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Fergie - 8 signings to remember and 8 signings to forget

From Keane to Kleberson, Ronaldo to Ricardo and Van Persie to Veron.


1. Steve Bruce

Signed in December 1987 for £800,000 from Norwich City, Bruce went on to become the cornerstone of the United team during the early stages of Ferguson’s reign in charge.

Bruce formed a highly effective centre-half relationship with Gary Pallister that helped the club secure their first league title under Ferguson’s watch in 1993. And it was Bruce’s famous double against Sheffield Wednesday that proved pivotal to securing the silverware that season.

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2. Peter Schmeichel

Schmeichel arrived from Brondby in 1991 for £505,000 and went on to become one of the greatest goalkeepers in the history of the Premier League. A five time title winner, Schmeichel captained the club in the absence of the suspended Roy Keane for the 1999 European Cup triumph.

A towering figure, the Dane’s departure in 1999 left a void that Ferguson struggled to fill, arguably until Edwin Van Der Sar was signed in 2005.

Pic: DAVE KENDALL/PA Archive/Press Association Images

3. Eric Cantona

Ferguson’s search for a striker at the tail end of 1992 had lead to him being linked with the likes of David Hirst and Brian Deane but he then landed on Cantona in November of that year for a fee of £1.2m. It would transpire to be an outstanding coup as he struck 82 goals for the club and won four league titles.

Despite the eight-month ban he incurred for attacking a Crystal Palace fan in January 1995, Ferguson stuck by the French man and was rewarded with his scintillating displays as United claimed the Double during the 95/96 season. Cantona announced his retirement at the end of the 1997 campaign.

Pic: Peter Wilcox/PA Wire/Press Association Images

4. Roy Keane

Acquired for £3.75m – a British transfer fee record at the time – in the summer of 1993, Keane would go onto become an integral member of Ferguson’s sides as he claimed 17 trophies during his time with the club.

Keane departed Old Trafford in November 2005 in acrimonious fashion but despite their relationship ultimately fracturing, Ferguson and Keane’s relationship was a key reason for United’s dominance for over a decade.

“If I was putting Roy Keane out there to represent Manchester United on a one against one, we’d win the Derby, the National, the boat race and anything else. It’s an incredible thing he’s got.” – Sir Alex Ferguson.

Pic: Phil Noble/PA Wire/Press Association Images

5. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Signed in the wake of Euro 1996 from Molde for the modest sum of £1.5m, Solskjaer was an unknown quantity. But the Norwegian striker proved a brilliant signing and struck 126 goals until he left the club in 2007.

A popular figure with fans, Solskjaer was noted for his goalscoring contributions off the bench. He bagged four goals in the last 12 minutes against Nottingham Forest during the 1998/99 season and famously struck the injury-time winners when introduced for the 1999 Champions League final against Bayern Munich in Barcelona.

Pic: Clint Hughes/PA Archive/Press Association Images

6. Cristiano Ronaldo

Signing an 18 year-old in 2003 for a fee of £12.24m may have seemed like a gamble but the Portuguese star shone for the club and wreaked havoc on opposition defences. His goalscoring feats caught the eye as he grabbed 118 goals for the club including 42 in 49 games in the 2007-08 season alone.

In December 2008, Ferguson rebuffed rumours that he would sell Ronaldo to Real Madrid. “Do you think I would get into a contract with that mob. Jesus Christ, no chance. I wouldn’t sell them a virus.” Yet by the following summer the deal was done with the Spanish giants shelling out £80m to land their man.

Pic: JON SUPER/AP/Press Association Images

7. Wayne Rooney

Ferguson landed Rooney from Everton at the end of August 2004 for a fee of £25.6m after outbidding Newcastle United. His influence may have waned this season with the arrival of Robin Van Persie yet Rooney has been a resounding success at the club.

The English international has registered 197 goals for the club in a stint that has seen him claim five Premier League titles. Winning the BBC’s Goal of the Season award three times while at the club is another line that he can add to his CV.

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8. Robin Van Persie

The purchase of Van Persie has been the key factor in enabling United to wrestle back the Premier League trophy this season. Signed last August from Arsenal for £22.5m, Van Persie has lived up to the expectations at Old Trafford as he has hit 29 goals this season and displayed a habit of netting at crucial junctures.

Pic: Barrington Coombs/PA Wire/Press Association Images


1. William Prunier

The French defender endured a forgettable spell with the club during the 1995-96 season. He only played two games and was widely criticised for his display in the second of those when United were soundly defeated 4-1 by Tottenham Hotspur.

2. Massimo Taibi

In the wake of Peter Schmeichel’s departure, Ferguson struggled to fill the goalkeeping void that existed with Massimo Taibi one of the players he took a punt on. The Italian was signed for £4.5m but only played four games and made several spectacular errors in goal. One of his outings saw United lose 5-0 to Chelsea and in January 2000 he moved on loan to Italian side Reggina. By the following summer that move had become a permanent one.

Pic: Phil Noble/PA Archive/Press Association Images

3. Juan Sebastian Veron

Veron was snapped up by Ferguson for an eye-watering £28.1m in July 2001 from Lazio. The deal was the most expensive transfer in English football at that time. He played 82 times for the club over two seasons but never lived up to his billing and in 2003, he joined Chelsea. He is widely regarded as one of the most expensive flops in Premier League history.

Pic: John Walton/EMPICS Sport

4. Ricardo López Felipe

Signed in August 2002 for £1.5m, the Portuguese goalkeeper only made one Premier League appearance for United. His first touch in that game against Blackburn Rovers was to concede a penalty, which he did subsequently saved. That was the last seen of the netminder in the top flight of English football and he was eventually released at the end of the 2004-05 season.

5. Dong Fangzhuo

The Chinese striker arrived in January 2004 for an initial fee of £500,0000 and he was with the club until August 2008. There were difficulties initially in him securing a work permit and he went on loan out to Royal Antwerp where he was in fine goalscoring form. But for United, the striker only played three games and never scored a goal.

6. Kleberson

In August 2003, Kleberson signed for United for £6.5m as a Brazilian World Cup winner. But the midfielder was a flop during this time with the club in a two season stint that saw him play in 30 games – 20 in the Premier League. He moved to Besiktas in August 2005 and currently plies his trade on loan with Philadelphia Union in the MLS.

Pic: Neal Simpson/EMPICS Sport

7. Eric Djemba-Djemba

The Cameroon midfielder was signed in the summer of 2003 for £3.5m and was touted as a potential successor to Roy Keane. But his tenure with the club was far from glorious as he failed to establish himself during his 39 appearances – 27 as a starter – and was eventually offloaded to Aston Villa in the January 2005 transfer window. He now plays in Israel for Hapoel Tel Aviv.

8. Bebe

Mystery surrounds the background to the signing of Bebe as a reported fee of £7.4m was shelled out on him by United in 2010 just five weeks after he had been signed by Vitoria de Guimaraes. But the gamble on the striker has backfired as he has only played seven times for the club – four as a starter – and struck just two goals. He has been farmed out on loan to Turkish side Besiktas and is currently out on loan to Portuguese outfit Rio Ave.

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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