Man Utd’s 10 worst transfers of all time

Martin Macdonald
Martin Macdonald Updated: 1 Jun 2022 16:03 CEST 8 min read
Alexis Sanchez, Man Utd

Alexis Sanchez, Man Utd

Premier League giants Manchester United are one of the biggest clubs in the world and one of the most successful over the past 30 years.

In that time, particularly under the tenure of Sir Alex Ferguson, the Red Devils became famed for stringing together various successful squads that spanned a number of years.

Sir Alex was an expert at freshening up his squad whenever it became stale, with him making some of the most successful transfers of all time in England.

The likes of Roy Keane, Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, and Cristiano Ronaldo all arrived to huge success.

But Man Utd have also been scattergun in their approach to transfers - especially in recent years - so here are 10 of the worst they have made over the last quarter-century.

Bebe – £7.4m from Vitoria de Guimaraes, 2010

In what will go down as one of the most bizarre transfers of all time, not only from Man Utd but from any club, Ferguson decided to spend £7.4 million on the untested Bebe in 2010.

Normally a diligent scouter, the story goes that Ferguson opted to sign Bebe despite never having watched him play on the recommendation of his Portuguese assistant Carlos Queiroz.

Third-party ownerships made the whole deal a bit cloudy, and it was subsequently investigated by Portuguese authorities on allegations of corruption.

On the field, he never proved to be anywhere near Man Utd standard.

Angel Di Maria – £59.7m from Real Madrid, 2014

On the face of it, the signing of Angel Di Maria in the summer of 2014 made perfect sense. He was their record transfer at the time at £59m, having just helped Real Madrid to the Champions League with a man of the match performance in the final.

There were similar issues to Juan Sebastian Veron in that he struggled to adapt to his surroundings, and his house being burgled certainly didn’t help him settle.

Bebe, Falcao and Man Utd’s 10 worst signings of all time

But if Louis van Gaal expected Di Maria to lead the team into a new era, he signed the wrong player. Having played alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, he impressed away from the limelight and struggled with the pressure of being the club’s main man.

Memphis Depay – £25m from PSV, 2015

Signed for £25m, big things were expected of Memphis Depay upon his move to Old Trafford, but he failed to deliver upon such expectations during his short stint at the club.

Given the famous number 7 shirt, Depay couldn’t live up to the prestige of those before him, scoring just two Premier League goals and assisting none in his only full campaign at the club.

Not only was Depay a flop at the club, but he also failed to recoup much of the fee the club paid for him, with Man Utd selling him to Lyon for just under £15m in January 2017.

Eric Djemba-Djemba – £3.5m from Nantes, 2003

Though the signing of Nantes midfielder Eric Djemba-Djemba did not necessarily break the bank at Old Trafford, the pressure was already on the the player as Ferguson allegedly at the time burdened him with becoming the successor to Roy Keane in Man Utd’s midfield.

He obviously did not have what it took to usurp the legendary Irishman, and was eventually sold to Aston Villa at a loss two years later.

He didn’t impress much more at Villa Park, either.

Bebe, Falcao and Man Utd’s 10 worst signings of all time

Radamel Falcao – £6m LOAN from Monaco, 2014

Man Utd paid £6m to sign Radamel Falcao on loan from Monaco back in 2014, and it’s fair to say it didn’t work out.

So much was wanted of the man who had tore up La Liga with Atletico Madrid, but Falcao managed to score just four Premier League goals during his time at the club, and a career that promised so much in Spain and France with Monaco really fizzled out after moving to Old  Trafford.

He failed to adapt to the league and while the signing made sense at the time as United were in the need to reinforcements up top, it proved to be yet another example of a poor transfer decision.

Safe to say the option for a permanent move for £43.5m (€55m) was not taken up by the Red Devils.

Owen Hargreaves – £17m from Bayern Munich, 2007

In the summer of 2007, the Red Devils were again looking to strengthen from a position of existing strength.

They’d won the Premier League and splashed around £17m on Owen Hargreaves, the energetic midfield all-rounder from Bayern Munich. It was injuries which ultimately ended up costing the England man.

He broke his leg in 2006, but the issue at United centred around his patella tendon, which his surgeon reportedly said was in the worst state he’d seen.

Hargreaves was restricted to just 27 league appearances in four years and it wasn’t really his fault.

Bebe, Falcao and Man Utd’s 10 worst signings of all time

Kleberson – £6.5m  from Atletico Paranaense, 2003

Kleberson was a World Cup winner when Man Utd decided to spend £6.5m on the Brazilian from Atletico Paranaense.

In the year between the World Cup and him actually signing for Man Utd, several massive clubs like Real Madrid, Barcelona and Leeds were interested, only for him to opt to stay in Brazil until his girlfriend became 16 and could get married.

Injuries ravaged his Man Utd career and just like Djemba-Djemba, was unable to make his way into the team.

Alexis Sanchez – SWAP from Arsenal, 2018

Involved in perhaps the worst swap deal in history, Alexis Sanchez arrived in Manchester as one of the Premier League’s best talents, and left as a failure.

Beloved at Arsenal, Sanchez never produced the same form after making the long-awaited move to Old Trafford.

He scored just three Premier League goals in his 18 months at the club, and joined Inter on a free transfer, after his loan spell there, in 2020.

While he was swapped with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, his wages were reportedly around £14m-a-year after tax; he cost the club a hefty chunk, and he didn’t perform.

Alexis Sanchez, Man Utd

Alexis Sanchez, Man Utd

Massimo Taibi – £4.5m from Venezia, 1999

Man Utd were in a goalkeeping crisis of sorts as after legendary stopper Peter Schmeichel left after winning the treble, meaning the Red Devils had just Mark Bosnich and Raimond van der Gouw in their ranks.

When those two got injured, Man Utd panic-bought unknown keeper Massimo Taibi from Venezia.

He would become a darling of all blooper reel creators, with his attempted save against a weak strike from Matt Le Tissier which went straight through his legs becoming a famed image of the Premier League era.

Taibi did, remarkably, emerge as the Man of the Match in his debut against Liverpool, though.

Bebe, Falcao and Man Utd’s 10 worst signings of all time

Juan Sebastian Veron – £28m from Lazio, 2001

The saddest part about the Argentine’s career at Old Trafford is that you’ll be hard pressed to find a more talented and complete midfielder to play for the club since.

Veron arrived for just over £28m from Lazio in the summer of 2001.

Ferguson wanted to add another option to Paul Scholes and Keane, and he made a rare move for a genuine world class talent.

The Argentine wasn’t suited to the pace and physicality of the English game, and after just seven goals in 57 Premier League games, he joined Chelsea for a £13million loss two years later.

Paul Pogba – £89m from Juventus, 2016

Paul Pogba, Manchester United, Premier League, 2021/22

After leaving Manchester United on a Bosman Transfer in 2012, Paul Pogba developed into one of the best midfielders in the world.

Four years later, Man Utd brought him back to Old Trafford at the age of 23 for a then world record fee of £89m.

It was hoped that Pogba would be the man to make Man Utd the dominant side in England and beyond again after three miserable years since the retirment of Sir Alex Ferguson.

However, Pogba was hugely underwhelming during his six years back at the club. Although there were some sporadic spells and games where he demonstrated his quality, he was wildly inconsistent and never seemed to fit into the team tactically.

He became increasingly injury-prone and irrelevant towards the end of his time and he decided to leave on another free transfer in 2022. He won just an EFL and Europa League.