The worst Manchester United signings over the years
Alexis Sanchez, Angel Di Maria, and Paul Pogba are some of the players who failed to excel at Manchester United. United are notoriously known for making terrible transfer decisions. They tend to pay extra for the players and sign those who do not fit correctly at the club. There have been many players who have seen their career’s fall apart at Manchester United. This list consists of the 10 worst signings that United have made over the years.
1. Alexis Sanchez
Alexis Sanchez is probably Manchester United’s worst signing in their history. Manchester United made a play to sign Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal. Sanchez played for Arsenal from 2014 to 2018. He became a very important player for the club and was adored by the fans. It was therefore shocking when Alexis Sanchez decided to leave the club to join Manchester United. Manchester United went all out to unveil Alexis Sanchez as a Red Devil. They got Sanchez to play ‘Glory, Glory Man United’ on a piano to announce himself to Manchester United fans.
Alexis Sanchez’s performance at the club, however, was nowhere near his unveiling. Questions were asked about his performances as well as his attitude on the field. Alexis Sanchez did not seem like he wanted to put in any effort to improve his performances at the club. Sanchez received a salary of £14 million annually to play for United and did not show anything on the pitch for it. The Chilean stopped dribbling at opponents, taking long shots, and other things that made his so tough to defend against. Sanchez was highly criticized by United fans for the entirety of his stint at the club. Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger both spoke about Sanchez’s time at Manchester United.
Jose Mourinho said:
“I think in every job you have when you are not happy it is not so easy to perform at every level. But the reality is that I always felt [of Sanchez], ‘a sad man’.”
Arsene Wenger Said:
“I believe he has lost confidence. The strength of Alexis Sanchez is to show initiative, to dribble, to take people on. These players are the most vulnerable when they have no confidence anymore because their game is based on feeling free to take the initiative.”
2. Paul Pogba
Paul Pogba started his senior career at Manchester United. He was at Manchester United from 2009 to 2012 but never really got to play for the club. He rejected a contract extension in 2012 and decided to join Serie A side Juventus instead. Paul Pogba then spent the next 4 years establishing himself as one of the best midfielders in the world at that time. His goals and assists for Juventus put him back on Manchester United’s radar. Although Paul Pogba proved his capabilities at Juventus, he insisted that he had business left at Manchester United.
In 2016, Manchester United broke the bank to get Paul Pogba back to Manchester United. They paid £89 million for Pogba, which was the then world record transfer fee. Pogba went on to make over 200 appearances for Manchester United and had his moments at the club but never really lived up to his hype. While it was clear that Paul Pogba had the capabilities to become one of the best midfielders in the world, he was simply not determined enough.
Pogba was actually good for Manchester United at times but he showed no desire to consistently play at his best. This is what turned the Manchester United fans against him and he decided to leave United in the summer of 2022. Pogba once again made the move from Manchester United to Juventus.
Upon returning to Juventus, Paul Pogba said:
“I came back to Juve because it’s really the club that helped me push myself. And really the love from the fans, the love from the club that I get, I didn’t get that in Manchester.”
3. Angel Di Maria
Angel Di Maria joined Manchester United in 2014 `from Real Madrid. Di Maria played exceptionally well for Real Madrid in his time at the club. Manchester United paid £60 million to sign Angel Di Maria from Real Madrid. Di Maria had troubles adjusting both on and off the pitch in Manchester. He failed to play at the same level as he did at Real Madrid. Louis Van Gaal’s set-up did not suit Angel Di Maria’s playstyle at all. Along with his troubles on the pitch, Di Maria and his family found life in Manchester very hard and troubling.
Angel Di Maria’s house was broken into by burglars in 2015. This incident shook the Argentine winger to his core. Soon after this, Di Maria decided to end his short stint at Manchester United and joined Paris Saint-Germain. Although Di Maria’s performances were not the best, Manchester United still managed to get £44 million from Paris Saint-Germain.
After some years while speaking about his time in Manchester, Angel Di Maria himself admitted that he did not really fit in at Manchester which is why he decided to leave the club after only a short stint and join Paris Saint-Germain.
Di Maria said:
“I didn’t have a great relationship with the coach, so I think the decision to join Paris was the best solution. Life in England was a bit difficult. It is not easy for a South American. Some people get on fine, and for others it is harder to adapt.”
4. Juan Sebastian Veron
Juan Sebastian Veron is one of the most talented midfielders to ever play for Manchester United. Veron transferred from Lazio to Manchester United in 2001. Manchester United paid Lazio £28 million to sign Juan Sebastian Veron. Ferguson wanted Veron to give competition to Paul Scholes and Roy Keane in Manchester United’s midfield but that did not turn out to be the case. Veron managed to score only 7 goals in his 57 Premier League appearances for Manchester United.
The Argentine struggled to get his Manchester United career underway. While Veron was clearly extremely talented, he simply could not provide any competition to Scholes and Keane. Juan Sebastian Veron’s Manchester United career came to an end in 2003. After a short stint at the club, United decided to sell him to Chelsea for £15 million.
5. Memphis Depay
Memphis Depay had a lot of potential when he joined Manchester United back in 2015. Depay ended the 2014-15 season with 22 goals in the Eredivisie for PSV, which made him the league’s top scorer. Depay showcased his pace, dribbling and finishing prowess for PSV which attracted the interest of Manchester United. Manchester United shelled out £31 million for Depay. Depay decided to take the number 7 jersey at Manchester United. The number 7 jersey seemed to bring bad luck ever since Cristiano Ronaldo departed for Real Madrid in 2009. This apparent curse continued for Memphis Depay as well.
Depay struggled to perform at Manchester United. He scored just 7 goals in 53 appearances for Manchester United. It became clear to the club that Depay would not prove to be the answer to their problems and that he would not be able to make it in the Premier League. In January 2017, they sold Depay to Lyon. While Depay did not make it at Manchester United, he continues to show support for the club till this day. Mourinho later explained why he thought Memphis Depay did not become successful at United.
“I read something about Wayne Rooney telling that Memphis went to a reserve match playing with the kids and he arrived with this big Rolls Royce and his cowboy hat and that was a little bit of Memphis. There are fantastic players to fight with you for a position [at the biggest clubs]. They lose a little bit of their sense of reality and they become a little bit childish, which was, in the end, what happened.”
6. Donny van de Beek
Donny van de Beek’s career at Manchester United has been a very sad story. United decided to spend £35 million in September 2020 to sign Ajax midfielder Donny van de Beek. This signing did not make much sense as United’s manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has many options in the midfield. The player did not seem to be of Solskjaer’s choosing. It rather looked like the board had just decided to make the signing to appease the fans.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was reluctant to use Donny van de Beek. The Dutchman rarely got any game time or chances to prove himself at United. Van de Beek hoped his time at Manchester United would change when the club signed his old manager Erik Ten Hag. Ten Hag, however, also opted to not play him regularly. Another issue for Van de Beek was his fitness. Multiple injuries saw Van de Beek lose any little chance he had of impressing the manager and getting into the first team.
Regardless of these adversities, the Dutch midfielder seems to have relentless passion for Manchester United. He is determined to make a name for himself at United and remains at the club till this day. He will hope that he gets a chance to impress Erik Ten Hag sooner or later.
7. Romelu Lukaku
Romelu Lukaku was signed by the Red Devil’s in 2017. They paid a huge £75 million transfer fee to get the Belgium forward to United. Romelu Lukaku had three exceptional seasons at Everton before he joined United. Lukaku scored 68 Premier League goals for Everton, including 25 in his final season. Romelu Lukaku was a goal scorer with good physicality and seemed to be the perfect fit for Jose Mourinho’s Manchester united.
Lukaku started out well, scoring 28 goals in all competitions for Manchester United in his first season. However, United failed to win any silverware and Lukaku’s inability to score against tough teams came into question. Lukaku’s first touch and finishing were both questionable at United. His numbers declined even further the next season. Lukaku came under fire from his own fans who demanded better performances from him.
In 2019, Manchester United decided to part ways with Romelu Lukaku and sold him to Inter Milan. Everton’s former director Steve Walsh recollected what he had told Jose Mourinho when United signed Lukaku from Everton.
“When Jose [Mourinho] signed Romelu Lukaku from Everton, I remember saying to him, ‘You have to be careful with Lukaku. He is a big baby’.”
It seems Mourinho failed to heed to this warning as he could not manage Lukaku well. Although Lukaku had already proved to be an amazing striker in the Premier League while playing for Everton, he was simply unable to make it as a Red Devil.
8. Jadon Sancho
Jadon Sancho had one of the longest transfer sagas involving Manchester United. The Englishman shone at Borussia Dortmund, scoring goals and assisting as he pleased. He impressed Manchester United and they tried to sign him but were declined by Dortmund multiple times. After multiple transfer windows, United finally managed to get their hands on Jadon Sancho in 2021. United paid Dortmund £73 million to bring Sancho to Old Trafford.
The hefty price tag along with such a long transfer saga brought upon a mountain of expectations and pressure on Jadon Sancho. He was expected to start performing for Manchester United right from the get go. Sancho was unable to replicate his performances from his time at Dortmund. Sancho only managed to get 12 goals and 6 assists in 79 appearances for Manchester United.
It now looks like his time at United may already be over. After a bust up with United manager Erik Ten Hag, Jadon Sancho has been exiled for United’s squad. A disagreement between the two has seen Sancho get banished from even training with the first team. If he does not apologise, it seems unlikely that he will ever play for United ever again. This will be a horrific end to his time at the club if he leaves United like this.
9. Wilfried Zaha
Manchester United signed Wilfried Zaha when he was just 20 years of age. There were huge expectations on Wilfried Zaha’s shoulders when United signed him from Crystal Palace in 2013. United parted with £15 million to get Zaha to the club. United had been following Zaha for three years but when they eventually signed him, Alex Ferguson had already left. The new United manager, David Moyes was not interested in using Wilfried Zaha in his plans. Zaha also failed to impress Louis van Gaal and eventually returned to Selhurst Park in 2015.
Wilfried Zaha barely even got a chance to prove himself at United before they sent him back to Crystal Palace. Zaha, however, developed into a dynamic winger at palace, taking on defenders and dribbling past them with ease. He has haunted United on multiple occasions, scoring against them whenever he gets the opportunity to do so.
In 2018, Zaha said that some rumours off the pitch also played a big role in unsettling him at United. Such news distracted him and stopped him from focussing on football.
“I went through so much with United. There were rumours that the reason I wasn’t playing for United was because I slept with David Moyes’ daughter, and no one attempted to clear that up. When I was at United I had money, but I was still so down and depressed.”
10. Radamel Falcao
Manchester United fans were delighted when they managed to sign Radamel Falcao on Loan from Monaco in 2014. Falcao had scored 11 goals in 20 Ligue 1 appearances for Monaco in the previous season. Radamel Falcao seemed to be in form and seemed like the solution to many problems at Manchester United.
Falcao had made a name for himself after prolific spells at Porto and Atletico Madrid. United put a total of £16 million into the deal to sign Falcao. This, however, turned out to be a huge mistake. The Columbian managed to score just 4 goas in 29 appearances for the club. United decided to pass up on the option to sign Falcao on a permanent basis and parted ways with the player for good.