With Bruno Fernandes continuing to shine for Manchester United, Red Devils fan Liam Canning looks back at the club’s top 10 signings of the Premier League era.
Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson had the cream of the crop when it came to some of the best talents in England and Europe over his 25-year tenure, with a large proportion of players coming from the club’s own academy.
However, more often than not, when they decided to step into the market, they would usually come away with the best out there. Some have been masterful signings from fellow Premier League clubs; others from relatively unknown leagues.
Here are United’s top 10 transfers of the Premier League era:
10. Robin van Persie (£24m from Arsenal)
Robin van Persie joined from Arsenal in the summer of 2012 and remained with Manchester United until 2015.
His tenure was short but sweet, and topped off a glittering career for Sir Alex Ferguson. The arrival of the £24 million man showed United still had the ability to sign any other Premier League club’s best player, and Van Persie eventually helped guide the Red Devils to another title.
The striker failed to hit the heights after that one season in 2012/13 but, at times, he single-handedly delivered the last major trophy of Ferguson’s time at the club.
9. Bruno Fernandes (£47m from Sporting CP)
A surprise to some to see Bruno Fernandes’ name on this list so early in his career, but the Portugal international has changed the fortunes of Manchester United in the past 12 months.
Signed in January 2020, when everything was going wrong at the club from top to bottom, Fernandes came in and reinvigorated the players and performances.
8. Ruud van Nistelrooy (£18.5m from PSV)
The Dutchman arrived in 2001 and averaged 30 goals per-season in all competitions throughout his five-year stay in Manchester. In the 2002/03 campaign, Van Nistelrooy hit 44 goals and was a talisman for a relatively young United side.
Manchester United might have gone on to enjoy unprecedented success after his departure in 2006, but the striker laid the foundations for that side and, still to this day, is remembered as one of the club’s greatest ever centre forwards.
7. Edwin van der Sar (£2m from Fulham)
It’s always mentioned that when Manchester United sold Peter Schmeichel to Sporting CP in 1999, they should have signed a then 29-year-old Edwin van der Sar.
As things transpired, the Holland international made the move six years later, aged 35, and still enjoyed a world class career with United. Van der Sar held down the fort at Old Trafford for six years and was named in the PFA Team of the Year on three separate occasions.
Van der Sar is always, and will continue to be, spoken about as one of United’s greatest ever goalkeepers, past and present. The Dutchman paved the way for the modern Red Devils goalie.
6. Patrice Evra (£7m from Monaco)
Patrice Evra arrived in Manchester as a relatively unknown entity in 2006, even though he’d already appeared for France a handful of times.
Signed for a measly £7 million, Evra would become one of the Premier League’s all-time great left-backs, along with arguably Manchester United’s best ever.
The France international had a passion few could rival and wore his heart on his sleeve. For eight years of exceptional service, there are few pound-for-pound transfers better than Evra to Manchester United.
5. Roy Keane (£3.75m from Nottingham Forest)
Manchester United signed Roy Keane a year after the Premier League’s inception, and the Irishman went on to deliver seven titles, a Champions League in 1999, and four FA Cups.
While it’s undoubtedly a team and squad effort, Keane’s leadership and high standards resonated throughout the whole squad — until it all became too much for him in 2005 and Manchester United’s only option was to sell their troublesome leader him.
In his prime, Keane was as ferocious as he was technically gifted, with an ability to play all across midfield and lead from the front. A sensational transfer that delivered success year in, year out.
4. Rio Ferdinand (£30m from Leeds United)
The centre-back partnership of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic is arguably the greatest the Premier League has ever seen. While Vidic only just misses out on this list, Ferdinand secures his place and showed why he was worth every penny of the £30 million fee that was paid for him.
The England international made over 450 appearances for the Red Devils between 2002 and 2014, becoming part of a team that would dominate Europe and stand as one of the greatest of all time.
Ferdinand was always likened to a Rolls Royce as a defender: silky smooth, but with the power, pace and aggression to get the better of any attacker. It was fair to say he was comfortably one of United’s best ever defenders.
3. Wayne Rooney (£25.6m from Everton)
A 13-year career at Manchester United and all-time goal-scorer’s achievement to show for it says just how crucial and important signing Wayne Rooney was for the club.
He had his ups and downs over that esteemed time period, but the trophies he’s won — five Premier Leagues, three FA Cups, one Europa League, one FIFA Club World Cup and one Champions League — show the value he brought to the team.
Rooney will forever be one of those players you admire for the way he played the game at full throttle. His aggression and dedication spoke volumes to the professional he was.
2. Eric Cantona (£1.2m from Leeds United)
The King, as the fans used to call him at Old Trafford. Their pure love and affection for the Frenchman reverberated around the stadium, as he put on a show every time he crossed the whitewash.
He might have only been at United for five years, but the cultural reset he pulled off and how he took the club forward was something that’s not been seen since. Cantona’s mere presence and force of personality was enough to take the club to new heights — evidenced by the four Premier League titles he won.
His influence wasn’t limited to the pitch, either, but resonated off it, mentoring the young Class of 92 that would go on to enjoy a whole host of success.
1. Cristiano Ronaldo (£17m from Sporting CP)
An obvious choice for a myriad of reasons. Cristiano Ronaldo arrived in the summer of 2003 as a protégé and left as a world class forward that was destined to become one of the best ever — something he’s since achieved.
While at Manchester United, Ronaldo’s ferociousness down the wing struck terror into the hearts of every full-back that he faced. His big game performances and leadership shone through as he grew in confidence after arriving from Portugal.
For £17 million, Ronaldo goes down as the best Manchester United signing after turning his raw potential into utterly devastating talent, something that would see him go on to lift five Ballon d’Ors, and counting.