Manchester United Transfers: 12 Best Value Deals of the Ferguson Era
Over his 25 years in charge of Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson has proved himself to be one of the shrewdest movers in the transfer market.
Of course, like all managers, he has made his fair share of boo boos —Juan Sebastian Veron, Massimo Taibi and Eric Djemba-Djemba are all names that immediately spring to mind. But Fergie's overall record is quite irreproachable.
That's because, despite the mistakes, Ferguson has been the architect of some of the best value transfers in football history —ones that are to be remembered.
Here, we take a stab at ranking 12 of his best. The good news is that there isn't a Kleberson in sight.
12. Nemanja Vidic
Signed from Spartak Moscow five-and-a-half years ago, £7 million now seems like a paltry sum for the man who has been a rock at the heart of United's defence since arriving in Manchester.
Alongside Rio Ferdinand, he formed an immense partnership that is only just now showing signs of weakness. Still, four league titles, a couple of League Cups and a Champions League isn't a bad return on five years of service.
11. Laurent Blanc
When Blanc signed for United on a free from Internazionale at the ripe old age of 35, Alex Ferguson knew he had little to lose from taking a punt on the Frenchman. After a shaky start, "Larry White," as he became known in the Stretford End, soon settled into his role as Jaap Stam's replacement and he went on to enjoy two successful seasons at United.
He collected a Premier League winners medal in 2003 and became a fan favourite for his laid-back, continental approach to defending, the likes of which had rarely been seen before at Old Trafford.
10. Javier Hernandez
The most recent recruit on this list, Hernandez could yet rise higher than 10th, given the potential he has already shown. Snapped up for just £7 million last summer, Chicharito proved to be one of the signings of the year, scoring 15 times in 31 league appearances in a sensational breakout season.
The diminutive Mexican has started the current campaign in equally strong fashion, and the true extent of just how much of a bargain he was will not be known until later in his career.
9. Patrice Evra
In January 2006, for £5.5 million, Evra has gone on to make that price look rather disproportionate to his talent.
Soon after arriving at Old Trafford from Monaco, the Senegal-born left-back made the position his own, prompting the departures of Mikael Silvestre and, more impressively, Gabriel Heinze. He has gone on to win four league titles, three league cups and a Champions League—with possibly more to come—while becoming a firm fan favourite for his clear dislike of Arsenal and for his role in a scrape with some Chelsea grounds staff.
8. Mark Hughes
Hughes didn't cost United anything the first time around, the thunder-thighed Welshman having come through the ranks at Old Trafford as a youngster. But following a largely unsuccessful spell at Barcelona, he returned to his adopted home in 1988 for a reduced price of £1.8 million and went on to play some of the best football of his career.
His two goals against Barca in the 1991 European Cup Winners' Cup Final in Rotterdam will long be remembered, and although his career petered out somewhat towards the end, Hughes must still rate as one of Fergie's best signings.
7. Denis Irwin
Irwin, the soft-spoken Irishman, had a knack of flying under the radar during his time at United, as he went about his job with quiet determination and utter professionalism. But at the same time, he was known for scoring spectacular 25-yard free-kicks and banging in penalties.
Irwin spent 12 hugely successful years as a United player, winning seven Premier League titles, the Winners' Cup and the Champions League amongst other titles, becoming the model for many left backs to come after him.
Not bad for an unassuming man from Cork who cost just £625,000 from Oldham in 1990.
6. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
No one had heard of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer when Ferguson brought the Molde striker to Manchester for £1.5m in 1996. Certainly not the bouncers at the club on Deansgate, who were duped by two likely lads into thinking they were letting the Norwegian and his fellow new signing Ronny Johnson into the VIP area of their club, so the story goes.
That all changed quickly though as the "baby-faced assassin" soon became the scourge of Premier League and European defences, usually coming off the bench to find the back of the net, most memorably in Barcelona in 1999. A model professional who never complained about his role at the club, Solskjaer is a bona fide United legend, and one who cost next to nothing.
5. Steve Bruce
Looking at Steve Bruce now, his face tells you everything about how he played the game. The Geordie was a tough, no-nonsense centre back, who was willing to put his life on the line for his club.
At the same time he had an uncanny knack of scoring goals, most notably his two late headed efforts against Sheffield Wednesday back in 1993, which sent United on their way to breaking that 26-year duck and clinching the league title. Some would say those goals changed the course of recent football history—even more reason to claim Bruce as one of Fergie's most astute signings at £800,000 from Norwich City in 1987.
4. Edwin Van Der Sar
Van der Sar cost Ferguson a reported £2 million when he was bought from Fulham back in 2005. The sum can now only be described as an absolute steal, considering how integral the Dutchman has been in the club's recent achievements.
Every successful team needs a solid keeper at the base of its spine and Van der Sar finally proved to be that man, following United's long and futile search for a replacement for the great Peter Schmeichel. Van der Sar's own replacement, David De Gea, set United back to the tune of £17 million, and the true impact of his quitting at the end of last season still remains to be seen.
3. Cristiano Ronaldo
OK, Ronaldo did not come cheap when he was discovered as an 18-year-old prospect at Sporting Lisbon, but his immense talent eventually made a mockery of his price tag.
Just over £12 million for a boy who grew into the best player in the world and was then sold on for a record-busting £80 million, just six years, three Premier Leagues, one FA Cup, one League Cup, a Champions League and the World Club Cup later. That's called good business, in anyone's book.
2. Peter Schmeichel
The second keeper in our list and one who paved the way for a new generation with his aggressive style of approaching the game, it seems barely feasible the Schmeichel cost just £550,000 from Brondby in 1991.
As with Van der Sar in the 2000s, United's team was built on the solid base that the great Dane provided in the '90s. Physically imposing, unerringly confident in his own ability, a brilliant shot-stopper, great on crosses and not even bad coming forward at corners, Schmeichel was so good and the team reached such heights with him in the side that the comedown suffered after his exit lasted fully six years.
1. Eric Cantona
Many words can be used to describe Cantona and the impact his signing in 1992 had on Manchester United. Good and value are two of the less gushing, yet they are nevertheless entirely appropriate.
Legend has it that then Leeds United manager Howard Wilkinson phoned Ferguson to enquire about the availability of Denis Irwin—he was not for sale—before Fergie chanced his luck and asked about Cantona. Amazingly, Wilkinson was open to offers and a £1.2 million deal was struck days later in what can only be described as the deal of the century. The mercurial Cantona went on to inspire United to their first title in 26 years and set them on their way to the most successful period in the club's history.