Manchester United face the prospect of accepting another massive loss to get a big name signing off the books.
Erik ten Hag’s civil war with Jadon Sancho looks like it can only have one winner and so the England international may have to look elsewhere. His difficult two and a half years in Manchester has failed to see him replicate the form that saw United spend more than £70m on him.
And so another recruitment decision looks to have cost the Red Devils, who throughout the past decade have spent big on players, only to see many of them fall short, later selling them on for reduced prices or, in Paul Pogba’s case, seeing them walk away for nothing.
Sancho’s value has dropped since joining from Borussia Dortmund, albeit he still has time on his side and could resurrect his career elsewhere. United though will be hard pushed to get their money back. The winger is the latest player to fail to hit the heights…admittedly not many have.
Here, we rank United’s most pricey arrivals – with the exception of new boys Mason Mount and Rasmus Hojlund, who remain TBC after arriving for £60m and £72m respectively just this summer.
1. Bruno Fernandes – £47m
By a country mile the biggest success story of the market in recent years. United took their time getting the deal over the line in January 2020, but the impact was immediate and it came at a time when the team were in desperate need of a spark. Fernandes helped inspire a late-season push – albeit one disrupted by Covid – to finish third.
The following year he inspired the team to second, all while constantly producing in the final third. His first 18 months in England saw him score 40 times in all competitions, landing numerous individual accolades.
His conduct, more so than his performances, have copped criticism in light of United’s struggles over the past few seasons. His demands on team-mates have come across as moans, but he remains a favourite and a leader, earning himself the captain’s armband.
If United were to sell him tomorrow, they would make a significant profit on the fee they paid almost four years ago.
2. Casemiro – £60m
Another man whose impact was relatively swift. United’s failure to land Frenkie de Jong saw them pursue other options, eventually landing on Casemiro last summer. There were doubts over his age and the length of his deal, but Casemiro led by example and those fears quickly went.
He would come up with big goals in big games, scoring in the Carabao Cup final to end United’s lengthy trophy drought. He was an excellent foil for Fernandes, who was more attacking whilst the Brazilian did a job in controlling and dominating in the middle of the pitch.
There has been a drop off this term, reigniting fears of his age and contract, but few signings have arrived with reputations as big as Casemiro’s and actually backed it up. There’s still time for him to get back to his best.
3. Romelu Lukaku – £75m
Some may say harshly treated, some may say wrong place, wrong time. Signed by Jose Mourinho in the summer of 2017 as he sought a dominant forward to lead his line. Lukaku had proven himself at Everton and wasted no time in making an impact in Manchester, scoring seven times in his first seven games.
Mourinho continued to defend his selection of Lukaku, who scored 27 times in his first year. Several months into his second season and the Special One was axed. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer came in to replace him and the style of football changed with the Belgian’s minutes suffering.
Lukaku’s goal output meant United could still demand a hefty fee so a man they paid an initial £75m for was sold for £74m with Inter Milan profiting as a result
4. Paul Pogba – £89.3m
The fact the Frenchman ranks so high perhaps says as much about the way some of United’s other signings have performed. He was signed to huge fanfare, returning having left as a youngster and immediately his touches of quality were evident, helping the side to two trophies in his first season.
But after that, the club ran into an all too familiar problem. What was his best position? It was a question no manager found the answer too as his lack of discipline hampered his efforts. Pogba was played centrally, more advanced and even out wide. His highlight reel certainly makes for pleasant watching, but a man who cost £89m failed to win any silverware in his final five years at the club.
That wasn’t helped by his off-field antics, often led by his agent. In the summer of 2019 Pogba talked up the idea of leaving the club and then before a big Champions League clash such talk resurfaced. Eventually, after a drawn-out contract saga, he left on a free and headed back to Juventus.
5. Harry Maguire – £80m
Up until very recently he remained the most expensive defender in history, all while he warmed the United bench. A statement signing by Solskjaer, landing his signature ahead of rivals Manchester City. Months into his spell he was handed the captaincy and was part of a team that finished third and then second.
He copped flack during that period though, making notable errors. He struggled in the final days under Solskjaer and was part of a team bereft of confidence under Ralf Rangnick. Ten Hag’s arrival proved a key moment with the defender quickly dropped from of the starting XI.
Maguire has since lost the captaincy but remained at the club despite offers to go elsewhere in the summer, which has divided opinion. The centre-half faces huge backlash when playing for England and United will have to accept a huge hit financially when, as expected, he does eventually leave.
6. Angel di Maria – £59.7m
Gary Neville has referred to United as a “graveyard” for players. Di Maria fell foul of it, despite being excellent before and perhaps even better afterwards. Louis van Gaal made him his marquee signing in his first season, landing him for a then club-record fee just months after his man of the match performance in the Champions League final for Real Madrid.
The Argentine was impressive early on and his chipped finish at Leicester City remains an audacious moment that has stood the test of time. Di Maria though faced problems off the pitch with his house burgled and his form dipped.
At the end of his first season the decision was made to cut ties and PSG came in to sign the winger for £44m – £15m less than he was signed for 12 months earlier. Di Maria scored 92 goals in Paris and netted in the World Cup final last year, tasting success with his country.
7. Jadon Sancho – £73m
The man who could be the next individual to go through the revolving door at Old Trafford. Previously on City’s books, the winger found himself back in Manchester in 2021 after thriving in the Bundesliga with Dortmund, who gave him regular minutes as a teenager.
Sancho was incredibly productive in the final third, scoring 20 times in his best season and performing on the Champions League stage. United though haven’t seen anything like that and immediately it wasn’t until late November in his debut year that he scored his first goal for the club.
He’s been unable to find any consistency, which has contributed to his minutes declining. Sancho’s most defining moment in a United shirt may well end up being a tweet which he posted after his Arsenal omission – calling out the manager and labelling himself a “scapegoat”.
8. Antony – £82m
A deal that could eventually be worth more than £86m has so far resulted in eight goals, albeit the Brazilian has only had one year to show his quality. One of several players who followed Ten Hag from Ajax, Antony scored on his debut against Arsenal, but that remains his best moment in Manchester.
He also landed a winner against Barcelona in the Europa League as United got one over on the Spanish side, but the Brazilian has been a frustrating individual to watch throughout his time at Old Trafford and, unfortunately for him, he will forever have his price tag held against him.