Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was synonymous with greatness. His mastery at reading the game and its finer detail was arguably second to none.Not only was he a keen promoter of youth, he also believed in spending money on areas he considered required urgency.
Whilst some of his signings transcended the club into football folklore, some of them were deemed major failures at a club that only demands the best.
Keeping that in mind, we look at some of the worst Manchester United signings in recent history.
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10. David Bellion: £3m from Sunderland
United signed Bellion amid much controversy. With allegations of Sir Alex Ferguson tapping him up while he was still under contract at Sunderland, a £2 million out of court settlement was required to obtain his services. The Frenchman was brought in to add a different attacking dimension to United’s attack which also boasted Ruud van Nistelrooy. But after just four goals in 24 appearances for the club, he was sold to Nice in France.
9. Eric Djemba-Djemba: £3.5m from Nantes
Tipped to be Roy Keane’s successor at the heart of United’s midfield, the Cameroonian was more famous for his collection of cars than his exploits as a player. The famous chant ‘so good they named him twice’ proved tobe a subject of irony as the midfielder managed just 20 league appearances in 18 months before being shipped off to Aston Villa where a similar fate awaited.
8. Jordi Cruyff: £1.4 million from Barcelona
Jordi Cruyff is the living embodiment of the quote “A surname may get you a meeting, but if there’s no talent, you won’t get the part.” Although he was not the worst player ever to have graced the hallowed turf, the constant expectation of him reaching even the marginal spectrum of his father’s ability eventually saw him succumb to the compulsions. After making a decent 55 appearances in four years at Old Trafford, he was shipped off to Alaves in Spain.
7. Kléberson: £6.5m from Atlético Paranaense
Kléberson’s excellent performances at the 2002 FIFA World Cup saw manager Luiz Felipe Scolari herald him as the driving force behind Brazil’s success. United beat off fierce competition from clubs like Barcelona and AC Milan before finally signing the midfielder. The fact that United fans remember him as the other player unveiled alongside a young Cristiano Ronaldo is a testimony to his poignant Manchester United career. The World Cup winner managed only 20 appearances for the club before being sold to Turkish outfit Besiktas.
6. Gabriel Obertan: £3m from Bordeaux
Obertan arrived at United as a precocious young talent just waiting to be polished into a fine footballer. His pace combined with flashes of trickery inevitably drew comparison with some of the game’s finest wingers. But alas, the young Frenchman didn’t have the required talent or the aptitude to succeed at Old Trafford. The pressure was immense and after two years & just a meagre 14 appearances for the club, he was subsequently sold to Newcastle United for an undisclosed fee.
5. Ralph Milne: £170,000 from Bristol City
Ralph Milne saw his career free fall since the day he put pen to paper on a Manchester United contract. Which is saying something for a player who scored six goals in 30 appearances for Bristol City in the Football League Third Division. Sir Alex was admittedly resolute on his belief that his fellow Scotsman was worth a shot before signing him. After a loan move to West Ham United, Milne eventually finished his career at the now defunct club in Hong Kong called Sing Tao Sports Club. “I only paid £170,000 but still get condemned for it,” said Sir Alex, reflecting on one of his worst buys.
4. Dong Fangzhou: £3.5m from Dalian Shide
United signing Dong Fangzhou’s raised more eyebrows than Chris Smalling turning up as a suicide bomber at a fancy dress party. Unable to procure a work permit, he was loaned out to Royal Antwerp in Belgium to gain first team experience. Even though his first two seasons with Antwerp were marked disappointing, he finished his third and final season with the Belgians as the top scorer of the Belgian Second Division with 18 goals which included two hat-tricks. Unfortunately the forward was never able to replicate that form back at Old Trafford and his contract was terminated before returning back to Dalian Shide.
3. William Prunier: On Trial from Bordeaux
Prunier may have shared the same dressing room with United great Eric Cantona while growing up at Auxerre’s youth system but his ability as a footballer drew parallels with some of the worst centre backs in Premier League history. Having joined United on a trial basis, the Frenchman was thrust into the first team after an injury crisis saw Steve Bruce, Gary Pallister and David May nursing different part of their bodies. After a passable debut against QPR, Prunier’s United career ended after a humiliating 4-0 defeat against Tottenham Hotspur. Ferguson did not offer him a permanent deal and he returned to France.
2. Massimo Taibi: £4.5m from Venezia
It is a Herculean task for any goalkeeper to follow up Peter Schmeichel as Manchester United’s No.1 goalkeeper. But Taibi managed to make a mockery out of it. 12 Goals conceded in just 4 games is proof enough for his disastrous United career. Shipping in 5 goals against Chelsea to pulling off probably one of the worst goalkeeping blunders of all time against Matt Le Tissier’s Southampton, Taibi’s United career was limited to just those four games. That comes down to just over £1m per appearance.
1.Bébé: £7.4 million from Vitória de Guimarães
If rumours are to be believed, Manchester United beat off competition from La Liga giants Real Madrid to secure Bebe’s signature. The fact that he himself was rendered speechless after learning about United’s interest in him speaks volumes about his credence and self-belief. “I thought Manchester United were joking,” he exclaimed after signing for the club. Bebe pulled the red shirt of Manchester on just 7 occasions and on each occasion he looked out of his depth. The Portuguese was eventually sold off to Benfica, thus ending one of the most bizarre episodes in Manchester United’s transfer history.