Action Images / Michael Regan 04/05

Manchester United have made some great signings during the Premier League era with players like Cantona, Keane, and Ronaldo entering the club’s hall of fame. Every now and then, however, a player comes along who, for one reason or another, doesn’t cut the mustard.

The news that Memphis Depay has completed a £16m transfer to Lyon, thereby bringing his short, disappointing Manchester United career to an end, got us wondering about other players United have signed who haven’t exactly set the world on fire. Not necessarily bad players. Just bad signings.

We take a look back at 10 of Manchester United’s worst signings since the Premier League started, ranking them according to their transfer fee and the gap between what was expected of them and what they actually delivered.

10Bebe

Fee: £7.4m
Expectation: 3/10
Performance: 2/10
Score: 1
Appearances: 7
Goals: 2

This has to be one of the most bizarre transfers in Premier League history, let alone United’s. On 11 August 2010 – five weeks after signing for Vitória de Guimarães – the Portuguese player moved to Old Trafford for a fee of £7.4m, despite Sir Alex Ferguson admitting he had never seen him play. He played just seven times for the club. Some conspiracy theorists believe there was another reason for his move

What happened next?

He was sold to Benfica in 2014 making just one league appearance. He now runs out for Spanish side Eibar in Liga BBVA.

9Eric Djemba-Djemba

Fee: £3.5m
Expectation: 5/10
Performance: 3/10
Score: 2
Appearances: 20
Goals: 0

Djemba-Djemba, or Mumbo-Jumbo as some fans affectionately called him given his tendency to dawdle on the ball, was hailed as the new Roy Keane following his transfer from French outfit Nantes. He went on to make 39 appearances for the club before moving to Aston Villa in 2005.

What happened next?

The Cameroonian became something of a journeyman following his spell at United, with moves to Aston Villa, Qatar SC, Odense Boldklub in Denmark, plus stints at Hapoel Tel Aviv, Partizan and even St Mirren in Scotland. Remarkably, you can still catch Djemba-Djemba in action as he currently runs out for Swiss outfit FC Vallorbe-Ballaigues, having joined the team this season.

8Massimo Taibi

Fee: £4.5m
Expectation: 4/10
Performance: 2/10
Score: 2
Appearances: 4

In 1999, United purchased Italian goalkeeper Massimo Taibi for £4.5m following the departure of club legend Peter Schmeichel. In four appearances for the club, he managed to concede eleven goals, including a Matt Le Tissier strike which famously bobbled through his legs and sealed his fate.

What happened next?

After leaving United, the keeper returned to his native Italy with a loan spell at Reggina, before sealing a £2.5m move to Atalanta in 2001. He played 131 times for the club and called time on his career in 2009 following a two year stint at Ascoli.

7Zoran Tošić

Fee: £9m
Expectation: 5/10
Performance: 2/10
Score: 3
Appearances: 2
Goals: 0

There’s a theme developing at Manchester United where they have tried – and failed – numerous times to buy a decent winger. Zoran Tošić was another failed prodigy who never really got his Old Trafford career going, having made just two appearances for the club. The young Serb was an ever-present fixture of the reserve side but never quite made the breakthrough.

What happened next?

Tošić spent a five month loan spell with German side Köln before eventually sealing a permanent move to Russian side CSKA Moscow for a fee of £8m. He has represented the club 172 times in the league, scoring 37 goals in the process.

6Juan Sebastián Verón

Fee: £28.1
Expectation: 8/10
Performance: 5/10
Score:
3
Appearances: 51
Goals: 7

Juan Sebastián Verón is something of an enigma. Despite some excellent performances for the club, he never quite lived up to his reputation as one of the best midfielders in the game. Sir Alex Ferguson said he was a ‘world-class footballer who would bring personality to the team’, but this never quite happened.

What happened next?

After making 81 appearances for the club, he was shipped out to Chelsea in 2003 for £15m. He recently came out of retirement at the grand old age of 41 to return to his childhood club of Estudiantes.

5Kléberson

Fee: £6.5m
Expectation: 6/10
Performance: 2/10
Score: 4
Appearances: 20
Goals: 2

Following his performances at the 2002 World Cup, Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari heralded Kleberson as the team’s driving force. This led to a flurry of interest from European teams, including Barcelona. He was eventually snapped up by United and was seen as the ideal replacement for outgoing Juan Sebastian Veron. 

He picked up an injury in only his second appearance for the club and went on to play just 20 times in two seasons. He scored two league goals during his stay, but proved to be a largely disappointing acquisition. 

What happened next?

United eventually parted ways with Kleberson who sealed a move to Turkish side Beşiktaş in 2005 before returning to his native Brazil to play for Flamengo.  At the ripe old age of 37, he still turns out for Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the North American Soccer League – the second tier of the MLS.

4Wilfried Zaha

Fee: £10m
Expectation: 7/10
Performance: 2/10
Score:
5
Appearances: 2
Goals: 0

Wilfried Zaha was Sir Alex Ferguson’s final signing as Manchester United manager, but it sadly proved to be one of his worst. The skilful winger managed just two appearances and spent most of his time out on loan, with a spell at Cardiff wedged between stays at his former club, Crystal Palace.

What happened next?

A change in management probably didn’t help the talented player, with David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal never really taking a liking to him. In the end he returned to his boyhood club Crystal Palace on a permanent deal and has been one of the bright spots of their otherwise dull season.

3Memphis Depay

Fee: £25m
Expectation: 8/10
Performance: 2/10
Score: 6
Appearances: 33
Goals: 2

There’s always a risk buying star players from the Dutch league. If you’re lucky you can end up with a Ruud Van Nistelrooy. If you are unlucky, it could be someone like Afonso Alves who set the world alight in the Eredivisie but was the laughing stock of the Premier League. Unfortunately for United, Memphis Depay turned out to be more of the latter.

There’s no denying he has raw talent, but sadly there was no end product. Best remembered for his performance against the giants of FC Midtjylland whose right back André Rømer said: “I’ve never been so close to crying after a match as I was today. Memphis is the best player I have ever faced. He is the best. He can do anything.”

Remember Diego Forlan? Maybe that’s why United have inserted a buy back clause in his contract.

What happened next?

A string of bad performances led new manager Jose Mourinho to lose faith in the player, having only played the Dutchman in a handful of substitute appearances this season. As a result, the player was deemed surplus to requirements and is currently in the process of a transfer to French club Lyon, with a reported fee of £16m raising to £21.7m with add-ons.

2Morgan Schneiderlin

Fee: £24m
Expectation: 9/10
Performance: 3/10
Score: 6
Appearances: 32
Goals: 1

After enduring a torrid spell under David Moyes in which they finished the season in 7th place – their lowest ever in the Premier League – things were finally starting to look up for the club. Under new manager Louis van Gaal the club qualified for the Champions League and a new Adidas deal meant they could start splashing some serious cash in the summer of 2015.

The need for a defensive midfielder was something the United faithful had yearned for, and the opportunity of signing Southampton starlet Morgan Schneiderlin was too good to pass up. He earned rave reviews for his workrate and composure while with the Saints, so naturally expectations were high.

What happened next?

The Frenchman endured a torrid time at the club and never really delivered when it mattered. Barring a few impressive performances, new manager Jose Mourinho deemed him unfit for purpose and sold him to Everton less than two years after he joined. It wasn’t all bad though, as United managed to recoup the full £24m they had spent on him previously.

1Angel Di Maria

Fee: £59.7m
Expectation: 9/10
Performance: 1/10
Score:
8
Appearances: 27
Goals: 3

This one is a bitter pill to swallow for most United fans. Following the dismissal of David Moyes, the club brought in seasoned manager, Louis Van Gaal who quickly won over the United fans with the signing of European Cup winner, Angel Di Maria, for a British record fee of £59.7m. Things started brightly with an incredible chip against Leicester City but this proved to be a false dawn and the goals soon dried up.

Di Maria played just 27 times for the club and eventually lost his place to Ashley Young. “I started very well but then I had problems with people at the club,” he later said. “I started being left on the bench, then my home was robbed. It all just made me want to get out of there as quickly as possible.”

What happened next?

United sold their record signing to Paris Saint Germain the following season for £44m. He started his career with the French giants exceedingly well, but history looks set to repeat itself with many fans starting to question his commitment to the club. A transfer away could be on the cards this summer.

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