Man Utd’s 10 most expensive signings ranked by success

It is fair to say that Manchester United have not been famed for their smart decisions in the transfer market over the past decade or so.

The club have made several incredibly expensive mistakes, and it has created a feeling among some of the fanbase that it isn’t worth getting excited about a new player until they have impressed for at least six months straight.

Man Utd’s ten most expensive signings have cumulatively cost the club just under £700m in transfer fees before you get on to wages, agents fees and everything else.

With that in mind, let’s see if we can decide which deals represent the best value for money.

Jadon SanchoJadon Sancho

Jadon Sancho fell out with Erik ten Hag / Visionhaus/GettyImages

Now that this sorry saga has come to something of a conclusion with Jadon Sancho’s loan to Borussia Dortmund, the transfer has to be viewed as an abject failure.

Manchester United spent a long time chasing Sancho and then when they finally signed him for £73m, it became clear he didn’t have a key role in the team. That was the start of a chain of events that eventually led to a spectacular falling out with Erik ten Hag, a situation that could have been handled better by everyone involved.

There is no doubt that Sancho is an immensely talented player, but there were questions about his professionalism while at Dortmund and clearly, Man Utd did not address that with him. He returned to Dortmund on loan with no option to buy, having scored 12 goals in 82 appearances.

Angel di MariaAngel di Maria

Di Maria started brightly at Man Utd / Clive Brunskill/GettyImages

This was a signing that had so much potential for Man Utd and showed early signs of being a great pickup. In Angel Di Maria’s first 11 games, he racked up three goals and six assists.

The former Real Madrid star then got an injury which killed momentum and from then on, it was just the occasional assist. Di Maria’s family home was robbed in February 2015 and that caused a lot of personal strife, which was thought to be an attributing factor to his poor form and eventual departure from Man Utd after one season.

United got almost all of the money back when he was sold to Paris Saint-Germain, but this was a real missed opportunity for the Red Devils.

Mason MountMason Mount

Mason Mount has struggled for fitness / Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/GettyImages

It is very hard to judge Mason Mount as a Man Utd signing given his brief time at the club and even more limited involvement on the pitch.

When Mount has been able to get on the grass, he has looked pretty lost.

That is understandable and he shouldn’t be criticised heavily, but he can’t warrant a higher place on the list at this stage given his price tag and lack of impact.

AntonyAntony

Antony is yet to impress properly for Man Utd / Shaun Botterill/GettyImages

Another player who is still at the club, Antony is a signing that seems to anger Man Utd fans more and more each week. It seemed like a panic-buy when he arrived late in the summer of 2022, and so far he has done little to suggest that isn’t true.

It didn’t help when, towards the end of 2023, it emerged that the club’s scouts valued him at £25m but Ten Hag put the pressure on the recruitment department to get the deal done. Antony has not been useless at Man Utd, his divisive character helps explain the volume of criticism, but he certainly has not provided what an £86m winger should provide.

There is time for him to turn things around, but his output so far leaves a huge amount to be desired.

Rasmus HøjlundRasmus Højlund

Hojlund’s goal against Aston Villa was an emotional moment / Visionhaus/GettyImages

Much like Mason Mount, it is hard to assess Rasmus Hojlund too much based on half a season, but there is at least more of a sample size for the striker.

The fact he is 20 and in a new country is a factor here, as is his injury-delayed start to his debut campaign, which also meant he had to be eased into things once fit enough to play.

It took Hojlund more than 1,000 Premier League minutes to score his first goal in the competition but his general play offers hope that more will follow. He also isn’t exactly in the most creative team in the world right now, many strikers would struggle. It sums things up that after getting that first league goal, he was ill and had to miss the following game.

Harry MaguireHarry Maguire

Harry Maguire got back into his groove this season / Stu Forster/GettyImages

Harry Maguire may be a little lower on the list were it not for his return to favour during the 2023/24 season. He is one of the most criticised players in world football, to the extent that it became commonplace for people who have never watched Man Utd to take a pop at the beleaguered defender, like some sort of pantomime villain.

That massive transfer fee was not his fault, the blame lies with Manchester United and modern football. Maguire improved United’s defence when he arrived and has had much better times in a red shirt than it can often feel like, but he certainly lost his way and became drained of confidence.

He opted to stay and fight for his place in the summer of 2023, a decision that was vindicated when he worked his way into the team and became an obvious choice at the back. Typically, he then got injured and he will have to try and do it again when he is fit.

CasemiroCasemiro

Casemiro’s influence has waned this season / James Gill – Danehouse/GettyImages

This is another hard one to judge because Casemiro has had two very distinct parts to his Man Utd career. During the 2022/23, he was absolutely crucial for Ten Hag and is a huge part of why they got into the top four, reached the FA Cup final and won the Carabao Cup.

The story is quite different this season. The Brazilian has struggled with injuries and failed to have the sort of impact that fans enjoyed last term. At 31 years old, there are fears that Man Utd enjoyed Casemiro’s final season at his best level and now they are witnessing the decline.

That can’t be fully judged just yet, but that transfer fee is looking bigger and bigger for each week Casemiro spends on the sidelines.

Bernd Leno, Romelu LukakuBernd Leno, Romelu Lukaku

Romelu Lukaku had a short but mostly-successful spell at Man Utd / Julian Finney/GettyImages

Romelu Lukaku has had a very unusual career and that word can also be used for his time at Man Utd. It never quite felt like he gelled with the fans and the club as a whole, but his numbers are pretty solid.

In his first season, Lukaku netted 27 times in all competitions. Not generational numbers, but very good. It often felt like when he wasn’t scoring a goal, he was something of a passenger, but he also provided nine assists that season.

2018/19 was not as successful for Lukaku, but certainly not a disaster. He bagged 15 goals from 45 games, but only four assists. This was the season in which Jose Mourinho got sacked and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer arrived. Lukaku notched six league goals under Solskjaer but ended up leaving for Inter in the summer.

Man Utd got all of the money they paid for Lukaku back again, leaving the Red Devils with 42 goals and 13 assists from two seasons and, depending on which figures you trust, a small profit on the Belgian.

Jesse Lingard, Paul PogbaJesse Lingard, Paul Pogba

Paul Pogba divided opinion massively at Man Utd / Clive Brunskill/GettyImages

It says a lot about Man Utd’s recent business that a player most fans were happy to see the back of is second on the list, but here we are. A bit like Maguire’s career, Paul Pogba’s time at Manchester United became a soap opera at the mercy of public opinion. He became a meme, the butt of the joke, a punchline.

If we strip all of that way, there were some good times for Pogba at Man Utd and moments where he was the orchestrator in the team, a leader. The issue is that they were so few and far between.

Overall, Pogba scored 39 goals and got 51 assists in 233 games for Man Utd, and he produced some magical moments that would get fans on their feet. The time spent under Mourinho ruined his reputation at the club, fostering lasting rumours of troublemaking.

The real scourge of Pogba’s time at Man Utd was not so much his attitude but his injuries. He was so frequently unavailable for selection, and it seems that was a prelude to what has happened since he returned to Juventus.

Given the quality of some of Pogba’s United displays, and what he was able to do with France, it feels like his time in Manchester could have been so different under slightly different circumstances that were out of his control.

Galatasaray v Manchester United - UEFA Champions LeagueGalatasaray v Manchester United - UEFA Champions League

Bruno Fernandes became instantly crucial for Man Utd / Anadolu/GettyImages

It is fair to say that Bruno Fernandes is the only undisputable success on this list, which is damning. The Portuguese midfielder arrived after much speculation towards the end of January 2020.

Fernandes landed in a new country, tasked with being Man Utd’s saviour, just as the COVID-19 pandemic began. He seemed to instantly raise the level of everyone in the team and made the second half of the 2019/20 season much more enjoyable, scoring 12 goals and getting eight assists in 22 games. United were seventh in the league after his first game and third by the end of the season.

As time has gone by, Fernandes has managed to become a figure people love to hate, but only the best players are entitled to that treatment. In his first full season at United, the playmaker stacked up 28 goals and 17 assists from midfield. It isn’t just the numbers, though, he became an instant leader in the team, he helped the players around him, and he has been constantly available for whichever manager is in place, willing to play wherever he is needed.

For a player with a temper, he has never actually been sent off for Man Utd. The club have a lot to thank Fernandes for, and you could even argue that they have failed him with their other signings.

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