Manchester United will reportedly try and sign Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham in 2023 – but they don’t have a great track record with their imports from Germany.
United tried to sign Bellingham from Birmingham City in 2020, but he moved to Dortmund and has since developed into one of the best midfielders in the world.
According to reports, United manager Erik ten Hag has made the 19-year-old his top transfer target and has been promised the necessary funds to rebuild the team.
We’ve ranked the five players they’ve signed from the Bundesliga during the Premier League era from worst to best.
5. Bastian Schweinsteiger
A Bundesliga legend, Schweinsteiger made 500 appearances for Bayern Munich and helped them win eight league titles, seven DFB-Pokals and the Champions League.
But he decided to embark on a new chapter in his career in the summer of 2015 and completed a £6.5m move to United, where he linked up with former Bayern manager Louis van Gaal.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Bayern Munich, it has been an incredible journey and I didn’t take the decision to leave lightly,” he said. “Manchester United is the only club that I would have left Munich for.
“I feel ready for this new and exciting challenge in what I regard as the most competitive league in the world and I am looking forward to working with Louis van Gaal again.”
The midfielder lifted the World Cup in 2014 and was only 30 when he arrived at Old Trafford, but his peak years were undoubtedly behind him.
He struggled with the pace of English football and started just 13 Premier League games in an injury-disrupted debut campaign at United. The former Germany international was then frozen out by Jose Mourinho in the following season and got banished to the Under-23s.
After being brought back into the team and making four appearances in cup competitions, he joined MLS side Chicago Fire on a free transfer in March 2017.
4. Jadon Sancho
Sancho left Manchester City in 2017 and moved to Borussia Dortmund, where he developed into one of the most sought-after players in Europe.
After a long-running transfer saga, the 22-year-old decided to return to Manchester and completed a £73m move to United in 2021.
He arrived at Old Trafford with high expectations on his shoulders but failed to replicate his Bundesliga form in the Premier League during a difficult debut season.
The winger showed glimpses of his quality but registered just three goals and three assists in 29 Premier League appearances in 2021/22.
Despite scoring in a 2-1 win over Liverpool at the start of the 2022/23 season, he still appears to be lacking confidence and has been criticised for playing it safe.
While he has time on his side and can undoubtedly turn things around, Sancho currently has to settle for fourth place in this ranking.
3. Shinji Kagawa
Having starred for Jurgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund side, Kagawa joined United in a £17m deal ahead of the 2012/13 season.
The midfielder endured a frustrating time with injuries during his first season in England but still won the Premier League and provided a few flashes of brilliance – including a brilliant hat trick in a 4-0 win against Norwich City.
“If I’m honest, my first year at Manchester United was okay,” he told De Morgen. “We won the title, but that was because of Robin van Persie. He scored 26 goals that season. I didn’t have as much confidence anymore as I did during my passage at Dortmund.
“The adjustment in England was not always easy, there were sometimes doubts. A new language, system, coach, environment.”
The Japan international hoped to rediscover his best form in his second season in England but, as with so many others, he struggled after Sir Alex Ferguson retired and David Moyes took over.
Kagawa failed to score in 30 appearances in all competitions in 2013/14 and then returned to Dortmund in a £6.5m deal.
2. Henrikh Mkhitaryan
One of Jose Mourinho’s first signings at United, Mkhitaryan registered 11 goals and 15 assists in 31 Bundesliga appearances for Borussia Dortmund in 2015/16 before moving to Old Trafford.
The winger initially struggled to adapt to the intensity and the physicality of English football and started just four Premier League games in 2016, although he did come off the bench to score a stunning scorpion-kick goal against Sunderland.
He showcased his best form in Europe and played an integral role in United’s Europa League success in 2017 by scoring six goals in 11 appearances in the competition, including their second in a 2-0 win over Ajax in the final.
The Armenia international then enjoyed a sensational start to the 2017/18 season, registering five assists in the first three Premier League games and equalling the record set by Newcastle’s Ruel Fox in 1994/95.
But he failed to maintain that form and was ultimately deemed surplus to requirements by Mourinho, who sent the forward to Arsenal in exchange for Alexis Sanchez in January 2018.
1. Owen Hargreaves
After Hargreaves impressed for England in the 2006 World Cup, United began a year-long pursuit of the Bayern Munich academy graduate before signing him in a £17m deal.
He was tasked with filling the void left by Roy Keane and enjoyed a brilliant debut season, helping United win the Premier League and the Champions League.
The midfielder played all 120 minutes against Chelsea in the Champions League final and held his nerve to score United’s fourth penalty in the shoot-out.
But everything went downhill from there, and he made just five more appearances for the club due to a series of injury problems.
Hargreaves was released at the end of the 2010/11 season and followed in Carlos Tevez’s footsteps by joining Manchester City.
While his performances in the 2007/08 season are enough to put him at the top of this list, Ferguson doesn’t look back on the deal with much fondness.
“David Gill worked hard on the deal with Bayern,” Ferguson wrote in his autobiography. “I met Owen’s agent at the World Cup final in Berlin. Nice man, a lawyer. I told him we could develop Hargreaves at United. It turned out to be a disaster.
“Owen had no confidence in himself whatsoever. He didn’t show nearly enough determination to overcome his physical difficulties, for my liking. I saw him opt for the easy choice too often in terms of training. He was one of the most disappointing signings of my career.”