How bad has Manchester United's recruitment been since Fergie left?

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Image Credit: skysports.com

The recruitment at Manchester United since Sir Alex Ferguson retired has come under a lot of scrutiny over recent years, but how bad or good has it really been? It is very easy to get swept up into a new transfer window and forget what came before, therefore this article aims to refresh our memories and take a closer look at every post-Fergie signing, how they performed for United and where they are now. 

2013/14 (Moyes)

League Finish = 7th 

Signings: Marouane Fellaini, Juan Mata (January)

The summer of 2013 was undoubtedly the most depressing transfer windows for United fans in memory. Throughout the summer we were linked to the likes of Gareth Bale, Toni Kroos and Cesc Fabregas (confirmed by Moyes in a recent interview) and we ended up signing just Fellaini on deadline day and had to wait until January for Mata's arrival. The less said about this the better with the best interests of all of our states of mental health in mind.

Marouane Fellaini
Appearances: 177
Goals: 22
Assists: 12
Transfer Fee: £27.5m

It would be unfair to label Fellaini as a complete failure as he did score a number of match winning goals in games in which we were struggling to break the opposition down, using his strength, height and usually his head. However, aside from these 'once every now and then occurences', his overall contribution in midfield during possession phases was often criticised and rightly so. He is a very clunky player with no obvious stand out trait aside from heading ability and aggression. In fact, his passing accuracy was totally trumped by his elbow-to-opponent-face completion percentage. Used as a 'Plan B super sub' he was a very handy player to have as part of the squad, however, his game as a whole was far from the quality needed as a United starter.

Verdict: Ok signing, overused as a starter.
 
Where is he now? Shandong Luneng Taishan (China).

Juan Mata
Appearances: 244
Goals: 47
Assists: 41
Transfer Fee: £37.5m

Although clearly on the decline now, the service Juan Mata has provided to Manchester United must not go underestimated. Solskjaer demonstrated the value he sees in him as a figure in the dressing room around the youngsters in our squad, having recently extended his contract. His attacking return numbers are above average but it could definitely be argued that he has underperformed in regards to goals and assists over recent seasons. As will become very clear as we progress through the transfer windows, signing a player that is still with us after this time and has provided value each year is a rarity and should be appreciated.

Verdict: Success

Where is he now? Still at Manchester United

2014/15 (Van Gaal)

League Finish = 4th

Signings: Angel Di Maria, Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera, Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind, Radamel Falcao.

Angel Di Maria 
Appearances: 32
Goals: 4
Assists: 12
Transfer Fee: £59.6m
  • Disappointing number of goals scored.
  • Good assist numbers.
  • Struggled to ever become fully in favour in the side and cement a regular week in week out starting place
  • Disliked living in Manchester after having his house robbed and after his red card against Arsenal, he was not trusted to play regularly
  • Refused to come on pre-season tour in 2015 and was sold after just 1 season as a result.
Verdict: Failure

Where is he now? PSG

Luke Shaw
Appearances: 124
Goals: 1
Assists: 10
Transfer Fee: £36m
  • United career plagued with serious and minor injuries.
  • Disappointing attacking contribution stats.
  • Criticised by many for lacking required football IQ to be the quality of full-back we are looking for.
  • Has had solid runs of form in the team over recent seasons, winning our player of the season 2018/19, however there were not exactly any players who really fully deserved that award. 
Verdict: Undecided.

Where is he now? Still at Manchester United.

Ander Herrera
Appearances: 189
Goals: 20
Assists: 27
Transfer Fee: £24m
  • Gave everything he had every single time he played. Respected the magnitude of the club and the opportunity to represent it, a gold dust trait. A player I will respect for life and one of my favourites over recent seasons.
  • Inexcusable decision to allow him to leave without finding a suitable replacement. 
Verdict: Success, poor decision to allow him to leave without replacing suitably.

Where is he now? PSG.

Marcos Rojo
Appearances: 122
Goals: 2
Assists: 4
Transfer Fee: £16m
  • An OK squad defender. Realistically not United quality but as a back up to other main starters he can be tolerated.
  • Known for being rash, error prone and apparently loves a 40-yard shot arrowing straight out of the stadium and onto the A56. 
Verdict: Meh.

Where is he now? On loan at Estudiantes

Daley Blind
Appearances: 141
Goals: 6
Assists: 10
Transfer Fee: £17.5m
  • Extremely versatile player, playing CB, DM and LB when called upon. A very useful player to have as part of the squad.
  • Lost his starting place at United and was seemingly finished and moved to Ajax to finish his career, yet he proved his doubters wrong in 2018/19 and was a key man in Ajax's Champions League journey to the semi-finals.
Verdict: Nothing amazing but in my opinion was still a smart signing to have as a squad player. I would've been quite happy for us to have kept him.

Where is he now? Ajax.

Radamel Falcao
Appearances: 29
Goals: 4
Assists: 5
Transfer Fee: £4m loan
  • Never properly settled into the team or got going at all. 4 goals in 29 games as a Man United striker is a truly terrible record. 
  • Just like with Di Maria, he did not last past the end of the season.
Verdict: Failure

Where is he now? Chelsea --> Monaco --> Galatasaray

2015/16 (Van Gaal) 

League Finish = 5th

Signings: Anthony Martial, Memphis Depay, Morgan Schneiderlin, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Matteo Darmian, Sergio Romero.

Anthony Martial
Appearances: 202
Goals: 60
Assists: 34
Transfer Fee: £36m
  • Good goal contribution figures.
  • Versatile - can operate as a winger and striker.
  • Although clearly an extremely talented player, he is yet to find any kind of long-term consistency. 
  • Still only 24, a lot of room for his game to be refined as well as further development. 
Verdict: Success, I do not know why Martial gets criticised when his stats are almost identical to Marcus Rashford who is constantly being praised...

Where is he now? Still at Manchester United

Memphis Depay
Appearances: 53
Goals: 7
Assists:6
Transfer Fee: £25m
  • For all the hype surrounding his name when United signed him, he very much did not live up to expectations, delivering a hugely underwhelming goal contribution tally.
  • He was given opportunities but failed to impress the majority of the time. The robotic football Van Gaal was trying to implement certainly did not help his case, but nonetheless a lot more was expected from Depay.
  • He simply looked and now looks a completely different player compared to his time before and after United life.
Verdict: Failure

Where is he now? Lyon 

Morgan Schneiderlin
Appearances: 47
Goals: 1
Assists: 1
Transfer Fee: £25m
  • Had a run in the team under Van Gaal, but failed to impress Mourinho and ultimately a mutual decision between Schneiderlin and Mourinho was made that is was best he moved on if his ambition was regular first team football.
Verdict: Below average signing

Where is he now? Everton

Bastian Schweinsteiger
Appearances: 35
Goals: 2
Assists: 2
Transfer Fee: £6m
  • Acquired to add experience to the squad. Was used as a rotation option amongst Carrick, Fellaini, Herrera and Schneiderlin rather than ever making the position his own. 
  • Injured for long periods of the 2015/16 season
  • Completely ousted by Mourinho
Verdict: Fan favourite but was injury-hit and played below average for most of his short United career.

Where is he now? Retired after two and a half years after a stint at Chigaco Fire.

Matteo Darmian
Appearances: 92
Goals: 1
Assists: 4
Transfer Fee: £16m

  • Player of the Month in his debut month for the club earning 3 consecutive clean sheets for United. 
  • Confidence shot after Sanchez ripped him apart in Arsenal's 3-0 win in 2015
  • More of a defensive player than an attacking fullback but always did a decent job when called upon 
  • His only goal was a magnificent settler against Crystal Palace
Verdict: Did a job but became another failed attempt at replacing Gary Neville at right back

Where is he now? Back in Serie A with Parma

Sergio Romero
Appearances: 54
Clean Sheets: 35
Goals Conceded: 24
Transfer Fee: Free

  • Played United's first four Premier League games in his debut season only losing once but then lost his place to David de Gea and became United's backup keeper after then
  • Has the highest clean sheet percentage of any United goalkeeper who has played more than ten games for the club
  • Is yet to concede in the Europa League this season and yet to lose!
Verdict: One of the best signings of the Van Gaal era and certainly one of the shrewdest

Where is he now? Best sub keeper in the world at Manchester United


2016/17 (Mourinho)

League Finish = 6th 

Signings: Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Eric Bailly.

Paul Pogba
Appearances: 150
Goals: 31
Assists: 31
Transfer Fee: £90m
  • World record fee at the time to move back to United from Juventus
  • Rowed with Mourinho in the final weeks of his United tenure and was stripped of his vice captaincy as a result
  • Had his highest goalscoring tally last season, scoring 13 league goals and 16 in total
  • Clearly United's best player creatively amid reports of him being unsettled
Verdict: United's best player and although he hasn't been as consistently brilliant as everyone expected, he has still been a vital player to the little success United has had over the last few years.

Where is he now? Still at United and needed now more than ever.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Appearances: 53
Goals: 29
Assists: 10
Transfer Fee: Free
  • Free transfer from PSG after the Euro 2016
  • Scored two minutes into his unofficial debut with a scissor kick against Galatasaray and scored a late winner in the Community Shield against Leicester. 
  • Went on to score 28 goals in his first season with United including a winning brace against Southampton in the Carabao Cup Final
  • Serious injury against Anderlecht ruled him out for the rest of the season but returned to United wearing the no.10 shirt against Newcastle but only scored one goal before moving on to LA Galaxy where he scored 30 goals in 29 games
Verdict: Excellent player for United and for free too, making his success all the better. Shame his injury hampered his United career that could have continued for at least another two seasons. 

Where is he now? Released and available on a free transfer with AC Milan having contacted the Swede.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan
Appearances: 63
Goals: 13
Assists: 11
Transfer Fee: £30m
  • Stuttering start at United being behind Mata, Martial and Lingard in the pecking order 
  • Scored his first goal against Zorua and then his first Premier League goal being a winner against Tottenham, going on to be the top scorer in the Europa League, getting the nerve settler in the final
  • Began his second season well, getting five assists in his first three games but stuttered after that point
  • Swapped in January 2018 for Alexis Sanchez
Verdict: Difficult United career but had his moments of brilliance when it mattered, especially in Europe

Where is he now? Struggled with consistency at Arsenal too and is now on loan at Roma having got three goals and an assist in nine games.

Eric Bailly
Appearances: 74
Goals: 1
Assists: 0
Transfer Fee: £30m
  • Had a good first season and started his second season as the main centre back
  • Quick, aggressive defender that is not afraid to put his body on the line
  • This shows in his injury-hit United career as he has played 74 times in the same time Pogba has played double the amount
Verdict: Disappointing that he has failed to have a decent run in the side for a while now but still could have a good United career.

Where is he now? Still on the injury table at United but looks like he is the fourth choice defender behind Maguire, Lindelof and Tuanzebe.


2017/18 (Mourinho)

League Finish = 2nd

Signings: Romelu Lukaku, Nemanja Matic, Victor Lindelof, Alexis Sanchez (January).

Romelu Lukaku
Appearances: 96
Goals: 42
Assists: 13
Transfer Fee: £75m + Wayne Rooney
  • Began his United career excellently and in his debut season, scored 27 goals in all competitions
  • Had goal droughts throughout and in his second season he struggled for goals during many parts of the season 
  • Found himself playing second fiddle to Rashford under Solskjaer but still had a vital role, scoring 6 goals in three games against Southampton, Crystal Palace and PSG
  • Sold in the summer to Inter Milan wanting a more prominent role
Verdict: United's top goalscorer during his time at the club and was vital to their second place finish. Although he did struggle at times, he was important for United throughout his career and clearly loved the club.

Where is he now? Scoring at will for Inter. Should have been replaced by United or given a chance to shine.


Nemanja Matic
Appearances: 104
Goals: 4
Assists: 4
Transfer Fee: £40m
  • Seemed at the time that United stole Matic as he would unlock Pogba to roam free
  • Impressive first season and was an anchor for Mourinho's side and scored his first goal for the club by completing a comeback from 2-0 down against Crystal Palace with a superb half-volley
  • Awful second season in general despite a small surge when Solskjaer took over
  • Replaced by McTominay this season and has only played three times so far
Verdict? Brought in for one purpose and succeeded in offering United a strong spine in his first season. He is done now but did a job when called upon.

Where is he now? Running down his contract at United but could leave for Spurs or Inter in the summer.

Victor Lindelof
Appearances: 99
Goals: 2
Assists: 2
Transfer Fee: £40m
  • Struggled at first and looked almost useless early into the 18/19 season against Brighton. 
  • Rejuvenated when playing against Juventus and Chelsea and then became a shoe-in all season long, paired for the most part with Smalling at the back
  • Scored his first goal as a late equaliser against Burnley to keep Solskjaer's unbeaten run going
  • His form dipped at times this season but has solidified again and looks comfortable with Maguire at the back
Verdict? Took time to acclimatise but looks a shoe-in at the back and could partner alongside Maguire for many seasons to come.

Where is he now? Still at the club and a regular starter

Alexis Sanchez
Appearances: 45
Goals: 5
Assists: 9
Transfer Fee: Swap deal for Mkhitaryan
  • Began his United career well, getting two assists on his debut and scoring a rebound from a penalty on his Premier League debut and performed well versus Manchester City and Tottenham in the FA Cup semi-final
  • Struggled to perform consistently for most of his debut season and although he began the 18/19 season as the striker while Lukaku was rested after the World Cup but got injured early on and struggled to get back to his best after that
  • Thought he saved his and Jose's career after winning the Newcastle match but form dipped even further after that
Verdict? Awful signing. Had a few good games but stats show it all for him. For £500k a week, he should have performed better, up to him not the managers to perform.

Where is he now? On loan at Inter but unable to find a starting role so seems a sideways move when he could have done the same for United. 

2018/19 (Mourinho)

League Finish = 6th 

Signings: Fred, Diogo Dalot, Lee Grant

Fred
Appearances: 56
Goals: 1
Assists: 2
Transfer Fee: £52m
  • Struggled so far in his United career, perhaps the price tag of £52m weighed on him
  • Scored his first goal against Wolves but failed to score after this point
  • Had some impressive games against Liverpool and PSG so far and this season has had a good run in Pogba's absence
Verdict? Poor signing so far but has made this season his own and performing exceptionally without Pogba and McTominay so has the potential to save his career. 

Where is he now? Regular starter this season at United.

Diogo Dalot
Appearances: 30
Goals: 1
Assists: 3
Transfer Fee: £19.7m
  • Has always been the second choice right back at United to Young last season and Wan-Bissaka this season
  • Defensively always been questionable but in attack has shown good qualities
  • Crucial substitute against PSG and won United the game by earning the penalty Rashford converted
  • Injuries have hampered his career so far but could compete for the starting role with Wan-Bissaka for the next decade 
Verdict? Shown good qualities and a lot of potential but not delivered fully yet - as expected

Where is he now? Still at United 

Lee Grant
Appearances: 2
Clean Sheets: 0
Goals Conceded: 3
Transfer Fee: £3.5m
  • Brought in as third choice goalkeeper to allow Dean Henderson and Joel Pereira to go out on loan
  • Came on against his former club, Derby but failed to keep a clean sheet or save any penalties in the shootout but still had a decent debut, making some excellent saves
  • Started his first game for United against Astana recently but could do nothing about the goals he conceded

Verdict? Brought in to be a third choice and has not complained. Is a big voice in the dressing room and an experienced, charismatic player.

Where is he now? Still at United


2019/20 (Solskjaer)

Signings: Dan James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire

Daniel James:
Appearances: 32
Goals: 3
Assists: 7
Transfer Fee: £15m
  • A steal for United from Swansea City as it seems now despite having a medical at Leeds in January 2019
  • Scored on his debut against Chelsea and scored three goals in his first four games
  • Rapid pace, good decision-making and a fan favourite
Verdict? Success so far, will want to score a goal soon but a fan favourite and a player with a lot of potential. 

Where is he now? Regular starter at United


Aaron Wan-Bissaka:
Appearances: 29
Goals: 0
Assists: 1
Transfer Fee: £50m
  • Solskjaer's second signing for United after an excellent season for Crystal Palace
  • Starts regularly for United and is one of the best defensive right backs in the world
  • Made the most amount of tackles in the league so far
  • Needs to work on his attacking play but it will come with time
Verdict? Success so far but does need to work on his attacking play

Where is he now? Regular starter at United

Harry Maguire:
Appearances: 34
Goals: 1
Assists: 2
Transfer Fee: £80m
  • World record transfer fee for a defender 
  • Ball-playing defender and aerially dominant
  • Finally scored a goal and a screamer against Tranmere but beginning to be a commanding presence at the back
Verdict? Despite not keeping clean sheets regularly, he has been a presence at the back and improved the team's overall defensive ability

Where is he now? Captain of Manchester United

Bruno Fernandes:
Appearances: 1
Goals: 0
Assists: 0
Transfer Fee: £46m (Potentially £68m)

  • Almost lost him to Barcelona after courting him all through the summer and January but paid under £50m for a quality signing.
  • Played well in his first game but failed to make an instant impact as United were held to a 0-0 draw at Wolves 
  • Will be vital for top four this season.
Verdict? To be confirmed but should be a massive hit

Where is he now? Ready to make a difference at Stamford Bridge 

Odion Ighalo:
Appearances: 0
Goals: 0
Assists: 0
  • Last gasp loan deal on deadline day until the end of the season with no obligation to buy.
  • Bought to replace the injured Marcus Rashford and take the pressure off Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood. 
Verdict? A win-win situation as it is an extra body up front who has some quality but if he fails then United haven't paid much, have no obligation to buy and can look for a better striker in the summer.

Where is he now? Could feature against Chelsea from the bench.

CONCLUSION
Overall a significant number of these players have been and gone and not provided the success their price tags or history has suggested it would with the likes of Falcao, Di Maria, Memphis and Sanchez all failing to establish themselves at United for one reason or another. A fair few of the players are still at the club but not all of them have performed as fans or managers would have expected either. There is a lot of potential in the signings made by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and all of them have become fan favourites and improved the current team significantly. Furthermore, United needed signings in January and delivered a fantastic midfielder and a decent option in Ighalo. While it is clear these signings are necessary, United will need more to challenge Liverpool and Manchester City in the summer and should already be planning those transfers. 

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