Manchester United's Most Overhyped Players of Last 10 YearsApril 7, 2017
Manchester United's Most Overhyped Players of Last 10 Years
All clubs have overhyped players, but clubs who live in the epicentre of a global hype machine like Manchester United have more than their fair share.
It is often not the player's fault—especially in the past few seasons, when the tectonic plates have shifted over and over again, as three permanent managers have taken the helm. But the truth is, for whatever reason, none of these players lived up to their billing.
Youngsters who exploded on to the scene and high-profile mega-transfers share a stage here, both perpetrators and victims of the cycle of hype, expectation and disappointment.
Ultimately, the takeaway from this should not be a damning knock against those selected. Rather, it should perhaps make us all consider how much hype we buy into. But whatever the reason, the following players were unable to live up to the whirlwind of attention they received.
Radamel Falcao was, quite simply, one of the best strikers in the world. In 2012, he was a genuine peer to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, as documented by Sid Lowe for the Guardian.
But at United he was an almost total flop. The hype around him came from the Old Trafford stands as much as anywhere. His incredibly catchy, joyful chant, the promise of the Falcao No. 9 shirt to deliver the Red Devils from the mediocrity into which they had slumped; his arrival caught the collective imagination.
But post-serious knee injury, Falcao was a shadow of his former self. He was probably not a great fit for Louis van Gaal's system and managerial style, even in his prime, but down on his luck and needing a revival of confidence? It was a recipe for disaster.
His signing promised so much. His United career delivered so little. There is no doubt that Falcao belongs here.
From a proven global superstar to "the boy who could do anything." When he made his electric debut against Sunderland in October 2013, United fans would have been devastated to discover that Adnan Januzaj would be turning out for the Black Cats four years thereafter.
His potential remains intact, and he may yet be able to find a way to fulfil it at United or elsewhere, but the hope—and hype—that surrounded him in his earliest days has fizzled out.
In truth, this is an occasion in which the hype made sense—he was obviously a special talent, and its dissipation has been as much about the circumstances at United as the player himself. What Sir Alex Ferguson could have done with a talent like his is something to wistfully consider.
But when reality bites again after that pleasing daydream, there can be no doubt that Januzaj belongs on this list.
Angel Di Maria
When he retires, Angel Di Maria will look back on his playing career with great satisfaction. For the most part, he will be able to say he lived up to his potential. He amassed trophies around Europe and, at his best, became one of the most pleasing players to watch on the planet.
But the version of Di Maria who turned up at United cannot say any of that. Again, part of this is down to the way he was managed by Van Gaal, but the player must surely take some culpability.
A Premier League-record signing when he arrived, he was given the No. 7 shirt, and things were set up for him to be the player to return the stardust to that number.
Instead, he was sold after a season in which he had scored a couple of nice goals and provided a few assists but basically failed at Old Trafford. His United career could hardly have been more overhyped.
Anderson might be a surprise inclusion to some on this list, but those who spent time discussing United online in the late '00s and early '10s will remember the cycle of Anderson hype.
Every year was supposed to be his year. Every return from injury, every new midfield partnership he was tried as a part of and every new dawn was supposed to be the start of something special.
Sadly, it never was. Serious injuries plagued his time at Old Trafford, and he left with a lot of medals to show for not-all-that-many good performances. The hype was never lived up to.
One of the strangest transfers in football history, Bebe arrived at Manchester United for £7.4 million in 2010.
According to Daniel Taylor, writing in the Guardian at the time, Sir Alex had been pursuaded by former assistant Carlos Queiroz to sign the player:
Queiroz has convinced Ferguson that he may have unearthed a future gem and Bebe will provide competition for Wayne Rooney, [Javier] Hernandez, Dimitar Berbatov, Michael Owen and Federico Macheda, with Mame Biram Diouf having joined Blackburn Rovers on a season-long loan and Danny Welbeck on his way to Sunderland.
Bebe did not provide competition for Wayne Rooney—or anyone else at United for that matter.
One of the players Taylor suggested Bebe could provide competition for was Macheda. In the end, though, it was not an excess of competition that saw for the Italian's time at Old Trafford but rather his failure to live up to his early billing.
He made a stunning impact at first, scoring against Aston Villa in a game that changed the direction of the 2008/09 title race, swinging it firmly in United's favour. Then just 17, a bright future seemed to lie ahead.
Ferguson once said of him, per Goal: "Macheda is top drawer, a hero in the making, just as Cristiano was."
If he were a hero in the making, something got lost while they were putting on the finishing touches, and his career fizzled out. Now 25, he plies his trade at Novara in Serie B.
In July 2015, just after he had signed for United, Memphis Depay was named the best young player in the world by France Football magazine (h/t Tom Sheen for The Independent). He had been the Eredivisie player of the season in his previous campaign, when he took on talismanic status at PSV Eindhoven.
He was flash both on and off the pitch, with an eye-catching approach to fashion and an eye for the spectacular with the ball at his feet.
United fans only ever saw moments of this, though. The game which stands out is his stunning performance against FC Midtjylland at home in the Europa League in 2015/16, during which he left his marker, Andre Romer, on the verge of tears.
For the most part, though, he flattered to deceive. It was perhaps no surprise that his best performances came against lesser European opposition—in the Premier League, he always seemed to want just a little too long on the ball. And once again, Van Gaal was a bad match for an instinctive young attacker like Memphis.
But whatever the reason, he most certainly did not live up to the hype.