Manchester United

Manchester United's 30 Greatest Foreign Imports

Rob DawsonManchester United CorrespondentFebruary 8, 2014

Manchester United's 30 Greatest Foreign Imports

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    Manchester United have attracted some of the best players in the world to Old Trafford throughout their history.

    The club has a track record of producing their own players, but they haven't been shy about splashing the cash to bring in some of the finest players from around the world.

    Some of United's foreign imports have been flops like Cameroon midfielder Eric Djemba-Djemba or Portugal winger Bebe.

    But some have gone on to change the course of United's history like Eric Cantona and Cristiano Ronaldo.

    Here's a list of the 30 best foreign imports to grace Old Trafford, with weight given to how much they cost, what they achieved and how popular they were during their stay.

    There were plenty of players who didn't make the cut so feel free to use the comments section below to add your own list.

30. Juan Sebastian Veron

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    Juan Sebastian Veron was signed for a club-record £28.1million when he arrived at United from Lazio in 2001, but his two seasons at Old Trafford are usually remembered as a disappointment.

    Sir Alex Ferguson often struggled to accommodate the Argentinian in a midfield which also included Roy Keane, Paul Scholes and occasionally Nicky Butt.

    He was allowed to depart for Chelsea in 2003 after scoring 11 goals in 82 games for United, but that hasn't stopped him from remaining a fans' favourite. 

29. Fabien Barthez

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    Fabien Barthez replaced Mark Bosnich as United's No. 1 when he was signed from Monaco in the summer of 2000.

    He arrived at Old Trafford a World Cup and European Championship winner with France, but he was often as error-prone as he was flamboyant. 

    He won the Premier League title in 2001 and 2003 before leaving for Marseille after playing 139 games for United.

28. Henning Berg

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    Henning Berg cost £5million when he joined United from Blackburn in 1997.

    The Norwegian defender was never a regular starter at Old Trafford after facing competition from Ronny Johnsen and Jaap Stam during his three full seasons at Old Trafford.

    Injury robbed him of a place in the squad for the 1999 Champions League final, and he rejoined Blackburn in 2000 after making 103 appearances.

27. Juan Mata

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    Juan Mata might have only just arrived at United, but he does so with a fearsome reputation.

    He's a World Cup and European Championship winner with Spain and has won Chelsea's Player of the Year award in both of his two seasons at Stamford Bridge.

    His task now, after becoming United's record signing last month, is to lead the club into a new era under David Moyes.

26. Park Ji-Sung

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    There were plenty of people who said United had only signed Park Ji-Sung to sell a few shirts in South Korea when he arrived from PSV Eindhoven in 2005.

    He was unspectacular—but incredibly hard-working—and had more than justified his £4 million fee by the time he left for QPR in 2012.

    It is unfortunate that his last game in a United shirt was a miserable night against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium when the 2012 title began to slip away. 

    It was a disappointing end to what had been an impressive seven years at Old Trafford.

25. Adnan Januzaj

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    Adnan Januzaj is another whose career at United is only just starting, but what a start it has been.

    The Belgian-born midfielder has been thrust into the first team as a teenager this season, and, despite a difficult transition under new manager David Moyes, he's been one of United's standout performers.

24. Carlos Tevez

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    Few supporters will forgive Carlos Tevez for moving across Manchester to sign for Manchester City in 2007, but it shouldn't take away from what he helped United achieve in his two seasons at Old Trafford.

    Signed from West Ham in 2007, the Argentinian striker was part of the team that won the Champions League in 2008 with a penalty shootout victory over Chelsea in Moscow.

    He left with two Premier League titles after scoring 34 goals in 99 games.

23. Rafael da Silva

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    Since arriving from Brazil with his twin brother Fabio in 2008, Rafael da Silva has matured into one of the finest right-backs in the Premier League.

    This season he has struggled to find the form he showed last year but still just 23 years old, he's got plenty of time ahead of him at United.

22. Javier Hernandez

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    Javier Hernandez arrived from Guadalajara after the World Cup in 2010 as a relative unknown, but he ended his first season at United by starting the Champions League final against Barcelona at Wembley.

    In three-and-a-half seasons at Old Trafford, the Mexican striker has rarely been considered a first-team regular, but he has still built a reputation as a clinical finisher.

21. David De Gea

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    David De Gea overcame the problems he had settling into life in the Premier League to be named England's best goalkeeper last season.

    The Spanish keeper arrived from Atletico Madrid for nearly £19 million in 2011 to fill the sizeable gloves of Edwin van der Sar, and it's proved to be a sound investment.

    Still only 23, he could have another 10 years as United's first-choice No. 1.

20. Dimitar Berbatov

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    History will probably remember Dimitar Berbatov as a flop after Sir Alex Ferguson paid a club-record £30.75 million to sign him from Tottenham in 2008.

    But it should be remembered that he finished as the Premier League's top scorer in 2011, goals that ultimately helped United win the title.

    The Bulgarian striker scored 56 goals in 149 games before leaving for Fulham in 2012.

    His wonderful array of skill and confident swagger mean he's still remembered fondly by the supporters.

19. Mikael Silvestre

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    Mikael Silvestre wasn't one of Sir Alex Ferguson's most celebrated signings, but he was solid and reliable for much of his nine seasons at Old Trafford.

    The Frenchman cost just £4 million when he arrived from Inter in 1999 and was effective at centre-half and left-back.

    He played 361 times for United, winning five Premier League titles, before leaving for Arsenal in 2008.

18. Arnold Muhren

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    Arnold Muhren only played 98 times for United, but he is still remembered by fans of a certain age as one of the most skillful midfielders ever to pull on the shirt.

    He moved to Old Trafford from Ipswich in 1982, but after injury took its toll, he was allowed to head home to Holland with Ajax in 1985.

17. Laurent Blanc

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    Despite Sir Alex Ferguson's best efforts, it wasn't until the end of Laurent Blanc's career that he arrived at Old Trafford.

    He moved to United from Inter in 2001 as a replacement for Jaap Stam, who had departed for Lazio.

    The French defender played 75 games in two seasons at United before retiring in 2003.

    He's now coach of Paris Saint-Germain after two years in charge of the French national team.

16. Henrik Larsson

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    With their title challenge flagging during the 2006/07 season, United were in desperate need of a boost.

    And Sir Alex Ferguson delivered, signing Swedish striker Henrik Larsson on loan from Helsingborg for three months.

    Larsson scored three goals in 13 games, and United went on to lift the Premier League trophy.

15. Gabriel Heinze

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    Gabriel Heinze is another whose time at United is remembered for how he left rather than what he did on the pitch.

    After signing from Paris Saint-Germain in 2004, the Argentinian left-back was a fans' favourite until he lost his place to Patrice Evra and tried to force a move to Liverpool in 2007.

    He was eventually sold to Real Madrid, his reputation among United fans forever tarnished.

14. Jesper Olsen

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    Jesper Olsen came to United with a fine reputation after starring for Denmark at the 1982 European Championships.

    The winger arrived from Ajax for £350,000 in 1984 and left for Bordeaux for £400,000 four years later with a 1985 FA Cup winner's medal to his name.

13. Ronny Johnsen

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    Ronny Johnsen played 150 times for United, but it would have been many more had his career not been blighted by injury.

    After signing from Besiktas in 1996 he won the Premier League title four times and partnered Jaap Stam at the back during the Champions League final against Bayern Munich in 1999.

    The Norwegian, who was comfortable in midfield as well as at centre-half, left for Aston Villa in 2002 and went on to play a few games for Newcastle before his career came to an end.

12. Patrice Evra

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    Confrontational and straight-talking, Patrice Evra has been a favourite among the United fans since he arrived for £5 million from Monaco in January 2006.

    Once he recovered from a nightmare debut against Manchester City, the Frenchman has been one of the best left-backs in the world for most of his time at Old Trafford.

    In seven full seasons at United, he's won five Premier League titles, the Champions League and played in two other finals.

11. Dwight Yorke

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    Dwight Yorke couldn't have had a better start to life as a United player after winning the treble in his first season.

    He arrived from Aston Villa for a club-record £12.6 million in 1998 and, along with Andy Cole, scored the goals that helped United win the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League in 1999.

    The Trinidad and Tobago forward was only at Old Trafford for four seasons before leaving for Blackburn in 2002.

10. Andrei Kanchelskis

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    Andrei Kanchelskis' legacy at United is tainted by the way he tried to force a move to Everton in 1995, but he was a wonderful player when he was at his best.

    Signed for just £650,000 from Shakhtar Donetsk in 1991, he scored 29 goals in 161 games.

    He left in 1995, along with Paul Ince and Mark Hughes, but it was the flying Ukrainian winger whom United missed the most.

9. Nemanja Vidic

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    Another favourite among United's support, Nemanja Vidic has formed the backbone of United's back four for more than seven years alongside Rio Ferdinand.

    Now 32, the Serbian defender has chosen to leave Old Trafford when his contract expires at the end of the season to go in search of a new challenge.

8. Robin van Persie

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    Robin van Persie made himself an instant hero at United, not only by turning his back on rivals Arsenal to move to Old Trafford in 2012 but also by scoring the goals to help clinch a record 20th title.

    Sir Alex Ferguson had to push the boat out to sign the Dutch striker and change his policy on paying for players nearing their 30th birthday, but so far he's proved to be worth every bit of the £24 million fee.

    His winner against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium last season paid off a large chunk on its own.

7. Ruud van Nistelrooy

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    Ruud van Nistelrooy scored an incredible 150 goals in 219 games for United in five seasons at Old Trafford.

    He might have arrived a year earlier had he not suffered a knee injury while playing for PSV Eindhoven.

    When he finally did arrive for £19 million in 2001, he settled immediately, scoring 36 goals in 49 games in his first season.

    And his 25 league goals in 2002/03 helped United lift the Premier League title.

6. Edwin van der Sar

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    It wasn't until Edwin van der Sar arrived from Fulham in 2005 that Sir Alex Ferguson found a long-term and reliable replacement for Peter Schmeichel.

    The Dutch goalkeeper was already over 30 when he moved to Old Trafford for £2 million, but he still played 266 games in six seasons before announcing his retirement in 2011.

    He left United with four Premier League titles and a Champions League winners' medal after saving the crucial penalty from Nicolas Anelka in the 2008 final against Chelsea.

5. Jaap Stam

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    Jaap Stam was signed for £10.6 million from PSV Eindhoven in 1998 and won the Premier League title in each of his three full seasons at Old Trafford.

    Sir Alex Ferguson unexpectedly sold the giant Dutch defender to Lazio in 2001, and he went on to play for Milan and Ajax.

    The United fans still sing about him regularly more than a decade after his departure.

4. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

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    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scored 126 goals in 366 games for United after arriving from Molde in 1996, but he only needed one to make himself a legend.

    His stoppage-time winner in the 1999 Champions League final against Bayern Munich is perhaps the most dramatic goal in European Cup history, nevermind United's.

    He only cost £1.5 million, but he paid back every penny and more that night in the Nou Camp. 

    No one has scored more goals for United as a substitute than Solskjaer, who's now in charge of Cardiff.

3. Peter Schmeichel

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    Peter Schmeichel signed from Brondby for little more than £500,000 in 1991 and went on to become one of United's greatest ever goalkeepers.

    The Denmark international was undisputed No. 1 for his eight seasons at Old Trafford, racking up 393 appearances and even one goal.

    His United career ended with him lifting the Champions League trophy in 1999 as stand-in captain for the suspended Roy Keane.

2. Cristiano Ronaldo

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    Cristiano Ronaldo arrived at United from Sporting Lisbon in 2003 as a scrawny teenager but left in 2009 as one of the best players in the world.

    He transformed from "show pony" to superstar during six years at Old Trafford, eventually leaving for Real Madrid for a world-record fee.

    The Portugal winger scored 118 goals in 292 appearances but has gone on to hit even greater heights in La Liga.

    But he's yet to win a Champions League title with Real Madrid after achieving the feat with United in Moscow in 2008.

1. Eric Cantona

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    Had it not been for a chance phone call from Leeds to United in 1992, Eric Cantona might never have arrived at Old Trafford.

    He joined a club that hadn't won the title for 26 years and left five years later with four Premier League titles, two FA Cups and two doubles.

    The French striker only cost £1.2 million, but he is credited with being the trigger for more than two decades of success.

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