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Manchester United Transfers: The Best and Worst Moves of the Last 10 Years

Matt CheethamCorrespondent IJune 6, 2013

Manchester United Transfers: The Best and Worst Moves of the Last 10 Years

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    David Moyes has gradually forged a strong reputation in the transfer market, having continually unearthed bargain buys and moulded them into Premier League stars at Everton.

    The likes of Tim Cahill, Mikel Arteta and Seamus Coleman were all recruited for next to nothing, while the relatively small amounts paid for Phil Jagielka, Leighton Baines and Joleon Lescott have also proved shrewd manoeuvres.

    Of course, there are also occasions he's missed, as with all managers, but Moyes now faces a very different challenge at Manchester United—targeting high-calibre players with a substantial amount of backing. 

    With bigger fees comes bigger expectations and pressure on those signings to instantly deliver, something Moyes has not been so accustomed to at Everton.

    To highlight Manchester United's recent approach, here's a look at their best and worst moves of the past 10 years, from 2003-2013, to better outline his task ahead.

Best: Cristiano Ronaldo

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    Moyes would certainly start with a bang if he could locate a future world beater for a mere £12.24 million. That was the sum paid for Cristiano Ronaldo back in 2003, before he developed into the elite superstar he is today.

    The Portuguese international has to go down as one of, if not the best of United's recent purchases, especially considering the staggering profit made from his eventual sale to Real Madrid.

    During six years at United, Ronaldo crammed in three Premier League titles, an FA Cup, two League Cups and a Champions League trophy, as well as a host of individual awards and, not forgetting, an impressive 118 goals.

Worst: Bebe

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    In complete contrast to Ronaldo comes his compatriot, Bebe. Every now and then a manager opts to trust a scout and bring in a player he's never actually seen in the flesh, as Sir Alex Ferguson admitted doing with this Portuguese Under-21 international.

    Bebe signed in 2010 for around £7 million, according to The Independent, yet has only made a handful of appearances during the past three-years and has never suggested he has the quality to succeed at Old Trafford.

    Due to Everton's precarious finances, Moyes has always had to be one of the more meticulous managers, continually watching games and analysing players himself, making it unlikely too many similar instances will transpire under his watch.

Best: Edwin Van Der Sar

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    Everton's general transfer policy under Moyes was predominately to invest in younger products that could be developed and nurtured, ensuring their value would always be rising. 

    That's generally the ethos most Premier League clubs employ, but there will be times when paying for a crafty veteran will be the best option to bring in to United.

    Thirty four-year-old Edwin van der Sar proved exactly that when he was recruited from Fulham back in 2005—as four Premier Leagues, two League Cups, three FA Cups and a Champions League clearly emphasizes in just a six-year stint.

Worst: Kleberson

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    Kleberson was a World Cup-winning midfielder with Brazil, brought to Old Trafford at a time when United's midfield was in a state of transition.

    He came in for around £6 million with a large reputation, but never fully acclimatised to the Premier League and only made 20 appearances in a hugely disappointing two-year spell at the club.

    The Brazilian never suggested he had the attributes to influence games from midfield, yet, after leaving, actually managed to regain his place in the international setup and was selected for the 2010 World Cup.

Best: Robin Van Persie

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    This is where Moyes will be most tested in the transfer market. Robin van Persie became available as a 28-year-old, and Manchester United had to show an unwavering desire to sign the Dutchman through the courting process—eventually splashing out £24 million on him, according to the Daily Mail. 

    Spending big on a player who's value will have drastically declined by the end of his contract will not come naturally to Moyes, having been so used to the opposite at Everton, but it's a ploy he will need to adopt.

    Instead of signing potential stars at 22 or 23, there will be times a fully developed 27 or 28-year-old finished article will be the right option, as Van Persie clearly was.

    The Dutchman's already suggesting he will go down as one of the club's best buys during recent times, named as United's Player of the Season in this, his title-winning debut campaign.

Worst: Dong Fangzhuo

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    Dong Fangzhuo is another one of the worst buys from the last 10 years, having seemingly been brought in purely for commercial reasons.

    The Chinese international arrived at Old Trafford in 2004, for around £3.5 million. Some initial work permit issues meant his debut didn't then arrive until 2006, coming in a meaningless Premier League game with the title already secured.

    Other than a League Cup outing and one Champions League cameo, that proved his only venture in a United shirt, and—after four years—he eventually departed in 2008, having not receiving a squad number for the new season.

    Dong is now back playing domestic football in China, having spent time in Portugal, Poland and Armenia along the way.

Best: Nemanja Vidic

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    Nemanja Vidic is one of the best buys of the Premier League era, let alone United's past 10 years. Having joined in 2006, the Serbian took a few months to fully adjust to the Premier League before establishing himself as one of the world's best defenders.

    Alongside numerous team accolades, he was the first ever defender to be voted Premier League Player of the Season, and he's also been included in the PFA Team of the Year four seasons in a row between 2007 and 2011.

    Now club captain, Vidic will go down as one of United's best purchases, arriving from Spartak Moscow for a bargain £7 million. He's a player Moyes will surely cherish working with over the coming seasons.

Worst: Eric Djemba-Djemba

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    Brought in during the summer of 2003, Djemba-Djemba was seen as a natural replacement for Roy Keane, yet failed to ever fully established himself.

    Many cite rumours of an excessive off-field lifestyle as the main reason for his rapid decline, although he rarely showed signs of possessing genuine Premier League pedigree. Moyes has always strived to avoid colourful characters, again making it unlikely there will be too many similar scenarios in his tenure.

    Since leaving United after two seasons, Djemba-Djemba has had spells in Qatar and Norway, and played in Israel last year for Hapoel Tel Aviv.

Best: Wayne Rooney

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    Whatever your current views on Wayne Rooney, it’s impossible not to consider the England international one of United’s best recent acquisitions.

    Signed in a bumper package from David Moyes' Everton in 2004, Rooney currently sits fourth on the all-time list of Manchester United scorers, with a genuine chance of overhauling Sir Bobby Charlton—if he is to remain at Old Trafford.

    That is likely to become a repetitive theme of the summer, with his current intentions still unclear, but his achievements at the club remain hugely impressive and Moyes would surely enjoy working with his former charge once again.

    Aside from the mammoth haul of trophies Rooney's helped his side land, he's twice been United's Player of the Season, included three times in the PFA Team of the Year and twice been the PFA Fans' Player of the Season. 

Worst: David Bellion

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    Bellion is the fourth of a quartet of disappointing buys from the summer of 2003-04, that make up 80 percent of these worst transfers.

    That was certainly a transitional period at United, who also brought in the uninspiring Liam Miller during that transfer window.

    Of course, Bellion was arguably the biggest flop of all due to the considerable hype surrounding him, with many in France calling him a natural successor to the great Thierry Henry.

    On the pitch he appeared anything but. Speedy, yes, but hugely erratic in front of goal and void of a vaguely reliable touch. He scored just four league goals in almost three years at Old Trafford and certainly goes down as a major flop from recent times.

     

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