Manchester United have made 38 signings since Sir Alex Ferguson retired with some very successful players as well as others who failed to live up-to any expectations. Putting on that prestigious United shirt brings with it a lot of pressure and thus a sign of a good player is one who wears the shirt with pride but also lives up-to the names that followed before him.
This article will explore the best signings, but firstly the lows. One of the worst signings Manchester United have made post Ferguson is Angel Di Maria. Di Maria arrived as a world class player from Real Madrid in 2014 but left within twelve months for Paris Saint-Germain. He cost the club £67.5 million but left for only £56.7 million. He was the perfect example of a player who didn’t want to play for the club but was transferred for the brand appeal, and shirt sales rather than his footballing impact.
Since his departure from United, reports have come out of him ‘hating the club’ and he’s widely seen as a massive flop. He showed glimpses of world class ability especially seen with a fantastic chip against Leicester but his poor attitude, and inability to deal with the physical aspects of the Premier League saw him become one of United’s worst ever signings.
Next is Alexis Sanchez. This was one of the most hyped-up deals in transfer history, as every United fan thought he was going to become the game changer. Through a swap deal with Arsenal for Henrikh Mkhitaryan, he went to United for free, but the best thing about his time at United was his announcement video… He had one standout game against Manchester City in that famous 3-2 turnaround but never lived up-to any expectations and with his astronomical wages became a signing to forget for United.
Now onto the better signings. Juan Mata was the second signing made post Ferguson and was one of the most successful as he’s still here to this day. Despite slowing down in recent seasons, Mata has been a loyal servant to the club who’s a fantastic role model to others around him. On the field he has a magnificent first touch and has vision like a hawk.
Another good signing post Ferguson was Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Swedish striker was a high-profile figure when he signed from PSG and brought that high profile ability as well. Before his injury he scored 17 goals in the league and was pivotal to the sustainability of this United team. The downfall of his United career was the long-term injury he obtained in a Europa league game which ultimately ended his chances at United.
Players like Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Sergio Romero have been decent signings who have helped this United team progress and move forward. Romero was a loyal second choice goalkeeper who always gave it his best and saved United on a couple occasions and Shaw, Wan-Bissaka and Maguire are regular first-teamers now who have helped improve United’s defending a lot since their arrivals.
But the best signing United have made since Sir Alex Ferguson retired is Bruno Fernandes. Bruno Fernandes came to United in the 2020 January transfer window in desperation as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needed a midfielder due to the injuries of Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay at the time. Fernandes was hoped to be that creative player who could make that opportunity for the forwards like Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial but he proved to be a lot more than that.
Since his arrival no other player in the Premier League has more goals and assists than Bruno Fernandes. He has 48 goals and assists in 52 league games which is a phenomenal output for an attacking midfielder. Often the sign of a good player is when rival fans can’t do anything but hate him and with Fernandes, he fits that category. At first, he was called ‘Penandes’ due to his high output of penalties that are supposedly easy, however, in the summer this proved harder than many thought, and now rival fans are calling him a centre forward because they can’t fathom how an attacking midfielder does what Fernandes does and jealousy is at the heartbeat of this as they would take him in a split-second if they could.
‘Inevitability’ is a common word used to describe Fernandes, as even when he’s not performing at his best he’ll always do something to change a game. This can be used against him though, as some critics will say his overall performances are weak and one five-yard pass then makes people call him world class, but often these critics don’t watch him enough or watch United enough to see the sheer impact he had on this United team.
Before he came in, United lacked all ability to create and had very little flow to their build up play, but when Fernandes came in this all changed. He has a brilliant ability to find pockets of space in between the oppositions defence piercing their shape, before picking up the ball, turning on it and either using his long-distance shooting ability or fantastic passing ability to progress the ball onto the forwards.
Fernandes becomes the link that connects the midfield to the forwards and without him, United struggle to have a man that can be this link and thus the attack becomes stationary and tends to go sideways rather than forwards and usually results in it withering out. Furthermore, another key attribute to his game is his leadership. In recent years, this United team has lacked vocal leaders with a winning mentality and Fernandes defines this. He’s a winner at heart and so if United don’t win you can see his disappointment.
In addition, his winning mentality helps spur on the other players bringing that belief that United can still win however little time is left which was seen on a number of occasions last season with late comebacks. Fernandes has now won over many fans but there still a split in the fanbase that creates divisions between players such that if Pogba is world class Fernandes can’t be. But for the majority his unbelievable numbers and performances in general have swayed their belief in his favour.
Another argument that is put up against him is his ability in big games. However, I feel many people have seen one person say it and now are firmly in belief of this agenda despite whatever Fernandes does he’ll be seen as weak in the big games. Whereas, in a number of big games like against AC Milan, Fernandes has shown up, but people choose to ignore this. Then finally, some feel that as he hasn’t won a trophy for United, he can’t be deemed as successful, but the overall impact he has had is impossible to ignore and United have only come close to winning these trophies as a result of his signing.
Therefore, despite signings like, Ibrahimovic and Mata, Fernandes is the best signing Manchester United have made post Sir Alex Ferguson as he’s had the biggest impact on the team providing impeccable numbers and has been a major factor in the team’s progression in recent years. Fernandes now must secure United a trophy to solidify himself as a United great.
Written by Ethan Bents