As the January transfer window approaches and Manchester United still do not have a director of football, it is perhaps a good time to ask how well the club has bought under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Since the Norwegian took the helm at Old Trafford, United have signed 10 players, but how successful have those transfers (and loan) been so far? We take a look and rate each deal out of 10 from a value for money point of view, taking into account how well the player has performed since joining United and matching that against the amount paid.
(Transfer fees as reported by Sky Sports except where stated, market values as per Transfermarkt.com).
1. Daniel James – Swansea City, June 2019 – £15 million + £3m: 3/10
When James first pulled on a red shirt he looked like he was going to be the bargain of the century. However, he has never been able to reproduce that initial form and has now become a fringe player. There is even speculation of a loan deal in January. Possesses fantastic pace but his decision-making and crossing have been very poor. Could still come good and United got him at a good price, so we are rating him at 3/10.
2. Aaron Wan-Bissaka – Crystal Palace, July 2019 – £45 million + £5m: 6.5/10
Solskjaer’s first signing was a breath of fresh air when he first arrived at the club and a year ago we would have been rating him higher. But a lack of progress in developing his attacking game coupled with some poor form of late has caused his score to decline. £45-50 million is a pretty high transfer fee for a young full—back so as this is a ‘value for money’ score, we are marking it around six to seven.
3. Harry Maguire – Leicester City, August 2019 – £80 million: 2.5/10
It is fair to say that Maguire is not the Virgil van Dijk transfer that United had hoped for. Made captain by Solskjaer more due to his English-ness than his commanding presence, Maguire has been inconsistent in his first 18 months at the club and his speed and turning circle are increasingly problematic. Ignoring the transfer fee, Maguire could be a 5/10 or 6/10 but that value for money element to our scoring drags him down to a score of two to three.
4. Bruno Fernandes – Sporting Lisbon, January 2020 – £46.6 million + £21.4m: 10/10
The Portuguese playmaker could simply be one of the best signings United have ever made. He has transformed the side and is arguably the best player in the Premier League right now. Nitpickers will say he could and should have been bought seven months earlier at the same price, but we are not going to dock points for that. Incredible player at a fantastic price.
5. Odion Ighalo – loan from Shanghai Shenhua, January 2020 – £11 million: 3/10
Ighalo’s deadline day loan signing was an act of utter desperation from United although initially they appeared to have fallen on their feet. His sheer delight at playing for United shone through in his first few games and he scored some important goals. However, extending his loan to January was a bizarre decision and raised the loan fee to £11 million, with the Nigerian hardly getting a kick this season. The original loan would have been rated as a seven or eight, but the extension must pull this down to a three.
6. Donny van de Beek – Ajax, September 2020 – £34.6 million + £4.4m: 7/10
It’s early days to judge the Dutchman’s true value to the club as he has not played many games since his arrival from Ajax. There has been criticism that it was an unnecessary signing given the amount of cover in his position, but the price point was definitely good and he has impressed so far when he has had the chance. Signed for slightly less than market value, we are rating this as a seven but there is every chance that score will improve if he is able to cement a regular place in the starting line-up.
7. Alex Telles – FC Porto, October 2020 – £15.4 million: 7.5/10
It’s also early days to judge Telles but there is every sign so far he can go on to become an important player for United. Reminiscent of Gabriel Heinze in his swashbuckling and marauding style, he was signed for less than half of his £36 million market value, which makes him excellent value for money.
8. Facundo Pellistri – Peñarol, October 2020 – £9.1 million + £?: 3/10
The exact amount paid for the 18-year-old remains difficult to confirm but it appears to be at least the £9.1 million quoted at the time by The Telegraph. The intention was that Pellistri was good enough to go straight into the first team squad but this has not proven to be the case and whilst he remains an interesting prospect, the fee looks hugely inflated for a player of his age so we are giving this just a three at the moment.
9. Edinson Cavani – Free agent, October 2020 – £0: 7.5/10
We have only had glimpses of Cavani in a red shirt so far, but he is looking like an astute signing. Injuries are a concern and he has already missed games for that reason, but he is still a world-class forward on his day and will also prove to be a good role model for the likes of Mason Greenwood going forward.
10. Amad Diallo – Atalanta, October 2020 – £20 million + £17.2: ?/10
No score yet for Diallo, who was signed in October but is unable to complete the transfer until his work permit is granted – hopefully in January. One thing is for certain – United’s scouts must have seen something incredible to fork out up to £37.2 million for an 18-year-old who had only played a few minutes of senior football for Atalanta.
Overall – 5/10
United’s incoming transfer dealings under Solskjaer have been erratic to say the least. The club seems to have paid way over the top for some players, notably Maguire, whilst securing bargains for others, notably Fernandes. There does seem to be a lack of strategy, with five out of the 10 signings all completed on deadline day and others, such as Fernandes, missing the window altogether and being delayed by half a year.
Ultimately, if you look at the list of additions, have they as a group improved the United squad? Undoubtedly. But could some of the money have been better spent? Without question.
Edinson Cavani has made quite an impact since his deadline day arrival at Old Trafford, but how much do you know about our other South American players, past and present? Take our quiz below to find out!