May 8 marks the seventh anniversary of the announcement of Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement as Manchester United manager, with the Scot vacating the stage having just won his 13th Premier League title at Old Trafford.
In the seven years since Ferguson’s departure, it has been a bumpy ride for England‘s biggest club. There have been no more league titles, but there have been four managers and plenty of new signings — 33 in fact — as the club has attempted to navigate a route back to the top.
So as United mark their seven-year itch since Ferguson retired, ESPN has rated every signing that has made at least one first-team appearance in the post-Fergie era. Some have been good, others have been bad and then there are those that must simply be classed as ugly.
It has been Mata’s misfortune that his time at United has coincided with a lengthy period of mediocrity. But he has helped the club win trophies and been a positive influence throughout his time at Old Trafford.
Anthony Martial (forward)
Signed from Monaco in 2015
Record: 208 appearances, 64 goals
Clearly a talent, but a difficult player to judge. Martial made a spectacular start with a wonder goal on his debut against Liverpool, but has also been hugely frustrating at times.
Moyes pursued Gareth Bale, Cesc Fabregas and Cristiano Ronaldo and ended up with Fellaini. The former Everton midfielder split opinion among fans, but his overall record was positive and he scored some vital goals.
Daley Blind (defender)
Signed from Ajax in 2014
Record: 141 appearances, 6 goals
Originally deployed as a holding midfielder by Louis van Gaal, Blind became a versatile option at centre-back and left-back. A lack of pace was his big problem, but his reading of the game was excellent. A decent buy considering his low fee.
Nemanja Matic (midfielder)
Signed from Chelsea in 2017
Record: 109 appearances, 4 goals
The Serbia international midfielder has had highs and lows as a United player. He started well after arriving from Chelsea and is now back in the team under Solskjaer but spent much of 2019 out of favour. His experience makes him a crucial member of the squad, so he is a hit — just.
Romelu Lukaku (forward)
Signed from Everton in 2017
Record: 96 appearances, 42 goals
Having cost United a total of £90m — £75m, plus the £15m-rated Wayne Rooney — when he arrived from Everton, Lukaku made a big impact initially, with 27 goals in his first season. He hit 15 in 45 games the following campaign, but was not enough of a team player for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and was sold to Inter.
Injuries have disrupted Bailly’s four years at United, but his pace and tenacity suggest he could still become a regular at centre-half. Tough to say whether he has been a hit or a miss, but he has done well on his good days.
Sergio Romero (goalkeeper)
Signed as a free agent in 2015
Record: 58 appearances
A smart piece of business by Van Gaal, who wanted reliable cover for David De Gea in the event of the No. 1 leaving for Real Madrid. De Gea stayed, but Romero has since become an able deputy.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (forward)
Signed as a free agent in 2016
Record: 53 appearances, 29 goals
Arguably the best signing since Ferguson retired, Ibrahimovic silenced the doubters with a sensational first season after arriving on a free transfer. But for a serious knee injury in May 2017 — he made only two more starts before moving to LA Galaxy 10 months later — Ibrahimovic might still be a United player today.
United made the England centre-half the world’s most expensive defender when signing him from Leicester and Maguire has already been elevated to the captaincy, having become an integral part of Solskjaer’s team.
Daniel James (forward)
Signed from Swansea City in 2019
Record: 37 appearances, 4 goals
The winger has been unable to maintain the hot streak he displayed at the start of the season, but at 22, is regarded as one for the future, so will be given to build back up again. He has exceeded first-year expectations, though.
In less than a season, Wan-Bissaka has become the undisputed first-choice right-back after impressing with his defensive ability, which sees him rarely beaten by an opposition winger. He sometimes lacks a final product in the attacking third.
Bruno Fernandes (midfielder)
Signed from Sporting in 2020
Record: 9 appearances, 3 goals
He quickly emerged as a favourite of fans following his January arrival from Sporting. Fernandes is a creator, a scorer and a player who has quickly lifted those around him to greater heights. Likely to become a huge star.
Odion Ighalo (forward)
Signed from Shanghai Shenhua in 2020
Record: 8 appearances, 4 goals
United were widely ridiculed when they signed the former Watford striker to bolster their attacking options in January, but Ighalo responded with four goals in eight games prior to the lockdown. Not one for the future at 30, but his short-term impact has justified his signing.
Lee Grant (goalkeeper)
Signed from Stoke City in 2018
Record: 2 appearances
Hard to judge a player who was signed to be the third-choice keeper and, after two years, retains that status. Within United, though, Grant is regarded as bringing experience and a positive character to the dressing room, so his signing has paid off.
Herrera was a popular player among supporters due to his tenacity, but he typified United during the post-Ferguson era in that he was not as good as what had gone before. He has not been missed since leaving for Paris Saint-Germain last year.
United broke the world record transfer fee to re-sign Pogba from Juventus — four years after letting him leave for £750,000 — but despite his star status, the France international midfielder has been a disappointment and failed to live up to the hype around him.
Injuries, loss of form and a difficult relationship with Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho badly affected Shaw’s progress at United. At 24, he still has time on his side, but it has been a tale of disappointment so far.
Marcos Rojo (defender)
Signed from Sporting in 2014
Record: 122 appearances, 2 goals
Now on loan at Estudiantes in his native Argentina and unlikely to return, Rojo could play at centre-half or left-back but was never quite trusted to do a reliable job by any of his three managers.
The central defender reads the game well, but lacks pace and struggles when the ball is in the air. As United look to improve under Solskjaer, the former Benfica centre-half looks to be on borrowed time.
An Italy international defender when he arrived from Torino, Darmian had been signed as the solution to United’s right-back problem, but his lack of quality meant he actually exacerbated it.
The Brazilian is finally showing some signs of promise at Old Trafford after appearing to be another expensive mistake during his first season. But whether he is good enough to become a key figure under Solskjaer remains to be seen.
He scored six goals, including one in the final against Ajax, to help United win the Europa League in 2017, but flattered to deceive in the Premier League, lacking the work ethic to succeed under Mourinho. Offloaded to Arsenal in the swap deal for Alexis Sanchez.
Made a bright start after arriving from PSV, but the winger’s attitude on and off the pitch saw him fall out of favour with Van Gaal. Mourinho shared his predecessor’s view and offloaded Depay to Lyon within six months of taking charge.
Morgan Schneiderlin (midfielder)
Signed from Southampton in 2015
Record: 47 appearances, 1 goal
So much was expected of the French international when he arrived from Southampton, but Schneiderlin struggled to cope with the pressure of playing for United and was sold to Everton 18 months later.
Diogo Dalot (defender)
Signed from Porto in 2018
Record: 33 appearances, 1 goal
The young full-back has been hampered by injuries. He looks a good prospect going forward, but questions over his defensive qualities suggest he won’t be at Old Trafford for the long term.
Radamel Falcao (forward)
Signed from Monaco in 2014
Record: 29 appearances, 4 goals
Arguably the right player at the wrong time, the Colombia international had been a prolific scorer until arriving in Manchester struggling to overcome a serious knee injury. He was never able to show his best form and lasted just one season.
Guillermo Varela (defender)
Signed from Penarol in 2013
Record: 11 appearances, 0 goals
The Uruguayan youth international full-back was spotted by Ferguson’s scouts and, at 20, became the first signing under David Moyes, but he was never up to United standard. Now playing in Denmark with FC Copenhagen.
Victor Valdes (goalkeeper)
Signed as a free agent in 2015
Record: 2 appearances, 0 goals
Signed as cover for David De Gea, the former Barcelona keeper made just two appearances before falling out with Van Gaal and being stripped of his squad number.
Saidy Janko (defender)
Signed from FC Zurich in 2013
Record: 1 appearance, 0 goals
Signed by Moyes on the final day of the 2013 summer window, the full-back’s United career amounted to 45 minutes in an infamous 4-0 EFL Cup defeat at MK Dons a year later.
Alexis Sanchez (forward)
Signed from Arsenal in 2018
Fee: Swap deal
Record: 45 appearances, 5 goals
Guaranteed to be on any list of United’s worst buys, either before or after Ferguson. United beat Manchester City to sign him, but his time at Old Trafford has been disastrous. He is likely to be back, too, with Inter unlikely to extend his loan.
The German World Cup winner was regarded as a key signing by Van Gaal, who had worked with the midfielder at Bayern Munich. But Schweinsteiger was rarely fit and clearly past his sell-by date by the time he arrived.
Having been man of the match in the Champions League final and impressed for Argentina at the World Cup earlier in 2014, Di Maria was handed United’s famous No. 7 shirt after, but things went downhill after a good start. He left for PSG a year later as one of the biggest flops in club history.
What about the managers?
David Moyes (2013-14)
Record (51 games): W27, D9, L15
The so-called Chosen One proved to be the Wrong One on many levels, with the former Everton manager sacked fewer than 12 months into a six-year contract. Moyes was unable to convince a sceptical dressing room of his credentials and the doubting players were proven right.
Louis van Gaal (2014-16)
Record (103 games): W54, D24, L25
United won the FA Cup and returned to the Champions League under Van Gaal, but his football was dull and cautious, prompting supporters to lose patience toward the end of his reign. And as the above shows, he made some terrible signings.
Jose Mourinho (2016-18)
Record (144 games): W84, D31, L29
The Special One was hired by United in the same summer that Pep Guardiola arrived at Manchester City, but while Mourinho won the EFL Cup and Europa League, progress was limited. Like Van Gaal, he was sacked when poor football and unhappy players led to unsatisfactory results.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (2018-present)
Record (76 games): W41, D16, L16
It is perhaps too early to judge Solskjaer, whose time as manager — caretaker and permanent — has been marked by extreme highs and lows and attempts by him to dampen speculation over his future. He had been on an upward curve prior to the shutdown and his record in the transfer market is a major positive.