Who were the 'cheap alternatives' to United's big flops, and where would we be if we'd signed them instead?

Brightonian

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A question for those with better memories, more willingness to graft and stronger opinions than me.

Below is a list of the most expensive players signed by Manchester United in the last ten years who have proven to be objectively bad value for money.
Not all were straighforward 'flops', but none has been successful enough to be worth the money paid.
I haven't looked below £50m or at anyone signed as recently as last summer because I don't want the thread to become an argument about who was/is or wasn't/isn't a flop/bad signing.


Paul Pogba - 2016 - £89m

Antony - 2022 - £82m

Harry Maguire - 2019 - £80m

*Romelu Lukaku - 2017 - £75m

Jadon Sancho - 2021 - £73m

Casemiro - 2022- £70m

*Angel Di Maria - 2014 - £60m

*Sold for a complete or significant recoup of cost.


Three questions:
  • With unabashed hindsight, who were the 'cheap' signings other clubs made in similar positions in those same transfer windows who would have been much better options for us?
  • Putting hindsight aside, who were the 'cheap' options we might realistically have considered and who fans actually wanted us to buy instead at the time?
  • How might our last ten years have looked if we'd had a policy of banning mega-signings and instead looking for value in the market?

Absolutely throw your hypothetical 'United without spending so much money' 2024 line-ups in here for good measure. Best case scenario and realistic versions welcome!
 

Brightonian

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E.g.

In 2016, some midfield signings we might have tried for instead of Pogba:
- Ngolo Kante (Chelsea paid £32m)
- Moussa Sissoko (Spurs paid £30m)
- Miralem Pjanic (Juve paid £25m (€32m))

During summer 2016 we were also linked to:
- Fabinho. 2yrs before Liverpool signed him. I think he was playing as a defender at Monaco at the time though? Rumours speculated around £25m.
- Leander Dendoncker. Rumoured £22-23m.
- Youri Tielemans. Vague rumours variously priced him £16-20m.
 
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Scandi Red

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He probably wasn't much cheaper, but weren't we linked with Mane? And then we signed Mkhitaryan...
 

Leftback99

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Maguire should have been bought for £15m from Hull after standing out against Ibra, the same summer we paid £30m+ for Lindelof.
 

Skills

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Kante was already a done deal before then unfortunately. Renato Sanches was the actual alternative at the time, and we got the better end of that deal.

Antony - we should've just signed Isak. We needed a striker, we had players who could play on the right and we would've sorted the mess up front for the foreseeable future.

For the most part, we actually would've been better off just doing nothing. Just wait it out - if there wasn't alternative to Antony that was worth spending that much money on, make your manager use the players you have.

We shouldn't have signed Lukaku and just developed Martial/Rashford to be our CF as was the original plan when we spunked £60m on the former just 3 years ago. Antony shouldn't have been signed and we should've stuck to our guns that made us spend up to £40m on Amad. It's the same with Dalot - we spent £20m on, with the idea he would be out long term RB and then spent another £50m the year after on AWB.
 

sugar_kane

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Our fans took the piss out of Liverpool when they signed Firmino instead of Depay.

We tried to convince ourselves that Mane was overrated and we were right to turn him down. Same with Fabinho as well.
 

didz

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We could've had Diaby a year before he went to Villa for a bit cheaper than Antony. We should probably have gone big for Rice instead of Casemiro that summer - I don't think there was really a cheaper player we could have got.

Kante could have been signed ahead of Pogba. Or Gundogan, or even Wijnaldum. Or Pjanic maybe.

From what I remember it was Morata or Lukaku, so we probably couldn't have done too much better there, especially as we recouped most of the fee. Sancho seemed like a really good signing at the time. I guess in hindsight if we hadn't signed anyone at all we'd be better off.

Could maybe argue Saliba over Maguire, but that would have been a big call when he was 18.

We could have had Haaland from Molde instead of Lukaku, and Bellingham from Birmingham instead of Casemiro if we were competent at the time.
I think we signed DVB because we failed to get Bellingham.
 

JPRouve

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Instead of Pogba I wanted Kovacic and Krychowiak, in hindsight the latter would have likely been an utter flop but Kovacic alone would be worth it. For Antony the better deal was on the left side with Kvaratskhelia and temporarily settling with Rashford on the right. For Maguire the best alternative was to keep Smalling, I still like the idea of signing Sancho things didn't work but it was the correct move, same with Casemiro and Di Maria.

I went with what I think made sense at the time more than using complete hindsight.

Edit: Instead of Lukaku, I wanted Giroud who was a far better fit for Mourinho but he wanted to stay in London.
 

welshwingwizard

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For me it was so frustrating that we didn't just try and get Mahrez, Kante and Vardy in one go. Vardy especially seemed like a Sir Alex signing and had a great clause.
 

Wumminator

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Over the last ten years, we could have signed Foden, Halaand, Bellingham, Vinicius and going further back we could have probably sighed a 14 year old Harry Kane for around six million.
 

Robertd0803

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We could've had Diaby a year before he went to Villa for a bit cheaper than Antony. We should probably have gone big for Rice instead of Casemiro that summer - I don't think there was really a cheaper player we could have got.

Kante could have been signed ahead of Pogba. Or Gundogan, or even Wijnaldum. Or Pjanic maybe.

From what I remember it was Morata or Lukaku, so we probably couldn't have done too much better there, especially as we recouped most of the fee. Sancho seemed like a really good signing at the time. I guess in hindsight if we hadn't signed anyone at all we'd be better off.

Could maybe argue Saliba over Maguire, but that would have been a big call when he was 18.



I think we signed DVB because we failed to get Bellingham.
I always thought we signed DVB because we were expecting Pogba to bugger off. Either way being an alternative to Bellingham/Pogba was a dreadful idea.
 

didz

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I always thought we signed DVB because we were expecting Pogba to bugger off. Either way being an alternative to Bellingham/Pogba was a dreadful idea.
I think we were courting Bellingham in February, then moved quick to to sign Van de Beek pretty early in the summer. When you look at how many minutes DVB got, it makes sense if those minutes were initially set out for a teenager. That's kind of how I've landed on that conclusion.
 

Rolaholic

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Kudus went for less than half of what Antony was bought for yet he's been two or 3 times the player in the league
 

MancunianAngels

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This forum is hilarious.

If Ratcliffe signs this summer's cheaper alternatives, everyone on here will be accusing the club of having no ambition.
 

Mike Smalling

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In 19/20 we bought AWB for £55m, while Trippier went for around £20m.
We bought Maguire for arouhd £80m. Same window Arsenal got Saliba for around £25m.
 

SoCross

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In 19/20 we bought AWB for £55m, while Trippier went for around £20m.
We bought Maguire for arouhd £80m. Same window Arsenal got Saliba for around £25m.
Trippier was quoted at a crazy price for us.

Saliba was loaned out by Arsenal - doubt he would have started for us at that point of time when we needed a starting CB.
 

lex talionis

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There will always be disappointments, but the one that in foresight was completely daft was Antony. Even if went on YouTube videos alone there wasn’t much there that screamed he’s a Manchester United player.
 

SambaBoy

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All these players in hindsight seem better options, but the likelihood is they would have come to United and been terrible as well.
 

Overhaul FC

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I thought Matic over Fabinho was an awful decision at the time considering Fabinhos versatility.

Klopp broke Fabinho with his high intensity football in the end too though.

Fabinho would've been a good player for us.
 

jamesjimmybyrondean

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Without hindsight bias, I’d say Olise instead of Antony. I remember at the time he had a 25m release clause and his name always came up as an alternative to spending that crazy money on Antony
 

DepaysCowboyHat

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We could have had Haaland from Molde instead of Lukaku, and Bellingham from Birmingham instead of Casemiro if we were competent at the time.
Bellingham had been at Dortmund for almost three years when we got Casemiro.
 

thisisnottaken1

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All these players in hindsight seem better options, but the likelihood is they would have come to United and been terrible as well.
Exactly. They would have failed here anyway. We’ve been so badly run since 2013 that there’s no guarantee that they would have done well. I mean, Harry Kane would 100% have flopped for us had we signed him instead of Højlund because of the godawful service our wingers provide.
 

Valencia Shin Crosses

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Kudus went for less than half of what Antony was bought for yet he's been two or 3 times the player in the league
This is the most obvious recent one considering our own manager had both players working under him at his previous club

Diaby was the other option, and the one I personally wanted. He was also 30% cheaper than Antony and more accomplished as well.
 

Adebisi's Hat

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I thought Matic over Fabinho was an awful decision at the time considering Fabinhos versatility.

Klopp broke Fabinho with his high intensity football in the end too though.

Fabinho would've been a good player for us.
Fabinho took a long time to settle at Liverpool though, including a disastrous 1st season. In the end an excellent signing but at Utd a bad season could have been the end of him.
 

sunama

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Shoulda
Woulda
Coulda
It's irrelevant. We wouldn't have succeeded regardless of who we signed.
Both are correct.
And we could've signed Foden. But if he had come to MUFC, would he have turned out to be so good?
The same goes for any player - most likely he would not have become the player he is now, had he joined us.

Remember, we have a knack for "breaking" players. They arrive full of promise, Full of energy. Full of drive. A few months later, they are "done".

The only singing we have made, who maintains the drive is Bruno.

Regarding Antony - that was just a ridiculously bad signing whichever way you look at it.
 

Nico87

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The worst part of the value for money was during the Van Gaal era where we seemed to pay to downgrade useful squad players.