Ranking Manchester United’s 10 best and 10 worst signings of the decade (2010-2020)

  • Rob Swan

The 2010s have been an eventful decade for Manchester United to say the least.

Everything was rosy at the start under Sir Alex Ferguson, who guided the club to two more Premier League titles, a League Cup and an appearance in the Champions League final.

But everything changed in the summer of 2013 when Ferguson called time on his glittering managerial career and was replaced by David Moyes.

The past six-and-a-half years have been tougher than almost every United fan would have anticipated. Life without Fergie was never going to be easy, but it’s incredible how far the club have fallen in such a short amount of time.

Moyes was sacked, his replacement Louis van Gaal was also sacked, and so was Van Gaal’s replacement Jose Mourinho.

Now Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is in charge and nobody knows how long it’ll be before he too is handed his P45.

Between the four of them, almost £1 billion has been splashed out on players. Add in the money Ferguson spent on new arrivals from 2010-2013 and the total figure is comfortably over £1 billion.

But who are among the best signings this decade – and who are the worst?

We haven’t included United’s three most recent signings (Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire and Dan James) because it’s still early days for the trio.

Let’s rank them…

10 Best Signings

We’ll start with the 10 best signings of the decade…

10. Victor Lindelof

After recovering from a shaky start to his United career, Lindelof has developed into one of the club’s best defenders.

The Sweden international makes the top 10 ahead of the likes of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones, who have had far too much inconsistent periods during their respective spells at the Theatre of Dreams to make the cut.

9. Romelu Lukaku

Lukaku received an awful lot of stick during his final season at United, so it was no surprise that he wanted to join Inter Milan in the summer.

However, the Belgian striker’s record of 42 goals in 96 games wasn’t too shabby and he’s proved in recent months over in Italy that he’s still a top striker.

As time goes by, United fans will realise that Lukaku was far from a bad signing.

8. Ander Herrera

United fans were sad to see Herrera leave for PSG earlier this year because, unlike some of his former teammates, he always gave 100 per cent every time he pulled on the red shirt.

The Spaniard spent five years at Old Trafford and always played with heart and passion.

7. Javier Hernandez

Chicharito scored 50 goals in 117 games for United under Ferguson, but his United career took a nose-dive following the appointment of Moyes in 2013.

The Mexican striker found himself in and out of the team under the former Everton boss, while Van Gaal didn’t fancy him at all.

But for three seasons, he was fantastic for United. Often playing the ‘super-sub’ role, Hernandez scored plenty of important goals for the Red Devils between 2010 and 2013.

6. Juan Mata

Mata was exceptional at Chelsea, winning the club’s Player of the Year award in back-to-back seasons, so United fans were understandably over the moon when he moved to Old Trafford in January 2014.

The Spanish midfielder hasn’t been able to produce the same level of performances in Manchester, unfortunately, although there have been a few great moments – including his brace against Liverpool at ‘Juanfield’ in March 2015.

Mata has also conducted himself with the utmost professionalism, both on and off the pitch, during his spell with United.

5. Anthony Martial

Man Utd fans love Martial, even though the French forward has been painfully inconsistent since joining the club from AS Monaco in 2015.

Fifty-four goals in 187 appearances isn’t a bad return and he has certainly provided United fans with plenty of memorable moments, including his solo goal against Liverpool on his debut, and his winner against Everton at Wembley in the 2016 FA Cup semi-finals.

But it’s hard not to feel that he could – and perhaps should – have achieved even more by now.

4. Paul Pogba

Okay, so this won’t please everyone. Some United fans would put him in the ‘worst signings’ category if they had their way.

But it’s important to remember that Pogba hasn’t been completely terrible for Man Utd. In fact, there have been many top performances from the French midfielder over the past three-and-a-half years.

In terms of goals and assists, Pogba has posted decent numbers each season for the Red Devils. During the 2018/19 campaign, for example, he netted 16 goals and provided 11 assists in 47 appearances.

There’s no doubt he’s been slightly disappointing following his £89 million move from Juventus, but a lot of the criticism has been well over the top.

3. Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Zlatan was 34 years old when Man Utd signed him in July 2016 and the enigmatic Swede became an instant hero at Old Trafford, scoring 28 goals in all competitions during his debut season with the Premier League giants.

He also won two trophies (well, three if you include the Community Shield) in the form of the EFL Cup and the Europa League.

It’s a shame that Zlatan missed so much of the following season through injury. United only got one good season out of him – but *what* a season it was.

2. Robin van Persie

Ferguson’s last major signing, Van Persie played a starring role in United’s previous title-winning campaign.

The Dutchman bagged 30 goals in 48 games during his debut season at Old Trafford following his shock move from Arsenal, helping Fergie to secure another Premier League title before retirement.

He wasn’t as effective under Moyes or Van Gaal but, for the 2012/13 campaign alone, he will always occupy a special place in the hearts of every United fan.

1. David de Gea

De Gea has comfortably been Man Utd’s best and most consistent performer this decade.

The Spanish goalkeeper has won the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award four times since joining the Red Devils in 2011 and has been named in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year five times.

De Gea has been worth his weight in gold for United and will go down as one of the greatest ‘keepers in the club’s history.

10 Worst Signings

And now for the 10 worst signings of the decade…

10. Wilfried Zaha

It feels harsh putting Zaha in the ‘worst signings’ list but, in truth, there weren’t any better candidates.

The winger never got a fair crack of the whip under Moyes at Old Trafford, making just four appearances for the club.

Zaha struggled to adapt to life in Manchester and ended up returning to Crystal Palace in 2014, where he has since established his status as one of the Premier League’s most exciting attacking players. It’s a shame things didn’t work out for him at the Theatre of Dreams. File under ‘ones that got away’.

9. Fred

We’ll begin by saying that Fred’s performances in recent weeks have improved drastically. If the Brazilian midfielder keeps on playing the way he currently is then he’ll soon be off this list of worst signings.

However, we simply can’t ignore the fact that the £52 million signing has been a bitter disappointment (overall) since arriving from Shakhtar Donetsk in 2018.

Without his recent performances (especially against Man City), Fred would have featured even higher up this list. But he certainly seems to be heading in the right direction at the time of writing.

8. Morgan Schneiderlin

Man Utd fans had been craving a tough-tackling midfielder for years, so were naturally delighted when the club splashed out £25 million on Schneiderlin, who had impressed during his seven-year spell at Southampton.

But despite the odd impressive performance, the France international never truly convinced at Old Trafford and found himself offloaded to Everton 18 months later.

7. Matteo Darmian

A two-footed attacking full-back who could play either on the left or the right, Darmian appeared to tick all the boxes for United when he arrived from Torino in July 2015.

The Italy international made 92 appearances over the next four years but, in truth, wasn’t quite good enough for a top European club.

The 29-year-old now plies his trade with Parma.

6. Bastian Schweinsteiger

World-class at his peak, Schweinsteiger’s best days were well behind him by the time he joined United in 2015.

There was a reason why Bayern Munich were prepared to let the German World Cup winner leave for just £6.5 million – and that’s because he was more or less finished at the highest level.

Schweinsteiger was a popular player at Old Trafford – although not so much with Mourinho – but the decision to sign him was, ultimately, a poor one.

5. Bebe

Nobody had heard of Bebe when Man Utd bizarrely decided to splash out £7.4 million on the Portuguese forward in 2010. Not even Fergie, who was recommended the player by Carlos Queiroz.

United fans were not exactly shocked when Bebe looked more like a competition winner than Premier League star when he eventually took the pitch – although somehow he scored two goals in seven games for the Red Devils.

In fairness to Bebe, though, he has gone on to enjoy a decent career in football, playing for the likes of Benfica, Eibar and Rayo Vallecano.

4. Memphis Depay

There’s no doubting Memphis possesses bags of talent, but for whatever reason (his attitude certainly being a contributing factor) things didn’t work out for him at Man Utd.

Handed the club’s iconic No. 7 shirt on arrival, some supporters thought United had just signed the next Cristiano Ronaldo.

Sadly, though, the Dutch winger badly flattered to deceive over the next 18 months and was eventually dumped off to Lyon.

3. Radamel Falcao

Falcao was only a loan signing but he was still a massive flop at United.

One of the world’s best strikers at his peak, the Colombia international was a shadow of the revered centre-forward he once was during his time at Old Trafford.

United fans got right behind him but, despite that, he only managed to score four goals in 29 games.

He then flopped on loan at Chelsea before unexpectedly reviving his career back at AS Monaco.

2. Angel Di Maria

From the moment he signed from Real Madrid it was hard not to feel that Di Maria didn’t truly want to be a Man Utd player. He’d been sold to the highest bidder.

Van Gaal failed to get the best out of the Argentina international, whose confidence hit rock bottom during his spell in England.

Di Maria has since proved at Paris Saint-Germain that he’s still one of the world’s best players, just to rub it in a little bit more for United fans.

With a different manager, who knows… maybe things would have worked out a little better.

1. Alexis Sanchez

It’s hard to think of a worse signing Man Utd have *ever* made, let alone this decade.

The Alexis Sanchez who ripped it up for several seasons at Arsenal was not the same Alexis Sanchez who performed so abjectly for the Red Devils.

Five goals in 45 games was a woeful return from a player earning an obscene £500,000 a week.

He’s now on loan at Inter Milan, trying to rediscover his form and confidence, but United are still paying a chunk of his wages – just to add insult to injury.

So, what do these two lists tell us?

Well, first of all, a hell of a lot of money has been wasted – but we all already knew that.

But it was surprisingly difficult to come up with a list of 10 worst signings. We still feel a little harsh putting Zaha in it and, because of his recent performances, even Fred. Henrikh Mkhitaryan can consider himself extremely fortunate to miss out.

On the other hand, United’s list of 10 best signings shows that recruitment during the post-Ferguson era has been extremely poor, barring the odd success story.

Let’s hope for the sake of every United fan that the 2020s proves to be a much more positive decade.

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