During his tenure as Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson has been prolific in signing young talent and turning them into top-quality players. However, nobody is perfect and during his 25 years at the helm of England’s most successful club, he has had his fair share of what turned out to be shocking forays into the transfer market. In response to my previous article chronicling Ferguson’s best 10 signings, and in the interest of fairness, here are his worst 10 purchases in the transfer market.
Again, on similar lines to my first article on Fergie's Best Signings, I have tried to compile the list based on how terrible the player was, the transfer fee wasted on them, and any pitiful amounts they were sold for. Also, this list is purely confined to players whom Ferguson has bought in the transfer market so, regrettably, there is no room for Jonny Evans and his ilk in all this.
Source: Graeme Bandeira
10. William Prunier
Transfer fee paid: Trial
I know what most of you are probably thinking, “Who the hell is that???” Well, I’ll tell you. William Prunier played in the very first United game my dad took me to in 1995, against Queen’s Park Rangers. Prunier was a centre-half and was signed on a trial basis by Ferguson, and performed admirably in a 2-1 victory against the Rs. However, in the next game against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane, he was utterly shocking. He was part of a makeshift defence that conceded 4 goals in a humiliating 4-1 loss, for which he was branded the scapegoat, and was shipped out of the club by his own consent shortly afterwards. His time in the Old Trafford limelight was as brief as it was eventful.
9. Gabriel Obertan
Transfer fee paid: £3 million
Transfer fee received: £3 million
United have had their fair share of Gallic icons over the years, with ‘Le King’ Eric Cantona at the top of the tree. Alas, French winger Gabriel Obertan, who joined the Reds in 2009 from Bordeaux, was destined not to become one of them. Although initially looking rather promising, it soon became clear that the only thing Obertan possessed was pace and nothing else. There was hardly ever any end product and his ability to cross the ball was terrible, way behind Nani, Antonio Valencia and Ji-Sung Park for positions on the flanks. However, Newcastle United were somehow persuaded to part with £3 million last summer for the Frenchman, and thus Ferguson managed to recoup the initial transfer fee outlaid.
8. Ben Foster
Transfer fee paid: £1 million
Transfer fee received: £6 million
One quote from Ben Foster himself, on the eve of playing his former club for Birmingham City last Christmas, summed up why he did not make it as a Manchester United goalkeeper, “A club like United is cut-throat. But I’m loving it (here at St Andrew’s). I don’t wish I’d stuck around at Old Trafford at all”. Foster has also said, “I love winning. If I’m playing a video game, anything, I want to win. But the United thing is another step up the ladder of mental toughness and it’s not really me”. It is clear then that Foster simply could not deal with the immense pressure that came from being the number one at Manchester United, where any mistake, particularly from a goalkeeper, is punished vociferously by all in the football world. He was tipped to be England’s number one, and may still be one day, but it was another buy that ultimately proved to be more miss than hit for Ferguson.
Transfer fee paid: £20.4 million
A harsh one perhaps, as Anderson is still only 23, has had several injury problems in his United career thusfar, and he may yet develop into a brilliant player. If he becomes the cog in United’s midfield engine-room in the coming seasons, then I’ll hold my hands up. But, for someone who was signed as an attacking midfielder, and who has been playing regularly in the English top flight for almost five seasons now, to have scored only 7 goals in over 140 games is, quite frankly, pathetic. He is the present scapegoat for United’s contemporary central midfield inadequacies, but there is very good reason for that. As already stated, there is still time for him to turn this all around, but the Brazilian is presently looking at being one of Ferguson’s expensive failures in the transfer market.
Transfer fee paid: £5.9 million
Transfer fee received: £2.5 million
Kleberson, a World-Cup winner from 2002, arrived at United in the summer of 2003 and was presented to the media at the same time as an 18 year-old Portuguese winger who went by the name of Cristiano Ronaldo. Attending the same press briefing and wearing the red shirt however, was where the similarities between the two players ended. Kleberson was signed as a replacement for Juan Sebastian Veron - a name that may well appear again on this list – and had even less luck than his forebear in cementing a place in United’s central midfield. The Brazilian made only 30 appearances and scored only twice before being sold to Besiktas in the summer of 2005.
Transfer fee paid: £7.4 million
Again, like Anderson, criticising a player that is so young (21) may eventually backfire on me and he may turn out to be the next Ronaldo, you never know. But, at this moment in time, Ferguson has paid almost £7.5 million for a player he could have purchased for a few hundred thousand pounds sterling had he acted a few weeks earlier. The Portuguese occasionally featured last season, inspiring few along the way of why Ferguson had bought him in the first place. Yet he was still able to, at my immense shock, be near the front of the team bus when the Premier League trophy was paraded through Manchester in May of this year. How and why I asked, and continue to ask myself. Bébé was loaned out to Besiktas for this season, but has suffered a cruciate ligament injury that will keep him out for six months, consequently meaning he will continue to go down as one of Ferguson’s poorest purchases.
4. Ralph Milne
Transfer fee paid: £170,000
Transfer fee received: Free
Like Prunier, this entry will no doubt have many of you scratching your heads and saying, “Eh??”. But Milne is in this list, and very high up to say the least, because Ferguson himself has said that the midfielder was the worst buy of his tenure at United! Speaking at an LMA dinner in November 2009, Ferguson said, “My worst signing? Ralph Milne. I only paid £170,000 but I still get condemned for it." How can you argue with that? Well, I will, because here is my top three…
3. Diego Forlan
Transfer fee paid: £7.5 million
Transfer fee received: Around £3 million
“He came from Uruguay, he made the Scousers cry!”, as the chant goes. But, in truth, the brace scored at Anfield was pretty much the ONLY meaningful thing that Diego Forlan ever did during 2 and a half years at Old Trafford. That and forget to put his shirt back on after celebrating a goal against Chelsea. His statistics of just 17 goals in almost 100 appearances is absolutely woeful for a striker, and he was quickly sold to Villarreal in the summer of 2004, where he regained his form and class in front of goal. He has since earned big-money moves to both Atletico Madrid and Inter Milan, whilst at international level, he has formed a magnificent strike-partnership with Luis Suarez for Uruguay. He has proved himself to be a brilliant player, but he just couldn’t play in England and must go down as one of Ferguson’s worst buys.
2. Juan Sebastian Veron
Transfer fee paid: £28.1 million
Transfer fee received: £15 million
As must his South American compatriot, Juan Sebastian Veron, comfortably the most expensive failure that Ferguson has ever undertaken. I maintain that, like Forlan, who has proved himself to be a great player in his post-United career, Veron was a truly brilliant playmaker, but he just could not play in the English top flight. People often say of foreign imports into the Premier League that they take time to adapt to the style and pace of the English game, a vastly different proposition to what is found in the top-flight leagues of the European continent. Veron, however, NEVER got used to the style of play in England and was never given the time and space on the ball he craved in order to succeed. Ferguson once famously claimed, using rather colourful language that Veron was a great player and would prove every single doubter wrong. In spite of this, he was sold to Chelsea in 2004, where he had an even worse spell in English football.
1. Massimo Taibi
Transfer fee paid: £4.5 million
Transfer fee received: £2.5 million
The Blind Ventian is, without question, the worst player that Sir Alex Ferguson has ever bought for Manchester United. Given that he came with a price tag of £4.5 million, which was a lot of money in 1999, and given that United were in the process of replacing Peter Schmeichel – no mean feat in and of itself – Taibi was bought specifically to fight it out with both Raimond Van Der Gouw and Mark Bosnich for the number one jersey, the former of which was not happy about, as the beginning of this video illustrates… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Efq80jcfWfI However, it was the goalkeeping blunders of Taibi, the most famous of which can be seen at 1:40 in this video against Southampton - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esFAGx7RDL4 - that makes him Ferguson’s worst ever purchase. After so many years of Schmeichel giving so many assured performances, this nervousness in between the posts was a major shock, one that took United over five years to properly get over. The fact that Taibi only made four league appearances for club before he was sold to Reggina, somehow for £2.5 million, demonstrates eloquently how quickly Ferguson realised the sheer scope of the error he had made in signing the Italian. Arrivederci Massimo!
There you have it! The 10 worst transfers that Sir Alex Ferguson has made whilst manager of Manchester United! What do you think?