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Ranking The Old Manchester United Striker Signings Of The 21st Century

Ranking The Old Manchester United Striker Signings Of The 21st Century
By Eoin Harrington Updated
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Manchester United have continued their bizarre trend of signing strikers of 30 years or older with the arrival of Wout Weghorst this January.

Despite some question marks as to whether the Dutchman is exactly what United need, he has signed on a loan deal from Burnley to the end of the season in order to fill a gap up front for Erik Ten Hag's side.

It is not the first time that the team have turned to a striker in their 30s in an attempt to fix their troubles in attack, with five other strikers of 30 years or older signing for Manchester United in the 21st century.

We've gone through those five and ranked them in order of success at the club - and much of it does not make for pretty reading for Manchester United fans. By our calculations, only one could be classed as an unequivocal success, while others made a decent impact but could only last for a matter of months.

Incredibly, both Radamel Falcao and Michael Owen were only 29 when they signed for United, so they have been excluded from the list - though both would likely have fallen towards the bottom.

Manchester United: Ranking the 30+ striker signings of the 21st century

5. Odion Ighalo

Objectively the strangest signing on this list, Ighalo's arrival at Manchester United was not too dissimilar to Wout Weghorst's.

The Nigerian striker arrived in January of the 2019-20 season, when injury issues for Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, alongside the departure of Romelu Lukaku, left United feeling a bit light up front.

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Ighalo would put in a decent shift during his time at the club, scoring five goals in 23 matches, including a belter against LASK in the Europa League. He was never expected to be a world-beater - and he wasn't - but he was perfectly fine, and did what he was asked to do.

4. Cristiano Ronaldo

It's hard to quantify Cristiano Ronaldo's second spell at Manchester United. On the one hand, he was the club's top scorer in the 2021-22 season, scored crucial winners in Champions League games against Villarreal and Atalanta, and hat tricks against Norwich and Spurs. A decent individual season by all accounts.

The main issue was that it coincided with United's worst season in decades, as the club finished sixth in the league, and suffered early exits in all three cup competitions.

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The issues presented to the team's playing style by accommodating Ronaldo, combined with his acrimonious departure, mean he can't be ranked highly on this list, despite his goals. It's doubtful many United fans miss him, with the form that Erik Ten Hag's team are now in.

 

3. Edinson Cavani

A contentious one, but Cavani's impact during the 2020-21 season was huge.

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17 goals helped the club to second place in the Premier League, as well as the Europa League final, in which Cavani scored. He endeared himself to fans with his passion on the pitch during his first season, and linked up well with the in-form Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford.

After the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo, Cavani found himself sidelined more, and was accused of downing tools by many fans after being asked to give up the number 7 shirt to accommodate Ronaldo. He would play half the games in his second season, and score only two goals all season, and left with little fuss last summer.

2. Henrik Larsson

He only played 13 games, and was only at Manchester United for just over two months, but Henrik Larsson's time at Old Trafford was an inspired signing from Alex Ferguson.

Celtic and Barcelona legend Larsson would score three goals in his time at the club, including a crucial winner against Lille in the Champions League, and was widely praised at the time for the impact he had on the dressing room.

He would be awarded a medal after United won the 2006-07 Premier League, and received a standing ovation when he appeared in Manchester for a charity game just after his spell. Larsson did what was asked of him and more, and became a cult hero.

1. Zlatan Ibrahimovic

There can't really be anyone else at number one in this list. 28 goals in his first season at Manchester United saw Ibrahimovic help the club back into the Champions League, and he scored five goals in the run to the Europa League crown in the 2016-17 season.

He would score some outrageous goals, including a lob of Jordan Pickford at Goodison Park, but the highlight was his brace in the League Cup final, as Manchester United claimed only their second trophy in the post-Alex Ferguson era.

Injury issues would see Ibrahimovic play only seven times in his second season with the club, scoring only once, but his 2016-17 season was one of the best individual years seen at Manchester United in recent times.

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