Manchester United; The powerhouse of English and European football. At least until a few years back. Under Sir Alex Ferguson, United achieved unparalleled success, reached enormous heights. The Red Devils always attracted the best of the players from all over the world and made some remarkable signings that left a huge mark in their success story. There were also plenty, who came with a great promise, but could not fulfil it. And then there was those, that cost hardly anything but played a big hand in United’s continued prosperity. The Bargains.
With the January transfer window nearing, let’s take a look at the three best bargain transfer deals for United that played a huge role in their domination in the English football arena, since the turn of the century:
Okay, it is hard to describe a fee of £12.24 million for a relatively unknown 18-year old as a bargain. But when one considers what Cristiano achieved at United, the deal does seem like a steal.
Signed ahead of the 2003-04 season, it didn’t take long for the Portuguese prodigy to show his talents at the biggest stage.
“There have been a few players described as ‘the new George Best’ over the years, but this is the first time it’s been a compliment to me,” United legend George Best said of Ronaldo in 2003.
The 2006-07 season was truly his breakout season, as he went on to score more than 20 goals for the season, for the first time in United’s title-winning campaign. He won many honours and awards that year, the PFA Players’ Player, PFA Fans’ Player and Young Player of the Year awards to name a few.
He was United’s main man in the subsequent season as the Red Devils triumphed in the UEFA Champions League, with Ronaldo finishing as the competition’s top scorer. The rise from a talented teenager to one of the world’s best footballers had been completed. After one last season with United, Ronaldo moved to Real Madrid in 2009, for a then world-record fee of £80 million.
The Portuguese went on to score 118 goals in 292 appearances in United colours, while also winning eight major honours, including 3 Premier League titles and a UEFA Champions League. He also won the Ballon d’Or award in 2008.
Ronaldo always had the flair and the technical skill to excel at this level, but at United, he developed into a prolific goalscorer, strong with both feet, a brilliant header of the ball, an expert at set pieces and etched himself in the annals of United’s rich history, making it richer. Given all the things he achieved, the heights he rose to, along with the club, the transfer fee United paid does seem like a bargain, doesn’t it?
Edwin van der Sar
The Dutchman had been a top target for United back in 1999 when Peter Schmeichel decided to leave. But the move never materialised. Instead, Van der Sar joined the Red Devils in 2005 for just £2 million from Fulham.
Van der Sar was no doubt one of the greatest goalkeepers of his time. Strong physically, adept at handling crosses, brilliant reflexes and his ability to pick out passes from the deep made him a complete goalkeeper. An excellent leader on the field, he organised his defences very well and was always calm and composed.
It was this calm demeanour that led United to the UEFA Champions League victory on that historic night in Moscow, against fierce rivals Chelsea in 07-08. Along with that historic triumph, the Dutchman helped United to four Premier League titles during his time at Old Trafford.
United were lucky to have Van der Sar, especially when there was a lack of a leader following Roy Keane’s exit. And all that at just £2million. A bargain indeed.
Vidic arrived at Old Trafford in January 2006 for a fee of just £7million from Russian side Spartak Moscow. And very soon it was clear that Sir Alex had bagged a bargain.
The Serbian started life at Old Trafford with a number of questionable performances. However, he silenced his doubters in his second season at the club, with the Red Devils winning their first league title in four seasons in 2007-08.
His partnership with Rio Ferdinand was the cornerstone of United’s success in the recent years. They complimented each other very well, with the Serb’s tough-tackling, no-nonsense defending alongside Ferdinand’s clean and tactical ways. It was their solidity at the back that United were able to build upon, in one of the most successful periods for the Red Devils.
His displays on the pitch, his inspired leadership qualities at the back were very for vital in United’s success. He made 300 appearances for the Mancunians, over 9 years of a hugely fruitful trophy-laden spell in which he got his hands on 5 Premier League trophies, 3 League Cups, a Champions League winners’ medal in 2007-08, a Club World Cup and 5 Community Shields.