The £24 million signing of Robin van Persie represents the most expensive bit of business we’ve done this summer. Indeed, it’s the most we’ve paid for a player since we fronted £33.5m for Dimitar Berbatov back in 2008. We don’t really do huge transfer fees, and we’ve had a few very expensive mistakes.
How to we fare overall with big money moves? Here we look back at our most expensive transfer each Premier League season. Some are all time United legends for the right reasons, and some we will never forget for the wrong.
2011/12 – David De Gea, £19m
Dave struggled at the start of last season but, after briefly losing his place to Anders Lindegaard, came back very strongly in the second half of the season. Comfortably first choice and expected to have a massive season ahead of him.
2010/11 – Chris Smalling, £10m
Smalling was signed from Fulham after only a handful of first team games, but impressed after being forced into the first team due to an injury crisis. Comfortable at right-back or central defence, he is the natural successor to Rio Ferdinand.
2009/10 – Antonio Valencia, £16.0m
The reigning player of the season was signed to replace Ronaldo, and despite being far less flashy is almost as effective in the traditional winger role. A hugely popular player who rises to any challenge, we can expect him to be in the first team picture for a number of seasons yet.
2008/09 – Dimitar Berbatov, £30.75m
The mercurial Berbatov was cruelly misunderstood by fans and Sir Alex alike. One of the most watchable and cultured footballers in the world, his face just doesn’t fit at Old Trafford, and it looks likely that he will leave this summer. Played a huge role in our 19th league title win.
2007/08 – Owen Hargreaves, £17m
Joined from Bayern Munich a year after an eye catching World Cup campaign, but his career was utterly destroyed by knee trouble. Scored a memorable winner against City and played a key role in the 2008 Champions League final, but has struggled massively since and remains without a club.
2006/07 – Michael Carrick, £18.6m
Carrick reinvigorated a United side that had become stagnant, and helped us regain our crown in his first season and become European champions in his second. Another much maligned player, fans are finally coming round to just how much he contributes to the team’s success.
2005/06 – Nemanja Vidic, £7m
A cheap year for United, but the inspirational Vidic was a brilliant bit of January business. Now our captain, he is rated as one of the world’s best centre backs and was missed hugely last season as we missed out on the title by the narrowest of margins.
2004/05 – Wayne Rooney, £27m
Rooney upset Evertonians by leaving having announced “once a blue, always a blue” but has more than justified his transfer fee in the mean time. A spiky character who divides opinion as a person, his playing attributes are unquestionably brilliant and, if he could just stop his form falling off a cliff every couple of years, he could become an all-time great.
2003/04 – Luis Saha, £12.8
Costing slightly more than Ronaldo did the same season, Saha scored for fun when fit, but was all too often found inhabiting the physio’s table. Strong, fast and deadly with his left foot, Saha could have contributed much more to the club with a bit of luck.
2002/03 – Rio Ferdinand, £27m
The oldest marquee signing still with the club, Ferdinand broke transfer records when he joined, but has been brilliant for ten seasons now. There is no questioning his place as one of our all-time great defenders. Has won everything.
2001/02 – Juan Veron, £28m
Veron was the last genuine world star that we bought before the Robin van Persie transfer went through, but thinks didn’t go to plan. Despite being outstanding in Europe and unplayable for his first few seasons in the Premiership, he fell out of favour. It can’t have helped that Scholes was being compromised to find Veron a place in the side, and the talented Argentine playmaker moved on to Chelsea. Like Berbatov, another awesome player that simply didn’t fit.
2000/01 – Fabien Barthez, £7.8m
Buying Fabien Barthez was supposed to put an end to the nightmare we were having replacing Peter Schmeichel and although he was more successful that the previous incumbents, a love of a howler and an bad temper often cost us, and you always feared the worst when the ball went towards him. A world-class shot stopper, he wasn’t the solid presence we needed but was the best we did until Edwin van der Sar joined.
1999/00 – Massimo Taibi, £4.5m
A complete flop at Old Trafford, Taibi nonetheless enjoyed a successful career otherwise, flitting between Series A and B. A solid goalkeeper, but no more, he was never given the chance to recover from some horrific mistakes during his four games for the club, and was shipped back to Italy in no time.
1998/99 – Dwight Yorke, £12.6m
Yorke was snapped up from Aston Villa and formed a telepathic striker partnership with Andy Cole, arguably the best in the history of the club. Like Hargreaves, Yorke won the Champions League in his first season, but enjoyed further successes, winning the Premiership three times before winding down his career with lesser sides.
1997/98 – Henning Berg, £5m
Berg was signed after a solid season at Blackburn Rovers. It had been two years since Rovers won the Premiership and they were on the decline. Despite missing both finals, he was an integral part of the treble-winning side, filling in at center-back whenever Jaap Stam was unavailable, although he only lasted a further year at the club thereafter.
1996/97 – Karel Poborsky, £3.5m
A bit of a strange signing, Poborsky had a superb Euro 96 but was competing with Ryan Giggs. Poborsky only lasted two seasons and the club, whilst Giggs went on to be the most decorated player in the history of the club. Even amongst Manchester United fans, Poborsky is best remembered for his Euro 96 lob against Portugal.
1995/96 – Tony Coton, £500k
In a very quiet season for United, Coton arrived as Peter Schmeichel’s backup keeper and never played for the club. Was signed from City and moved on to Sunderland six months later. Never more than a budget stop-gap.
1994/1995 – Andy Cole, £7m
Kevin Keegan was forced to explain his decision to sell Andy Cole to the Geordie faithful, and you would be forgiven for asking Sir Alex to do the same after Cole endured a difficult start to life at Old Trafford. Eventually he caught fire, formed a lethal partnership with Dwight Yorke and won everything available to him. Even as the British record transfer, he was a bargain.
1993/94 – Roy Keane, £3.75m
Keane spent three hugely impressive seasons at Nottingham Forest before the club’s relegation in the first ever Premiership season. Sir Alex moved for the goalscoring box-to-box player and made him our record signing. He would also win everything going during 12 years at the club, many of which were spent as captain, although controversy was never far away. He scored 51 goals for United in all, including 12 in the 1999/2000 season and two famous goals away to Juventus in the Champions League semi-final. We’ve struggled to replace him since he left under a cloud in 2005/06.
1992/93 – Eric Cantona, £1.2m
Words cannot do Eric justice. Although he could have played for longer, his quality and charisma helped build Manchester United into the icon of English football that they remain. I have seen more talented players than Eric, and more effective, but I have never seen a player more charismatic, influential or passionate.