Manchester United have been popular for unearthing gemstones and making superstars out of nobodies. Under Sir Alex Ferguson, United have made a number of genius masterstroke signings, and that too for relatively paltry sums. Which is in complete contrast to today’s inflated market where £16m can only get you, with due respect, a hit-and-miss player like Boufal. So, without wasting any further time, lets have a look at the players signed in the modern era who turned out to be absolute bargains-
Cristiano Ronaldo (Sporting Lisbon- £12.2m)
Okay, I admit it- its hard to describe such an amount paid in 2003 and that too for an unknown teenager a bargain buy, but that amount looks to be an absolute steal when you consider his time at the club. 118 goals, clubbed with 8 major honours and a Ballon D’or certainly represent great value for money. And not only that, the club made a profit of £57.76m on his sale to Real Madrid six years later, which is brilliant business.
Peter Schmeichel (Brondby- £505,000)
The then-head goalkeeping coach Alan Hodgkinson described it as the ‘bargain of the century’ when he came to know about his asking price. He even confidently claimed, according to Sir Alex Ferguson, that the ‘Great Dane’ was world class and would win them the Premiership. And he exceeded even such huge expectations by winning 15 major trophies including 5 league titles. And he cemented his position as one of United’s greatest ever players by ending his United career after captaining his side to a Treble-clinching victory over Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions League Final.
Edwin Van der Sar (Fulham- £2m)
Another United great, who was one of the best keepers in the world in his prime. He could’ve joined United in 1999 as he was one of their top priority targets to replace the outgoing Schmeichel, but only joined the Old Trafford club in 2005 as a 34 year old. Fulham saw this as good business considering his age, but instead he turned out to be an absolute bargain. Not only did he break the world clean sheet record but was also the hero in United’s Champions League victory over Chelsea in Moscow.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (Molde- £1.5m)
The Norwegian ‘Baby-faced assassin’ may not have been an instant hit with the fans, after the Shearer saga, but he effortlessly settled into the English top flight, and scored 126 goals which was a proof of his deadly goal scoring instinct. He wrote himself into United’s history as their hero, as he scored the winner against Bayern Munich in the Champions League Final in 1999, as United completed a sensational comeback to bag home the game and the treble as well. He was forced into a premature retirement due to an injury, but he’ll go down as one of United’s dearest legends ever.
Eric Cantona (Leeds United- £1.2m)
As if luring him from the champions Leeds controversially wasn’t enough, United enjoyed unprecedented success with the superstar who won the league in each of his full seasons in England. He guided them to their first league title in 26 years, and after winning the title three more times as well as the FA Cup twice and captaining his team for one season, he shocked the world with his decision to retire at the age of 30. The talismanic personality is still hugely popular amongst the Old Trafford faithful, and would go down as one of the best players to have turned out in a United shirt.
Denis Irwin (Oldham Athletic- £625,000)
The in-form full back was signed in June 1990, after shining in both of the FA Cup semi-final clashes for Oldham against his future club. The consistent defender very rarely produced a below-par performance, and went on to start more than 500 games, winning 7 Premier League titles in the process.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (PSG- Free)
Probably United’s best free transfer in the Premier League era, Zlatan Ibrahimovic took the league by a storm, and at the age of 35 his impact was predicted by very few. Despite earning upwards of £320,000 a week net, he proved excellent value for money as he scored 27 goals in all competitions. An ACL injury ended his campaign prematurely, and even though the club wants to wait and monitor his progress before giving him another contract, he could very possibly remain a Red Devil for the upcoming season as well. Helping Mourinho win two major trophies in his debut season at the helm of the club, he proved to be the steal of the season.