a fans' favourite, but by summer 2012 there had been growing speculation that he might be on his way out.
Sir Alex tried to sign first Eden Hazard and then Lucas Moura, for fees in excess of £30 million. Anderson probably looked at this and decided that he could save his manager a great deal of money if he got his act together. It is probable that Anderson and/or Nani would have helped finance those purchases.
The jury is still out on whether he will ever fulfill that early potential. There is no doubt he has the skill; his "engine" and tackling skills have improved immeasurably in the last five years.
Last week against Newcastle he showed signs of being an answer in midfield, including scoring an excellent goal. He continued that form against Cluj last night.
No doubt there will be fans calling for the Cleverley/Anderson experiment to continue so that he can repay his fee.
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Fabien Barthez was a character and a legend in his own mind.
He has also been involved for at least six years in three celebrity relationships: with Linda Evangelista, Alicia Douvall and Princess Stephanie of Monaco. He has never married.
Sir Alex doesn't like celebrities, viz his dispensing with David Beckham's services. That wasn't the reason why he got rid of Barthez, however.
He had originally bought the French World Cup goalkeeper for £7.8 million following his international successes. Ferguson wanted a world-class successor to Peter Schmeichel.
The Frenchman looked pretty good at first.
To say he was eccentric would be an understatement. In fairness, he was a great reaction keeper like David De Gea. The fans also loved his taunting of opposing players, dribbles and step-overs.
Sir Alex would have been less amused. In 2001-2002 his antics started to result in goals for the opposition. The manager stuck by him nevertheless and his form returned.
The following season proved to be his last. Although he won his second Premier League medal he was personally responsible for United's exit from the Champions League.
Sir Alex replaced him with US newcomer, Tim Howard. Barthez went on loan to Marseille and a year later he left the club.
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Diego Forlan was a huge fans' favourite at Old Trafford. In fact he still is, with a song still sung to serenade his memory.
This was one of Sir Alex's great transfer coups, "gazumping" Middlesborough, who had brought him to England and already agreed to pay a £6.9 million fee.
The Manchester United manager trumped that with a cash offer and the talented Uruguayan striker decided to join the bigger club.
There was little wrong with the manager's judgement this time around as Forlan had just scored 37 goals in 80 matches for Independiente.
The trouble was that he failed to score and then got stuck in a rut.
The fans absolutely loved his 110% commitment and flamboyant looks and style. They never stopped believing that he would find a rich vein.
He didn't score at all in his 18 matches in the 2001-2002 season. He finally got off the mark seven months after signing in the Champions' League. He opened his account in the Premier League a month later.
He only scored 17 goals in 98 matches for United.
This was extraordinary and unfortunate. He has been a world-class player for his country. In the World Cup Finals in 2010 he won trophies for best goal and best player at the tournament.
He has 33 goals in 89 appearances for Uruguay. His career tally in top-flight football is 200 goals in 448 appearances, if you exclude his Manchester United figures.
There was clearly little wrong with Ferguson's judgement, it's just that things didn't quite work out. He was and remains a firm fans' favourite.
In 2004 Sir Alex let him go, reluctantly, to Villareal. His time there and subsequently at Atletico were marked with great success once again, with 155 goals in 325 appearances.
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Luiz Felipe Scolari had chosen Kleberson for his tenacity and work-rate when picking him to play for Brazil against England in the 2002 World Cup. He was certainly combative, including one memorable tackle on Paul Scholes.
He was felt to be his country's driving force in that Tournament and several top clubs were chasing his signature. Leeds seemed to be favourites until he decided to stay home to marry his 16 year old girlfriend.
Eventually Manchester United signed him a year later for £6.5 million as a replacement for Veron.
Unfortunately he was injured in his second match and seemed to lose heart. He played 30 games in two seasons, scoring only twice.
United made him available for transfer in summer 2005 and eventually Besiktas picked up his contract for 3 million Euros.
It seems extraordinary that such a talented player has made only 361 appearances in 13 seasons. He has been most successful in Brazil, so maybe he simply didn't travel well.
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Peter Barnes is included here for three main reasons: his largely unfulfilled talent; the fact that a Manchester City player eventually ended up at United and then migrated back to City; and his promiscuity as far as football clubs are concerned.
Let's start with the latter.
Peter Barnes was transferred no less than 29 times in a career spanning just 19 years with just 361 matches played. It is too glib to suggest that he was an old-fashioned winger when the art went out of fashion. During that period many others, like John Barnes, succeeded.
He played for Manchester City in two separate spells, with two at United sandwiched in-between. He was the son of a City legend, Ken Barnes, who had only three clubs, with 258 games for the "Sky Blues".
Finally, he was undoubtedly an unfulfilled talent. He was also a blond-haired good looking lad.
At just 18 he had been voted the PFA Young Player of the Year. He played a total of 115 games for City in their title winning side.
By the time he joined Manchester United in 1985, he had already moved twice for £750,000 and had 22 caps for England. Nevertheless, Ron Atkinson was able to pick him up "for a song".
He played a total of 20 games for United before Sir Alex Ferguson sold him. He didn't take to the manager's "hairdryer" treatment.
His career went dramatically downhill and he averaged a mere three games each for a further 22 clubs in the last six years of his career.
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It's not always a good thing to be the son of a famous celebrity or footballer. Jordi Cruyff is the son of Johan, one of the greatest footballers who ever lived.
How do you live up to that?
It is to his credit that he was able to play at the highest level, but he was a shadow of his father's self.
Furthermore, having joined Ajax's Academy at the age of seven, he followed his father back to Barcelona when Johann was appointed head coach in 1988. Jordi was 14 at the time and four years later he made his debut for Barcelona B.
He continued his transition into the first team, where he stayed until 1996 when, coincidentally, his father was sacked.
With his father out of coaching for the next 13 years, Jordi was placed in the trusted hands of Sir Alex for a fee of £1.4 million.
He never fulfilled any hype, especially that surrounding his illustrious father.
A knee injury and then an ankle injury did him no favours, but in the end, United ran down his contract and he left on a free transfer to Alaves.
In four seasons, Jordi played just 54 games, scoring eight goals.
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Alan Brazil was an injury waiting to happen by the time he joined Manchester United. He is now a successful radio presenter for Talksport in the UK and remembers his time at Old Trafford fondly.
Which is more than the fans do.
Alan had been a storming success at Ipswich Town in the title-winning side that Sir Bobby Robson fashioned. Able to play on the wing or as striker, he scored 70 goals in 154 appearances.
During that period he had been bizarrely loaned to Detroit Express for 24 games.
He left Ipswich for Tottenham for £500,000, but despite scoring nine goals in 31 matches he moved again a year later to Manchester United for £700,000.
After a further 31 games and eight goals Sir Alex Ferguson dispensed with his services as he wanted to rid United of a drinking culture.
There is no suggestion that Brazil was part of that, but in 2008 he was locked up in gaol for drink-driving.
It is likely that he played through injuries during his time at both Spurs and United. After migrating through a further six clubs and forty or so appearances, his career was ended through a spine injury.
He won the UEFA CUP with Ipswich and Spurs and had also played for Scotland 13 times, being the youngest member of their squad at the World Cup in 1982.
Ian Storey-Moore had scored 105 goals in 236 appearances for Nottingham Forest before Frank O'Farrell signed him for Manchester United.
He had come to the attention of Brian Clough, who thought he had secured the winger's signature before United nipped in.
Maybe they wished they hadn't. He could score spectacular goals and was similar to Cristiano Ronaldo in his ability to score goals from the wing.
In six consecutive seasons at Forest he had been the club's top scorer.
Injuries blighted him at Manchester United and eventually his career was finished in 1974, although he did play a few games after that.
Ron Davies was another lethal finisher who had come to the attention of Manchester United by constantly beating them with Southampton.
In the match above he scored all four goals with his head in a drubbing that led Sir Matt Busby to say that he had no peer in Europe.
He scored 153 goals in 277 matches, with a large number being headed.
He left Southampton for Portsmouth, before joining Manchester United under Tommy Docherty.
The 4-1 thrashing of United at Old Trafford had been Bill Foulkes' last match and he tried to persuade Davies to join United there and then.
Sir Matt Busby had offered £200,000 three years before he eventually signed in a straight swap for George Graham to Portsmouth.
A series of injuries had blighted his last season at Southampton and a similar pattern emerged at United. This was in an era when players like Denis Law played through injuries with painkillers.
Davies played just eight matches for United with no goals, before disappearing to North American football. He never returned to play in the UK.