Manchester United's best and worst signings in the Glazer era

Vidic and Evra were bedrocks in Man United’s all-conquering defence, while piano-loving Sanchez never hit the right notes – so, who are the best and worst signings during the Glazer era as Avram hints they’ll splash the cash for Ten Hag this summer?

  • Manchester United’s new era with manager Erik ten Hag began on Monday
  • It comes after a torrid season in which the Old Trafford side finished sixth 
  • United owner Avram Glazer has said money will be there to spend this summer
  • Sportsmail looks at the best and worst United signings during the Glazer reign

Another new managerial era at Manchester United is underway following Erik ten Hag’s official appointment at Old Trafford on Monday.

The Dutchman is set for a big overhaul with up to 10 first-team players leaving club this summer, as reported by Sportsmail earlier this month.

It’s been detailed that Ten Hag won’t be financially backed to the extent of his predecessors with the Glazer family looking at a different ownership model after the club failed to qualify for the Champions League next season.

However, Avram Glazer has suggested that is not necessarily the case and Ten Hag will be aided in his quest to improve the squad.

When asked by Sky News at the World Economic Forum in Davos if the funds would be able this summer to invest in new players, Glazer replied: ‘We’ve always spent the money to buy new players.’

In light of the 61-year-old’s comment, Sportsmail looks at the five best and worst signings of the Glazers 17-year ownership of the Red Devils.

Avram Glazer has hinted Man United boss Erik ten Hag will be backed in the transfer market

United welcomed in a new era on Monday as Ten Hag faced the media for the first time


5. David de Gea (£18.9million from Atletico Madrid, 2011)

Let’s start off with the better deals of the Glazer reign and the only player to still be a part of Manchester United: David de Gea.

The Spaniard had big shoes to fill after Edwin van der Sar (more on him shortly) but 11 years on and the Spaniard still remains the club undisputed No 1.

His stint in goal has only brought four major trophies to date – but that’s not his fault. The 31-year-old has constantly come to United’s rescue over the years – highlighted by the fact he has four Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year trophies to his name.

The Spaniard has faced criticism during his time at Old Trafford and did suffer a worrying dip of form in recent years. However, it must be incredibly frustrating for him playing behind a brittle defence that is constantly changing.

He’ll be desperate for Ten Hag to solve their ailing defensive worries so his saves can contribute to worthy causes next season rather than to prevent further damaging scorelines that have occurred this term.

David de Gea has endured plenty seasons of suffering but remains a standout player for United

4. Edwin van der Sar (£2m from Fulham, 2005)

De Gea was the chosen heir to Van der Sar and it’s fair to say the latter reigned supreme for United during his six years at the club – a problem position the club had had since legendary Peter Schmeichel’s departure in 1999.

It is no coincidence that Van der Sar’s arrival from Fulham led to a resurgence in United becoming England’s and, for a spell, Europe’s premier club. In six years at Old Trafford he won a staggering 11 trophies – four of those being Premier League titles and one European Cup (but we’ll come back to the latter shortly). The only honour he failed to win was the FA Cup.

Joining at the age of 34, he was a calming influence among a youthful side that was still developing the talents of Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney.

He was part of a defensive unit that became immune to opposition attacks and if they did somehow breach those in front of him, Van der Sar’s quality would invariably snuff out the danger.

The fact at the age of 38, in 2009, he broke a 31-year league record for the most minutes without conceding a goal is a testament to his long-lasting powers. It took a mind-blowing 1,311 minutes before he was beaten again – a run which included 14-straight games with a clean sheet against opposition which included Manchester City, Tottenham and Chelsea.

And speaking of Chelsea, who can forget Van der Sar’s finest moment in a United shirt? May 21, 2008. The Champions League final. Moscow. Yes everyone remembers John Terry’s slip but it was Van der Sar’s save from Nicolas Anelka in the sudden death penalty shootout that crowned United as Kings of Europe once more.

Edwin van der Sar saved Nicolas Anelka’s penalty as United won the 2008 Champions League

Who would’ve thought that Patrice Evra would go on to have such a successful United career after his debut in a 3-1 loss at local rivals Manchester City in January 2006.

Trailing two-nil at half-time, Evra was hooked by Sir Alex Ferguson and has since revealed that his agent disclosed that they had made a mistake in joining the club.

However, that train of thought was swiftly reversed as Evra knuckled down and got up to speed with the rigours of English football.

The Frenchman made a total of 379 appearances for United – winning 10 major honours at Old Trafford along the way.

Evra, who also captained the club at times, will go down as one the club greatest left backs in the modern era along with Denis Irwin.

Patrice Evra won a plethora of trophies at Manchester United – including five Premier Leagues

2. Nemanja Vidic (£7m from Spartak Moscow, 2006)

The January transfer window of 2006 also saw Manchester United sign an unknown centre back in Nemanja Vidic.

Seen as the perfect foil for ball-playing centre back Rio Ferdinand, Vidic certainly provided the ballast to the centre-back pairing for seasons to come.

United finished the 2005-06 season third in the Premier League, but those few months helped the pair form an understanding which would prove telling.

The results? United won the Premier League in his first full season at the club and repeated this a campaign later alongside the Champions League.

Vidic, who was also captain of the club, won 10 major honours at Old Trafford and his legacy lives on at the club.

How Ten Hag could do with him at centre back now.

Nemanja Vidic (centre) endeared himself to supporters with his aggressive defending

1. Michael Carrick (£18.6m from Tottenham, 2006)

Unassuming and underrated, Michael Carrick is still yet to be replaced in Manchester United’s midfield.

After recruiting Evra and Vidic in January 2006, the next part of Ferguson’s rebuild was to find a successor to the void left by ex-captain Roy Keane in midfield. In the summer of 2006 he plumped for Carrick from Tottenham.

Just like Van der Sar, Evra and Vidic – Carrick was an integral part of United’s rise in Europe as they reached three Champions League finals in four years between 2008 and 2011.

In the post-Ferguson era, Carrick (and Wayne Rooney) were constant reminders to the club’s past as he helped the Red Devils win the FA Cup (2015-16), League Cup (2016-17) and Europa League (2016-17).

Carrick retired at the end of the 2017-18 season after 12 years of sterling service to the club.

It’s a testament to his qualities that the deep-lying playmaker is yet to be replaced – although it highlight’s poor succession planning too.


5. Gabriel Obertan (£2.5m from Bordeaux, 2009)

Right, on to those unforgettable names now and we begin with the first of four wide men in this section: Gabriel Obertan.

Signed from Bordeaux in the summer of 2009, even then-Bordeaux boss – and former United centre back – Laurent Blanc was surprised by the transfer.

‘He must overcome psychological and mental challenges so he can express his true value,’ he said.

And sadly for Obertan and United, these hurdles weren’t navigated and he was sold to Newcastle after three years at the club – which included a season-long loan at Lorient.

Obertan scored just once in 28 outings – summing up his output.

Gabriel Obertan (left) scored just once in 28 outings during an unforgettable time at United

4. Manucho (Undisclosed from Pedro Atletico, 2008)

There have been some rogue signings during the Sir Alex Ferguson and you can file Manucho under this.

Offered a three-year deal after a successful trial in 2008, with Ferguson and his staff reportedly impressed with the way he handled the physicality of the likes of Nemanja Vidic in training.

But following a struggle obtaining a work permit, and after returning from a loan spell in Greece, Manucho went on to play just 42 minutes for United across three substitute appearances.

While he cannot be blamed for his work permit issues, it is fair to say Manucho was not sorely missed when he left Old Trafford.

Manucho impressed during a trial for Manchester United – but that’s as good as it got for him

3. Bebe (£7.4m from Vitoria Guimaraes, 2010)

The fact that he was signed by Manchester United without Ferguson watching him was alarming and a mistake the legendary Scot admitted later on.

The Red Devils hoped they had another Ronaldo on their hands when they signed him out of the blue from Portuguese outfit Vitoria de Guimaraes in 2010.

Bebe made seven appearances in his first season and none in the following three years as he spent the majority of that out on loan.

‘I know Real Madrid were hovering and so were Benfica,’ Ferguson said for his signing of the winger. ‘It was one of those decisions that had to be made quickly.

‘Sometimes you have to go on instinct and sometimes you have to trust your staff as well. This was a first for me, but we rate our scouting department very highly and our scout in Portugal was adamant we needed to do something.’

He probably wishes he didn’t rush into that.

Bebe made seven appearances for the Red Devils, all in the first season, before being shipped

2. Angel di Maria (£59.7m from Real Madrid, 2014)

On outlay alone this was a disaster. In the space of a year, United made a £15.4m loss on a player who was heralded as the catalyst of the post-Ferguson era.

In August 2014, Angel di Maria joined the club for a then-British record £59.7m fee from Real Madrid. Aged just 26, the Argentine had played a key role the season before as Real won their 10th European Cup (La Decima).

He made a strong start to his Old Trafford career, with a goal and an assist in three of his first four games.

But after being played in six different positions, including central midfield and striker, he encountered difficulties on-and-off the pitch around the New Year period.

Di Maria and his family were victims of an attempted robbery in January 2015, causing them all to feel unsettled in England.

Two months later he was then sent off in United’s FA Cup quarter-final defeat by Arsenal. He did not start another game until the final match of the campaign at Hull, only to limp off with a hamstring injury after 23 minutes.

He then joined Paris Saint-Germain – with his final game for the club on Saturday sparking emotional scenes as he said goodbye. A very different ending to his time at United.

Angel di Maria was sent off United vs Arsenal in March 2015 – his penultimate start for the club

1. Alexis Sanchez (Swap deal with Arsenal for Henrikh Mkhitaryan, 2018)

Unquestionably No 1. After all the fanfare that came with his arrival – remember the #WelcomeAlexis piano video – his time at Old Trafford was truly a bum note.

Joining from Arsenal, much was made of the Red Devils being able to lure him away from ‘noisy neighbours’ Manchester City’s clutches.

However, City had the last laugh as Sanchez was a disaster at Old Trafford.

Five goals in 45 matches at £560,000-per-week was awful business from the United hierarchy. He scored a goal every 555 minutes and was injured for a grand total of 124 days during his time in the north.

He eventually left in August 2020 on a free transfer to Inter Milan but not without a £9m pay-off from United. It could’ve been worse though as he was entitled to earn a further £50m across the two years still remaining on the deal.

Horrific business all-around from Mourinho, who tried to shoehorn him terribly into his starting XI, and then-executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward.

Alexis Sanchez was a disaster at the Red Devils – scoring five times in just 45 appearances

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