Assessing Man Utd's start to the Premier League season | Football Digest
Erik ten Hag is still picking up the pieces of a decade of shoddy recruitment under Ed Woodward’s watch, much of which was sanctioned during Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s regime. Express Sport runs through the good, the bad and the ugly, ranking Manchester United’s 15 recruits from the Solskjaer era.
15 – Donny van de Beek
Arguably the worst signing in United’s history in terms of the transfer fee paid and what it bought on the pitch.
United splashed £39million to sign Donny van de Beek as a bizarre Jack Grealish alternative in 2020, and it couldn’t have gone much worse.
14 – Jadon Sancho
Jadon Sancho’s ongoing spat with Ten Hag epitomises his Old Trafford career.
He arrived for £73m in 2021 but attitude problems have stifled his once-promising development. Likely to be one of the club’s next high-profile exits.
13 – Nathan Bishop
Not really much to say on this one. Nathan Bishop was only on the pitch to warm up United’s senior goalkeepers during his time in M16.
Left for Sunderland this summer.
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12 – Tom Heaton
Returned to United in 2021 to act as cover for David de Gea while Dean Henderson gained experience out on loan.
Will spend the third and final year of his stint as Ten Hag’s third-choice stopper after Altay Bayindir’s arrival.
11 – Odion Ighalo
Odion Ighalo won over the hearts of United fans as he lived his dream of playing for the club on a short-term loan in 2020.
Was never going to be good enough to make a major impact, but offered some memorable moments at little cost.
10 – Alex Telles
The best thing Alex Telles did in a Manchester United shirt was give Luke Shaw the kick up the backside he needed to unlock the best form of his career for club and country.
Would be lower on the list if it was based on his on-field performances alone after his £15m arrival in 2020. Painful to watch at times in the 2021/22 season.
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9 – Facundo Pellistri
It doesn’t seem like it’s going to work out for Facundo Pellistri at United, having been snubbed when the right-wing position was at his mercy against Brighton.
The 21-year-old, signed for £9m in 2020, has a bright future ahead in the game, though, and is, in fairness, reportedly in talks over a contract extension at Old Trafford.
8 – Amad Diallo
Amad, also 21, showcased his potential on loan at Sunderland last season, and will be chomping at the bit to recover from injury and make the right-wing position his own.
He’s in a similar position as Pellistri, but given he joined for an eye-catching £37m in 2021, expectations are understandably much higher.
7 – Harry Maguire
Harry Maguire became the most expensive defender in history when he joined United from Leicester City in an £80m deal in 2019.
Early signs teased that he could’ve been worth that sum as his performances earned him the armband under Solskjaer.
His United career has since plunged into mediocrity, and the club were willing to accept a £50m loss this summer.
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6 – Edinson Cavani
Edinson Cavani rapidly became a cult hero among fans after joining on a free transfer in 2020. He thrived during the Covid pandemic when football was played in empty stadiums, firing United to the Europa League final.
He marked his first appearance before fans with a sensational chip goal against Fulham at Old Trafford. But his United career fizzled out in his second campaign.
5 – Daniel James
It may be a surprise to see Daniel James so high on the list, given it quickly became clear that he wasn’t at the level required to succeed at United after joining for £15m in 2019.
United made a rare profit on the Welsh winger just two years later, though, selling him to Leeds United for £25m. Superb business.
4 – Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo’s explosive exit may make his positioning controversial,
But football is about memories. And United fans present at his homecoming against Newcastle United in 2021 won’t experience many days at Old Trafford like that again.
He scored goals galore under Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick after his shock return in a £20m deal from Juventus. Ten Hag didn’t fancy him, though, and the feeling was mutual.
3 – Aaron Wan-Bissaka
In the opening months of Ten Hag’s tenure, Wan-Bissaka placing in third wouldn’t have even been in the question. He looked to be a £50m flop after joining in 2019.
But the 25-year-old right-back has shown signs of huge improvement under Ten Hag and will have a positive United career if that trajectory continues.
2 – Raphael Varane
Raphael Varane is taken for granted by United fans, as the club’s struggles in his absence have proven. At £34m in 2021, he was a bargain.
His injury issues have been a major black mark next to his name. But when he’s fit, there aren’t many better centre-backs in the Premier League.
1 – Bruno Fernandes
Who else? Fernandes has been United’s best player since he finally landed at Old Trafford in a £47m deal in 2020. He’s now club captain.
The Portuguese midfield’s stats speak for themselves. Now 29, having to replace him in a few years is a daunting prospect.
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