The 10 Worst Signings Of Manchester United's Banter Era

By Eoin Harrington

There's an argument to be made that the Manchester United "banter era" is not only ongoing, but that it may only get more chaotic from here on out.

Despite the appointment of Erik Ten Hag as boss, and hopes high ahead of the new season, United began the 2022-23 season with a shock 2-1 home defeat to Brighton.

The summer has been marked by slow movement in the transfer market, with mooted arrivals for Antony and Frenkie de Jong seemingly falling away from the club. United have developed a reputation since the departure of Alex Ferguson in 2013 as being completely out of their depth in the transfer market - and it's a fully deserved reputation.

The "banter era" really kicked off at Old Trafford with Ferguson's retirement - and we've counted down the ten worst signings Manchester United have made in the time since

The 10 worst signings of the ongoing Manchester United banter era

Honourable mentions: Romelu Lukaku left Manchester United in acrimonious circumstances, with public fallouts with the club and teammate Luke Shaw casting a shadow over a period in Manchester dotted with intermittent brilliance; Marouane Fellaini was never a Manchester United-standard player, and cost far too much, but he did contribute to some big wins in some dark periods for the Red Devils; Victor Valdes' time at Old Trafford was hilarious in every way, but he didn't make enough of an impact in any area to make this list.

10. Harry Maguire

Harry Maguire signed for United from Leicester in 2019 (Photo: Shutterstock)

Harry Maguire is the current club captain of Manchester United and, in some ways, it feels harsh to have him here. During his time at the club, he has led the side to a second place finish in the league, a Europa League final, and has starred for his national team in a run to the EURO 2020 final.

But he has repeatedly come in for criticism from pundits, and is deeply unpopular with large sections of the United fanbase. His €80m+ price tag certainly hasn't helped to ease the pressure on the English centre back, but his error-strewn campaign in 2021-22 was one of the poorest in recent memory from any United player.

He may well turn it around, and his 2020-21 season was excellent, but Harry Maguire's stay at Manchester United is currently heading down a slippery slope and, considering his price tag, he has to go in this list.

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9. Memphis Depay

Memphis Depay in action for the Netherlands (Photo: Shutterstock)

Memphis Depay's time at Manchester United has the vibe of "right club, wrong time." The maverick winger has gone on to impress at Lyon and Barcelona since leaving Manchester in 2017, but his two seasons at Old Trafford can't be classed anything other than a failure.

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Depay arrived from PSV in the summer of 2015 for £25 million as the Eredivisie's top scorer, but he disappointed in Manchester. Isolated moments of brilliance were surrounded by attitude issues and a lack of consistency, and he was shipped off by Jose Mourinho in January 2017. His low price tag and affection for the club have him slightly lower in this list than might initially be expected.

8. Donny van de Beek

Dutch midfielder Donny van de Beek (Photo: Sportsfile)

The circus around Donny van de Beek can only be expected to ramp up this season, with his former Ajax boss Erik Ten Hag taking charge at Manchester United.

Van de Beek arrived from Ajax for £35m ahead of the 2020-21 season to much fanfare, with the Dutch midfielder expected to plug the gap in the centre of the field for United. It hasn't worked out that way for Donny, and he's found himself confined to the bench under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Michael Carrick, and Ralf Rangnick in his two years with the club.

After an underwhelming loan spell at Everton, van de Beek returns to United this season with hopes of finally making his breakthrough - if he doesn't, he'll climb substantially higher up this list.

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7. Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Aaron Wan-Bissaka during his first interview as a Manchester United player (Photo: Manchester United)

Incredibly, Manchester United scouted 804 right backs before landing on Aaron Wan-Bissaka as the best option in the 2019 summer transfer window. His first season at the club was a success, but he has dropped off dramatically since then.

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In three years at the club, he has not added anything to his attacking game, and stood out as one of the poorest performers during the disastrous 2021-22 season. His near-£50m transfer fee certainly doesn't help things. Given that, during the same transfer window, Manchester City signed Joao Cancelo for less than £10m more than United paid for AWB, the deal somehow looks even worse.

6. Bastian Schweinsteiger

Bastian Schweinsteiger training with the German national team (Photo: Sportsfile)

A curious one. Schweinsteiger was by no means poor when he played for United, and had some pretty solid performances in midfield when he did play during the 2015-16 season.

That's the main issue - the German legend barely did play during his two years in Manchester, and he was pretty well frozen out by Jose Mourinho when he took over in 2016. Schweinsteiger was signed for only £8.1m, so he at least didn't cost Manchester United too much outlay but, given his reputation and how he was expected to elevate the midfield, his relative mediocrity was a massive disappointment.

This one is certainly elevated by the quality of the player, and how poor he was in comparison to how brilliant he had previously been for Bayern Munich and Germany.

5. Morgan Schneiderlin

Morgan Schneiderlin being unveiled as a Manchester United player (Photo: Manchester United)
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When was the last time you thought about Morgan Schneiderlin? When was the last time you heard of him? The second part of the doomed "Schmidfield" signed in the summer of 2015, Schneiderlin arrived from that great Southampton team that included Sadio Mané, Dusan Tadic, Toby Alderweireld, and Graziano Pellé. Though that quartet would have their career peaks after leaving St Mary's, Schneiderlin's hit a death sentence with his move to Old Trafford.

He was unreliable in midfield, and only lasted two years at Old Trafford before moving on to Everton, where he was similarly underwhelming. It's a shame that the move didn't work out for the Frenchman at such a young stage in his career, but it's also hard to think of a player who dropped off in quality during their time at Old Trafford as much as Schneiderlin did.

4. Radamel Falcao

Radamel Falcao playing for Porto in the 2011 Europa League final for Porto (Photo: Sportsfile)

Maybe the weirdest of all the signings in this list. When he arrived on loan from Monaco in 2014, Falcao was one of the hottest prospects in world football. Scorer in two successive Europa League final wins for two different clubs (Porto in 2011 and Atletico Madrid in 2012), and a crucial part of a rising Colombia side, he was undoubtedly one of the best strikers in Europe.

His deadline day arrival was a taste of the chaotic ill-advised last-minute deals that have come to define Manchester United in the transfer market. He underperformed dramatically in his only season at United, scoring a measly four goals all season, and forcing established strikers Robin van Persie and Javier Hernandez to sit out games.

He had plenty of passion, and seemed to love playing for United - but Falcao's spell can't be classed as anything other than a spectacular failure. Easily forgotten is that he spent an even worse period on loan at rivals Chelsea the following season.

3. Paul Pogba

Frenchman Paul Pogba departed Manchester United for a second time this summer (Photo: Shutterstock)

A funny one, Paul Pogba. A team of the season contender in 2018-19, scorer in the final in United's last trophy win (the 2017 Europa League final), and a World Cup winner during his time at the club.

And yet, there has seldom been a more divisive player in the Premier League. His supposed negative influence on the dressing room was so much that Graeme Souness is still using him as an example of poor behaviour, even after he left the club this summer and returned to Juventus.

Simply put, for £94.5m, you'd be expecting more than flashes of brilliance and one or two big goals from Pogba. He departed United as a youth prospect for free, returned for a world record fee, and departed once again for a free with the club having regressed since his arrival.

It's an indictment for Pogba that Bruno Fernandes arrived for just over half the price and has made twice the impact.

2. Angel di Maria

Angel di Maria in a post-match interview during his time at Manchester United (Photo: Sky Sports)

The first true "glamour" signing made by Manchester United post-Ferguson also turned out to be their biggest big-money flop. Angel di Maria did, admittedly, run into personal issues which affected his stay in Manchester, and so his poor form can be explained somewhat with that.

But, signed for £67.9m, di Maria contributed very little to United, and his fallout with the club and departure occurred in a rather unpleasant atmosphere.

He has continued to hold a frosty relationship with the club, clashing with fans on returning with PSG in 2019, and remains an unpopular figure among fans.

The only saving grace here is that United recouped £56.7m from PSG when they shipped him off just one year after he had signed.

1. Alexis Sanchez

Alexis Sanchez is the biggest flop of Manchester United's banter era (Photo: Manchester United)

Well, it could hardly be anyone else, could it?

Not only did Alexis Sanchez sign as one of the league's best wingers and immediately drop off a cliff in terms of quality, but he did so at the least opportune time.

When he signed in January 2018, the club were locked in their only title race of the post-Ferguson era, but were in a particularly poor run of form. The only player playing well was winger Anthony Martial - so, naturally, United invested in a direct replacement for Martial, dropping him out of the team and signalling a complete drop off in performance that ultimately saw them finish 19 points off league winners City.

Sanchez contributed next to nothing to United under Mourinho or Solskjaer, scoring just five goals in 45 appearances. The highlight of his stay was an injury time winner against Newcastle in October 2018. Just 18 months after signing, Sanchez was ejected to Inter Milan alongside Romelu Lukaku.

The arrival of Chilean winger Sanchez also signalled a trend of United signing players reportedly linked with rivals Manchester City - a tactic that would bring mixed results once again with the moves for Fred, Harry Maguire, and Cristiano Ronaldo.

And, if that wasn't bad enough, there was also his announcement video...

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