With Sir Alex Ferguson signing off on his Manchester United and managerial career this weekend against West Brom at the Hawthorns, it seems fitting as a Baggies fan to pay tribute to the great man by summing up what I believe to be the greatest signings of his 26-year tenure.
I have taken into consideration the value-for-money factor when analysing a club that have made many big-money signings in order to keep the crown as Premier League champions more often than not throughout the two-and-a-half decades that Sir Alex has been in charge.
Throughout his reign at the helm of Manchester United, the Glaswegian managerial maestro has built and rebuilt squads in order to challenge for silverware again and again, and every so often there comes a gem of a signing that, looking back, seems like a steal and gives you a chance to admire the eye for a player and scouting system in place at Manchester United.
So here, in my opinion, are the top five value-for-money signings that Sir Alex has made during his time at Manchester United.
5. Cristiano Ronaldo | £12.25m from Sporting Lisbon
Even with the price tag of over £10m, it is difficult not to mention the incredible foresight shown by Sir Alex to spend the seemingly big fee to sign a fresh-faced youngster from Sporting Lisbon.
His tally of 118 goals in 292 games for the club in all competitions has left him as a big favourite at Old Trafford even after leaving for Real Madrid in the summer of 2009. As well as this you cannot ignore the value for money in this deal after having made over six times the money in selling Ronaldo to Real Madrid for £80m.
United fans will be desperately hoping that the recent rumours are true of his return to the club for next season.
4. Roy Keane | £3.75m from Nottingham Forest
Looking back upon Roy Keane’s time at Manchester United it is amazing to think that he only cost the club such a relatively small amount of money for his services.
He played for and captained the club to many honours within his time at Old Trafford including seven Premier League titles, four FA. Cups, four Community/Charity Shields, the lesser known Intercontinental Cup and of course the famous Champions League victory in 1999.
He has to be up there as one of United’s best-ever captains.
3. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer | £1.6m from Molde
The ‘baby-faced assassin’ will go down in the club’s history as the scorer of the dramatic late winner against Bayern Munich in 1999 to secure the Champions League and the treble for Manchester United.
He scored 126 goals in 366 appearances for United and was widely known as the super sub to be ignored at your peril, coming off of the bench to score late winners countless times throughout his career and all for the sum of £1.6m.
Solskjaer has to be considered as one of Sir Alex’s greatest ever signings.
2. Peter Schmeichel | £750,000 from Brondby
Schmeichel has to be up there in everyone’s book as one of the greatest goalkeepers ever to have graced the game.
He was voted the world’s best goalkeeper in 1992 and again in 1993. He pulled on the goalkeeper kit for Untied 393 times and left an impact that has yet to be equalled ‘between the sticks’ since he left the club in 1999 after playing his part in the now infamous 1999 Champions League final.
It makes you think whether United would have lost the league on goal difference last season if they had a keeper of Schmeichel's pedigree between the sticks, but this class of goalkeeper doesn't come along very often and United fans still remember fondly of the performances given by the Danish 'keeper throughout his time at the club.
1. Eric Cantona | £1.2m from Leeds United
For me there was only one player who could fill the top spot of this countdown.
Considering value for money, impact made at the time upon how the team played and the legacy left after his time at the club, it had to be Eric Cantona.
Helping United to four league titles, two FA Cups and three Community/Charity Shields in his time at the club, even after his controversial periods within his time at the club, he is still affectionately remembered for his breathtaking touches, world-class goals and assists, and you can still regularly hear his name chanted in the stands over 15 years after he last pulled on the famous kit for a competitive game.
Cantona goes down in history as one of United greatest ever players and fills the top spot on this countdown of Sir Alex's greatest signings at United.
That concludes the run down of my picks for Sir Alex Ferguson’s five greatest value-for-money signings in his 26 years at Manchester United.
There were a lot of players to consider within the run-in and a few players deserve a mention that didn’t get into the top five such as Steve Bruce (£825,000 from Norwich City), Dennis Irwin (£625,000 from Oldham Athletic) and Edwin van der Sar (£2m from Fulham).
If you think there are other players who deserve a mention, or should have been within the top five of the countdown, let me know your opinions in the comments below and we can carry on the discussion.
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