Manchester United Transfers: The 10 Most Important Deals in Club History
As Manchester United's transfer activity heats up, we take a look back at the best deals ever made in the club's history.
Manchester United has always relied on the formula of bringing in fresh, untapped talent into its ranks and breeding the fledglings for the future.
It's a simple, yet effective trick that every manager who has been in charge at the club has mastered.
Current gaffer Sir Alex Ferguson is a connoisseur when it comes to identifying future prospects and has wasted little time this transfer window in bringing in fresh new talent into the club.
While a £16.5 million deal for England U-21 defender Phil Jones has already been agreed, Manchester United are also close to signing winger Ashley Young and goalkeeper David De Gea.
Whether the trio will be successful at the Theatre of Dreams is anyone's guess, but here's a list of 10 great deals the club has sanctioned in its glorious history:
10. Nemanja Vidic (£7m, 2006)
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Sir Alex Ferguson had been trailing Nemanja Vidic for almost two-and-a-half years before he finally made his move in the January transfer window of 2006.
Manchester United fans had hardly heard about the big Serb when he completed his £7 million move from Spartak Moscow and were highly skeptical about the signing.
Vidic made his United debut as a substitute for Ruud van Nistelrooy in the Carling Cup semifinal against Blackburn that year. He had a shaky start but didn't take much time to get used to the physicality of the English game.
Vidic started making more and more appearances in the 2006-07 season and soon formed a formidable centre-back partnership with Rio Ferdinand.
Today, Nemanja Vidic is one of the most feared defenders in the world and is known for literally throwing his 6'3" stocky frame at the opponent. More often than not, Vidic gets the ball and leaves the opponent on the floor like a freight train has hit him.
The United faithful rightly sing about their current captain, "Nemanja...woah...Nemanja...woah! He comes from Serbia, he'll f&%$in' murder ya!"
Damn right he will!
9. Ruud Van Nistelrooy (£19m, 2001)
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Ruud van Nistelrooy was first spotted by Sir Alex Ferguson's son, Darren Ferguson, when the Dutchman used to play for PSV Eindhoven. When Ferguson Jr. begged daddy to sign the striker, Sir Alex immediately obliged by sending club representatives to seal the deal in the summer of 2000.
But due to a niggling knee injury, van Nistelrooy's arrival at Old Trafford was delayed by a year and Sir Alex finally got his man the following summer for around £19 million—a British record at the time.
Van Nistelrooy wasted no time in justifying his price tag by scoring 33 goals in his first season for the Red Devils—a feat that won him the PFA Player's Player of the Year Award.
The following season saw the Dutchman become the highest scorer in the Premier League by netting 25 goals.
Van Nistelrooy scored 150 goals in 219 appearances for the Red Devils. But a fallout with Sir Alex at the end of the 2006 season saw him sign for Real Madrid that summer.
Van Nistelrooy remains one of United's most celebrated No. 10s.
8. Roy Keane (£3.75m, 1993)
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After signing for Nottingham Forest at the age of 19, Roy Keane began to make noise around the English football circle and attracted the attention of top Premier League clubs.
Kenny Dalglish, who managed Blackburn Rovers then, was the first one to speak to the Irishman about a possible switch to Ewood Park. With Forest nearing relegation, Keane replied in the affirmative and was all set to join the Riversiders in the summer of 1993.
However, a cheeky phone call from Sir Alex Ferguson dramatically made Keane sign for Manchester United instead, for a British record fee of £3.75 million, to Dalglish's rage.
Keane took a while to break into the first team but got his chance when captain Bryan Robson went out with injury. The Irishman took full advantage of his opportunity by scoring a brace on his home debut against Sheffield United.
Keane then slowly began to find himself as a first-team regular in the United midfield alongside the likes of Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and David Beckham.
Known for his shrewd no-nonsense attitude, Keane eventually took over as club captain after Eric Cantona's retirement. Keane carried forward Cantona's legacy of astuteness and aggressiveness and became one of the most dynamic captains United ever produced. No one could take Roy Keane for granted. Ask Patrick Vieira.
Keane led United to nine major titles and remains one of the most successful captains in club history.
7. Wayne Rooney (£27m, 2004)
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After Dwight Yorke left Manchester United for Blackburn in 2002, Sir Alex Ferguson was on the constant lookout for a worthy striker to partner Ruud van Nistelrooy up front.
Ferguson's search eventually led him across the M62 to Everton where a certain youngster named Wayne Rooney was making his mark in the game.
Rooney had ended Arsenal's 30-match unbeaten run in 2002 with a last-minute winning goal which made him the youngest goal scorer in Premier League history, aged 16 years and 360 days.
Rooney's exploits at the Euro 2004 tournament, where he became the youngest scorer in the competition's history, finally made Sir Alex make his move and land the young prodigy in a deal worth £27 million.
Rooney's arrival at Old Trafford, given his Scouse origins, was met with raised eyebrows in Manchester. But all was forgotten when the youngster netted a hat-trick on his United debut in a Champions League match against Fenerbahce.
Rooney, who was given the No. 8 jersey to begin with, took over van Nistelrooy's No. 10 shirt after the Dutchman's exit.
Rooney's United career is marked with many highs and lows. There have been times when the fans wanted him out, but Rooney has managed to redeem himself with his goals.
With 147 goals and counting to date, Rooney has cemented his place in the pantheon of United greats at the tender age of 25.
Unfortunately for his detractors and opponents, he isn't quite done yet.
6. Bryan Robson (£1.5m, 1981)
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Bryan Robson made his foray into the world of football at the West Bromwich Albion youth academy. He carved a niche for himself at the Hawthorns, scoring 40 goals for the club as a midfielder in seven years.
When the Baggies' manager Ron Atkinson left for Manchester United in the summer of 1981, Robson followed him to Old Trafford soon after, in a deal worth £1.5 million.
Robson took on the famed No. 7 shirt at United and went on to five goals in his first season. Atkinson soon made Robson captain and the latter responded by scoring a brace in United's FA Cup Final victory over Brighton.
Robbo went on to lift two more FA Cups, two league titles and the European Cup Winner's Cup, which earned him the nickname of Captain Marvel.
Robbo scored 99 goals for Manchester United and remains the longest-serving captain in the club's history.
5. Eric Cantona (£1.2m, 1992)
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After just one year at hated rivals Leeds United, Eric Cantona joined Manchester United for £1.2 million in November 1992.
United were in dire need of a striker and Cantona, who had moved to England from France under the advise of Gerard Houllier, fit the bill completely.
Sir Alex Ferguson's guidance moulded the hot-tempered Frenchman into a striker who would be feared for both his on-field and off-field capers.
Kung-fu kicks on opposition fans and metaphorical rants at the media involving seagulls put aside, Eric Cantona remains one of Ferguson's finest signings and one of the finest captains the club has graced.
King Cantona, as he is known as among the United faithful, scored 80 goals for the club in five glorious seasons. His charisma, dynamism and temper is missed even today.
4. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (£1.5m, 1996)
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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had scored 31 goals in 42 matches for Norwegian side Molde when Sir Alex Ferguson signed the 23-year-old for £1.5 million.
The signing left many a United fan surprised, since Alan Shearer was the target that season. Shearer went on to sign for Newcastle for 10 times the amount United paid for Solskjaer—£15 million.
However, Solskjaer put everyone's doubts to rest by scoring six minutes into his debut as a substitute against Blackburn.
The baby-faced Solskjaer then went on to define the term "super sub" as he made cheeky little appearances at the fag end of the game to eventually nick the winner.
The defining moment of his career obviously came in the 1999 Champions League Final that catapulted him into the United folklore.
Solskjaer remains one of Sir Alex's most shrewd signings. Javier Hernandez comes a very close second.
3. Peter Schmeichel (£550k, 1991)
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Peter Boleslaw Schmeichel (incidentally one of the best middle names I've heard) began his career at Danish club Brondby where he won four titles in five years.
Schmeichel helped Brondby reach the semifinals of the UEFA Cup in 1991 and also performed strongly on the international front, which was when he was spotted by the United scouts.
Sir Alex Ferguson landed the 6'4" shot-stopper for a cut-price of £550,000 in the summer of 1991. This later turned out to be one of the deals of the century as Schmeichel recorded 22 clean sheets in the 1992-93 season—thereby helping United win their first league title in 26 years.
Scmeichel was voted the "World's Best Goalkeeper" for two consecutive years in 1992 and 1993. He later went on to win five Premier League titles, three FA Cups, one UEFA Champions League and one League Cup with United.
Schmeichel's last season with the Red Devils was truly a historic one as United went on to win the treble in 1999. His last game for United was as captain in the Champions League Final, which United won 2-1 against Bayern Munich.
Schmeichel remains the best goalkeeper Manchester United have ever had in their ranks. It took Sir Alex a lot of trial-and-error keepers to finally find a worthy replacement in Edwin van der Sar, six years after Schmeichel hung up his gloves.
2. Denis Law (£115k, 1962)
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Denis Law had stints with both the Manchester clubs in his 18-year career but is best known for his time at Manchester United between 1962-73.
Law first plied his trade for Huddersfield Town where he scored 16 goals in five years. Sir Matt Busby offered £10k for the striker—a substantial amount at the time—but had his offer declined.
When Huddersfield's manager Bill Shankly left for Liverpool in 1959, Law's future was undecided which led Sir Matt Busby to try for him again.
Manchester United finally had their man a season later in 1962 for a new British record fee of £115,000.
Law scored seven minutes into his United debut against West Bromwich Albion. He then helped United win their first league title since Munich in the 1964-65 season.
In his 11 seasons at Old Trafford, Law scored 237 goals in 409 appearances—earning him a place in the famed "United Trinity" alongside Sir Bobby Charlton and George Best.
1. Cristiano Ronaldo (£12m, 2003)
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Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro began his football career in his hometown Madeira, Portugal.
After starting off with a couple of local clubs, Ronaldo moved to Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon in 1997 after being spotted and tagged as a gifted boy.
Ronaldo soon became the only player in Sporting's history to play for their under-16, under-17, under-18, B and first teams all at the same time. Gerard Houllier, manager of Liverpool at the time, wanted to snap him up at 16 but the club declined because of his age.
Then, in the summer of 2003, Manchester United played an exhibition match at Sporting's new stadium and this was when young Ronaldo caught the eyes of the United players and manager alike.
Sir Alex Ferguson immediately made a move for the 18-year-old and Cristiano Ronaldo arrived at Old Trafford in a deal worth £12 million.
Ronaldo was given the coveted No. 7 jersey by Sir Alex, previously worn by greats such as Bobby Charlton, Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona and David Beckham. The youngster had some big shoes to fill in.
Ronaldo scored his first goal for Manchester United against Portsmouth in November that year—from a free kick.
The rest, as they say, is history.
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There's a plethora of talent that has just missed the cut in this list, most notably:
- Edwin van der Sar (£2 million, 2005)
- Mark Hughes (£1.8 million, 1988)
- Steve Bruce (£800k, 1987)
- Javier Hernandez (£7 million, 2010)
- Patrice Evra (£5.5 million, 2006)
Cristiano Ronaldo's record £80 million departure to Real Madrid in 2009 could itself be considered as it brought in essential funds to the club.
Unfortunately, I couldn't squeeze in everyone and the 10 deals that made the list are my own personal picks. If I have missed out on anyone, please feel free to let me know by dropping in a comment below.