Alex Ferguson’s nous in the transfer market has been one of the cornerstones of his remarkably successful reign as Manchester United manager. Sure, there have been a few Bebes and Verons over the years, but the success of his more astute signings has more than made up for a few flops. Here are some of the best signings he has ever made while at the Old Trafford helm. To subscribe to Manchester United’s own TV channel, MUTV, visit the Sky.com online shop.
Nemanja Vidic – £7 million
At the time of his purchase, few fans were excited about the arrival of a relatively inexpensive Serbian defender. However, over the years, Vidic has more than proved his worth, forming a formidable partnership with Rio Ferdinand, and winning fans and pundits over with his fearless performances in central defence.
Eric Cantona – £1.2 million
Although his goal record is not as good as Van Nistelrooy’s, Cantona’s influence on and off the pitch galvanized United’s squad during their ascent to the top of European football during the 1990s. Even more remarkable is the fact that he was bought on a whim by Ferguson, after he had failed in his efforts to purchase a big-name striker such as Matt Le Tissier.
Cristiano Ronaldo – £12.24 million
Ferguson’s knack of moulding talented but raw youngsters into formidable footballing powerhouses is the stuff of legend, and the best example of this is one Cristiano Ronaldo. When he first arrived, he impressed with his pace and trickery, but by the time he left for Real Madrid, he was quite simply the best footballer on the planet, having just led United to a historic Champions League triumph.
Edwin Van Der Sar – £2 million
In the years after the departure of legendary Red Devils shot-stopper Peter Schmeichel, many doubted if Ferguson would ever be able to adequately replace the Great Dane. The £2m purchase of the ageing, error-prone Van Der Sar raised some eyebrows at the time, but he soon won over fans and pundits with a long series of assured displays between the sticks, and he is now considered as being up there with Schmeichel among the all-time greats.
Roy Keane – £3.75 million
In this age of sky-high transfer fees, it seems remarkable now to think that in 1993, Ferguson smashed the British transfer record with the £3.75 million purchase of Irish midfield enforcer Roy Keane. The fee was quickly justified as Keane went on to become the bedrock of the United midfield for many years alongside Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, and David Beckham, and came to be regarded as the embodiment of the fighting spirit that Ferguson likes to impart to his teams.
Ruud Van Nistelrooy – £19 million
Although he didn’t come cheap, Van Nistelrooy proved to be worth his weight in goals at a time when United were struggling to compete with an unstoppable Arsenal team and the emergence of cash-rich Chelsea. His clinical finishing netted the team a remarkable 150 goals in just 220 appearances, keeping the club up there in the mix for top spot during what was regarded as a difficult period for the club.
Peter Schmeichel – £650,000
Fergie describes the purchase of Schmeichel as the “Buy of the Century”, and it is hard to disagree. Having lent solidity and a commanding presence to United’s defence during one of the most glorious periods in the club’s history, he is now regarded as one of the greatest goalkeepers to have graced the game.