Man Utd have a rich history of post-Euro/World Cup transfer flops…who will be next?

Will Ford
Amrabat Kleberson Rojo Man Utd
Kleberson, Sofyan Amrabat and Marcos Rojo were all signed by Man Utd on the back of major tournaments.

Manchester United have a rich and largely unsuccessful history of post-major tournament signings, with Morocco’s run to the semi-final of the World Cup in Qatar the cause of their latest transfer misstep in that regard.

We’ve come up with six players signed by the Red Devils on the back of either a European Championship or a World Cup, and look forward to seeing which player Sir Jim Ratcliffe and his transfer chiefs will be duped into signing this summer.


Sofyan Amrabat (World Cup 2022)
‘How much better than his brother is Sofyan?’ we all thought as the younger Amrabat tore around Qatar while brother and former Watford winger Nordin watched from home. Not that much better as it turns out; certainly not as superior as Manchester United were duped into thinking on the back of his six breathless performances for Morrocco.

A career path of FC Utrecht, Feyenoord, Club Brugge, Hellas Verona and Fiorentina should perhaps have provoked concern that Amrabat’s displays in the winter of 2022 were something of a flash in the pan, and save for a very Morocco-in-Qatar-like performance in the FA Cup final against Manchester City, we saw very little of the us-against-them fight-for-everything mentality that made Amrabat so brilliant and watchable in the World Cup.

United can count themselves very fortunate that they didn’t have the funds for his permanent transfer.


Paul Pogba (Euro 2016)
We’re not going to pretend that United signed Pogba because of his displays at Euro 2016. Reports of interest in the midfielder’s return to Old Trafford emerged a few months before the tournament in France and when Jose Mourinho was announced as Louis van Gaal’s replacement the Juventus star was his ‘top target’, though the Portuguese boss predictably later rejected those claims when the pair locked horns.

But Pogba played in a deeper role for France than he had done for Juventus in that tournament, and played brilliantly as France reached the final, perhaps increasing Mourinho and United’s resolve to complete his record £89m signing as a foil for Michael Carrick at the base of midfield – something Morgan Schneiderlin had failed to do the season before – while Juan Mata and fellow summer 2016 signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan could operate in front of them.

It never worked, with Pogba never truly finding a position to thrive in at club level while continuing to excel for his country.

READ MORE: Ranking Man Utd signings since Fergie: Varane among top dozen, No.1 could leave too…


Angel Di Maria (World Cup 2014)
Another British record signing at £59.7m, Di Maria has since said that he never wanted to leave Real Madrid (no great surprise there), and reports suggested there was a bit of a falling out with Florentino Perez over the Argentinian’s wage demands. Enter Manchester United.

They slapped £280,000 a week on the table and though the early signs were good as the winger managed three goals and four assists in his opening six Premier League games, things quickly turned sour under Van Gaal and he left for Paris Saint-Germain after just a season for a £15m discount.

Again, this isn’t so much about his World Cup performances – he had also been brilliant in the Champions League the season before – but he was excellent in Brazil before injury ruled him out of the semi-final and final, with many suggesting his absence cost Argentina in their final defeat to Germany. He became an obvious choice for Man Utd to feed their marquee signing addiction through his performances, combined with Madrid’s apparent willingess to get rid.

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Marcos Rojo (World Cup 2014)
Our guess is the United transfer chiefs would have failed to pick Rojo out of a line up before the World Cup in 2014. He had played a couple of seasons for Sporting Lisbon to no signficant fanfare before starting every game in Brazil bar the quarter-final win over Belgium, missed as a result of his customary suspension.

We wonder whether the Red Devils were even aware of his primary calling as a centre-back after he played solely on the left for his country, but they were evidently attracted by that typical fighting spirit of Argentinian defenders, and were presumably a tad disappointed that there was little else to be found in his armoury.

Like Lisandro Martinez without all that passing through the lines nonsense, Rojo became just another body in a mess of mediocre Red Devils defenders in his six-season stint at the club.


Kleberson (World Cup 2002)
“You just won The World Cup! What’s happened? You need to play better!” Roy Keane’s dressing room rant epitomised what we were all thinking watching Kleberson swan around the Old Trafford pitch having played alongside Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Rivaldo to win the World Cup in South Korea and Japan.

Injuries undoubtedly had their part to play in his torrid time under Sir Alex Ferguson at United, but subsequent moves to Besiktas, Flamengo and finally MLS isn’t hugely suggestive of a footballer struggling for any reason other than a lack of quality. He is, if anything, the example of how misleading displays over a few weeks at a major tournament can be.


Karel Poborsky (Euro 96)
The Czech Republic winger got a couple of assists in the group stage, the iconic scooped winner to knock Portugal out in the quarter-final and provided the assist for Patrik Berger to give them the lead in the final that they would eventually lose to Germany. That was good enough for United to spend £3.5m – a huge fee in those days – to bring Poborsky to the club from Slavia Prague.

He got six goals and three assists in 48 games for United – mainly from the bench as David Beckham’s backup – before leaving for Benfica for half the price.