The Govan knight’s best 10 transfers into Manchester United from his 25 year tenure at the helm of England's biggest football club

I recently read, and no doubt many more of you have as well, the two articles compiled by Gooner Verse on the 10 best and 10 worst signings that Arsene Wenger has brought into Arsenal football club in his 15-year tenure. This got me thinking about my own club, Manchester United, and Sir Alex Ferguson’s ability within the transfer market over the past 25 years at the helm of the Old Trafford giants. Here follows a list of the 10 best forays into the transfer market that Ferguson has made, in my humble opinion. I have ranked it on a balance of obviously how good the player was, the transfer fee paid and, if applicable, any transfer fee’s that were received.

One thing to point out though, is that this list is confined purely to players that Ferguson has gone into the transfer market and paid money for, so there is no place on the list for players such as Giggs, Beckham, Scholes, Butt, the Neville brothers et al...

 

10. Edwin Van Der Sar

Transfer in: £2 million

Transfer out: Retirement

The arrival of the Dutchman in Summer 2005, a relatively austere transfer window for United, heralded the end of a long, agonising, and at times, downright painful, search for the successor to Peter Schmeichel. Many came and went in that time – Van Der Gouw, Bosnich, Taibi, Barthez, Howard, Ricardo and Carroll, to name but a few – but it was Van Der Sar who truly gave United back that solidarity and composure in between the posts that dissipated when the Great Dane left. He was a brilliant and assured goalkeeper who performed right up until his retirement last summer for personal reasons, even though he could have continued on for another year.

 

9. Roy Keane

Transfer in: £3.75 million

Transfer out: Free

Roy Keane was a British record transfer when Ferguson parted for £3.75 million in 1993, and boy, was he worth it. Keane eventually came to embody Ferguson, but on the pitch, an uncompromising enforcer in central midfield, shielding a back four and enabling Paul Scholes to do the business at the other end of the pitch. The Champions League semi-final against Juventus in the Stadio Delle Alpi in 1999 typified Keane as a Manchester United player, sacrificing himself for the team so they could reach the final in Barcelona, which he missed. Never being afraid to speak his mind on the pitch, or off it, which ultimately orchestrated his ignominious exit from United.

 

8. Rio Ferdinand

Transfer in: £29.1 million

Although Ferdinand has experienced a dramatic decline in his form in recent seasons, partly due to entering his thirties and partly due to persistent injury problems, when the former Leeds man was in his prime, he was one of the best centre-halves in the game. His ability to read a game was exemplary and, alongside Nemanja Vidic, helped to form one of the most assured central-defensive partnerships of modern times. A career that has its best days behind it, with Ferdinand now firmly a squad player, but a valuable asset to the side still and worthy of being one of Ferguson’s best, and also most expensive, forays into the transfer market.

 

7. Ruud Van Nistelrooy

Transfer in: £19 million

Transfer out: £11 million

150 goals in 220 appearances, only one of them scored from outside the penalty are, Ruud Van Nistelrooy was the definition of a ‘fox in the box’. Except for a barren spell in the 2004-05 season, he was as clinical finisher as I have ever seen, seemingly with a natural instinct as to where the goal was, something all great finishers are born with. Many wondered where the goals would come from for United when he departed for Real Madrid in 2006, but then a young winger named Cristiano Ronaldo stood up, and rest is history. Still the club’s record goalscorer in the European Cup, with 38 strikes, and a record that will certainly not be broken this season.

 

6. Peter Schmeichel

Transfer in: £530,000

Transfer out: Free

Ferguson once described the money spent on Peter Schmeichel as ”Buy of the Century”, and few would disagree with that sentiment. Good goalkeepers are worth their weight in gold and the Great Dane was as close to 24-carat as one could hope for. He will no doubt go down as one of the greatest goalkeepers to ever grace the game. Such was his presence and influence in the penalty area, it took Ferguson and United 6 years before they found a replacement fit enough to properly fill Schmeichel’s gloves. The way he marshalled and organised his defence, often screaming at them for even small errors, and his ability to make stunning saves earns him a place in Ferguson’s best buys.

 

5. Nemanja Vidic

Transfer in: £7 million

On the day of writing, news has broken out that the Serbian will be out injured for the rest of the 2011-12 season, following a cruciate knee ligament injury sustained during United’s embarrassing and calamitous exit from the Champions League. To say he will be missed is the understatement of the season. Vidic has developed into the best centre-half in the country and is the best by a long way, in my opinion. Considering he was purchased for a mere £7 million, and that his quality has only been called into question in two-three games against Fernando Torres when he was in his prime for Liverpool. A leader on the pitch, as strong as an ox and completely fearless, unafraid to put his head and body on the line for the cause, he is undoubtedly one of Ferguson’s best forays into the transfer market.

 

4. Wayne Rooney

Transfer in: £27 million

£27 million is a lot of money to pay for an 18 year-old, but then again, Wayne Rooney was no ordinary teenager when he was bought from Everton. His performances at Euro 2004 convinced Ferguson to part with his cash, and Rooney repaid him with a hat-trick on his debut in the Champions League against Fenerbache. He has since gone on to be the key player and the talisman for both club and country and, at the age of 26, with 130 United goals to his name, he could well go on to break Sir Bobby Charlton’s goalscoring record of 249 goals. A player who, in spite of the money spent on him, has turned out to be a brilliant investment and more proof of Ferguson’s excellent eye for spotting young talent, if any more proof was needed.

 

3. Ole Gunner Solksjaer

Transfer in: £1.5 million

Transfer out: Retirement

Solksjaer was signed by United from Molde in the summer of 1996 by Ferguson for £1.5 million, as more or less as consolation for not signing Alan Shearer. The Englishman went for £15 million, but was not 10 times better than the Norwegian. The baby-faced assassin, as he became affectionately known, became Ferguson’s ace up his sleeve, someone to whom he could always rely on if United were trailing to thrust into the breach with supreme confidence that Ole would deliver. Of the 126 goals he scored, 28 were from the substitutes bench, the highest scored by a Manchester United substitute. His finest hour came in the Camp Nou in 1999, an event which I’m sure you won’t need reminding of what unfolded. A modern day United legend who retired from the game in 2007 due to chronic injury problems which, somewhat ironically, have their origins in Solksjaer’s celebrations done in the 93rd minute in the European Cup final, the crown jewel of United’s treble winning season.

 

2. Eric Cantona

Transfer in: £1.2 million

Transfer out: Retirement

                                                                         Source: Graeme Bandeira


Few players had an aura surrounding their every move on a football pitch as much as Eric Cantona did. His look was distinct, slightly arrogant with his collar flicked up, as if he was about to star in a Clint Eastwood film. His charisma and skill were matched by his unpredictability, as his detour to the Selhurst Park changing room in 1995 proved. Aside from this moment of madness, and “when ze seagulls, follow ze trawler” episode, Cantona was absolutely instrumental to kick-starting Manchester United’s recovery to the top spot in English football. It was Cantona to whom Ferguson entrusted as the leader and the pinnacle to all the fledgling’s he was bringing through the United ranks in the early to mid-nineties. His 82 goals in 185 appearances is not as good as Van Nistelrooy’s, but Cantona remains high up the list of Ferguson’s best buys due to the influence he had, both on and off the pitch. 

 

1. Cristiano Ronaldo

Transfer in: £12.24 million

Transfer out: £80 million

Put simply, Ferguson nurtured and crafted a teenager, bought from Sporting Lisbon after a pre-season friendly and on the urging of his own players, from a pacy kid with a bit of talent on the wing to, quite simply, the best footballer on the planet in 2009. Ronaldo improved every season he was at United, culminating in the 42 goals he scored during the 2007-08 European Double winning season. In total, Ronaldo scored 118 goals in 292 appearances, a truly remarkable feat for a player who is, technically, a winger. He is the most exciting player that Ferguson has ever had at Manchester United and also the best he has ever had. The Premier League’s loss was La Liga’s gain, for the world record transfer fee paid by Real Madrid of £80 million. Cristiano Ronaldo is the best signing Sir Alex Ferguson has ever made! There you have it! What do you think? In the interest of fairness, and to spark some debate, a top ten of Ferguson’s worst 10 transfer purchases will also be coming as soon as I can bash it out!