There have been a couple of very on-brand reports over the last week or so of Manchester United attempting to lure past-their-best football legends to the club, despite the supposed new dawn under Sir Jim Ratcliffe on the horizon.
Rumours of United being ready to offer 32-year-old Antoine Griezmann £345,000 per week were quickly followed by the revelation that they had made a similar bid to land 34-year-old Thomas Muller in January, and could again in the coming transfer window.
So in a bid to amuse ourselves as much as anyone we’ve ranked all the over-the-hill signings after Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure – because that’s when things got funny – from worst to best. They’ve been disappointingly decent for the most part.
Anyone 30+ when they joined has been included, so old man Varane can count himself lucky. But we’ve not bothered with the goalkeepers, as we have very little to say about Tom Heaton and Lee Grant, but loans are in because there’s an absolute cracker…
9) Odion Ighalo (loan, Shanghai Shenhua)
Only a loan, but one that cost United £10m for a season, Ighalo featured for just 99 minutes in the Premier League across 11 substitute appearances, scoring no goals despite Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insisting he wasn’t “just a body” when he came in as cover for the injured Marcus Rashford.
8) Bastian Schweinsteiger (£8m, Bayern Munich)
He made 31 appearances in his debut season under Louis van Gaal but turned up the following season, when Jose Mourinho had taken over, and found he couldn’t get into the dressing room on his birthday. Mourinho told Schweinsteiger he thought the midfielder’s decision to have an injury treated abroad was “unprofessional” and he was made to train with the Under-23s. And Jadon Sancho thinks he’s being treated harshly.
He’s held in high regard by many United fans, but in reality, even when he was playing, they were watching a shadow of the player who controlled Bayern’s midfield for well over a decade.
7) Wout Weghorst (loan, Burnley)
Three years after Ighalo, United were again panicked into making another baffling loan signing in the January transfer window, persuading Burnley to recall Weghorst from Besiktas and send him to Old Trafford. Weghorst was more successful than his Nigerian counterpart, to be fair, and despite a lack of goals did prove useful to Ten Hag in his six months with the Red Devils, essentially by being a bit of a lump to occupy defenders while others played football.
6) Casemiro (£70m, Real Madrid)
What we’ve seen this season from Casemiro is what many assumed we would get from the Brazilian in his debut campaign. If we had done this ranking in the summer he would comfortably be top, but would be somewhere near the bottom based on his dramatic slide this term and considering the transfer fee.
Gary Neville was chief among the critics of Casemiro’s signing, questioning why such a significant sum had been spent on a 30-year-old, and fair play to the Sky Sports pundit, who stuck to his guns in March insisting he “was not a smart signing” when the Real Madrid legend was flying.
It looks as though United got the tail end of Casemiro’s peak before a significant trough.
5) Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus, £15m)
‘But he scores goals’ is the only argument anyone can use to suggest Ronaldo’s return to Manchester United was a success. Yes, it’s the currency of football, but if that’s the only metric we’re using, Manchester United scoring fewer as a whole is the more telling indicator of the effect the world-leading prima donna had in his 18 months at Old Trafford.
He also scored a goal every 152 minutes in his second spell at United, which is very close to the rate Taiwo Awoniyi and Eddie Nketiah have scored their goals at this season, and a worse ratio than that of Nicolas Jackson. Those players also run around a bit, and as far as we know, haven’t f*cked off the majority of people they’ve come into contact with.
4) Christian Eriksen (free, Brentford)
He formed a decent partnership with Casemiro in the heart of the United midfield last season, displaying the vision and passing range that made him such a beautiful player to watch in his Tottenham days, but the consistent brilliance wasn’t quite there and this season he’s looked rushed in possession and too slow to effectively contribute out of it.
3) Jonny Evans (free, Leicester)
“There’s another one, I can do that” is what Jonny Evans says to himself, genuinely taking one game at a time at the back end of a stellar career. And while the “keyboard warriors” may indeed have laughed at his return – because United requiring a 35-year-old defender who was deemed not good enough for them eight years ago is undeniably funny – he’s been brilliant for Erik ten Hag and cost them nothing.
2) Edinson Cavani (free, PSG)
We can’t not think about his 40-yard lob of Alphonse Areola against Fulham at Old Trafford, but he also scored four in the two legs of the Europa League semi-final against Roma and the equaliser in the final defeat to Villarreal. He wasn’t quite as sharp as the player who scored 200 goals in 300 games for PSG, but he still did Cavani-like things, tearing around the pitch like a madman, making clever runs and generally p*ssing off defenders.
1) Zlatan Ibrahimovic (free, PSG)
29 goals at a rate of one every 136 minutes – better than Ronaldo, not that we’re counting (we are) – plus ten assists in his United career. He also won two trophies, the Europa League and League Cup, scoring a brace to win the final of the latter against Southampton. An excellent signing.