Manchester United

Manchester United

Premier League • England

Mohammed Kudus next? Ranking every player that Manchester United have signed from Ajax

Daley Blind playing for Manchester United during a Premier League game against Manchester City. Etihad Stadium, March 2016.

Manchester United are reportedly looking to buy Mohammed Kudus from Ajax – but they’ve had mixed success with their signings from the Eredivise club. 

United are in the market for a new forward following Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure and Kudus is on Erik ten Hag’s list of targets. 

We’ve ranked the five players that they’ve previously signed from Ajax, taking into account their performances at Old Trafford and the transfer fee.

Note: we’ve not included Gyliano van Velzen, Millen Baars and Dillion Hoogewerf who all joined United’s academy from Ajax but failed to make a senior appearance for the club.

5. Donny van de Beek

Van de Beek was one of Ajax’s standout players as they made it to the semi-finals of the 2018/19 Champions League against all odds, registering 17 goals and 13 assists in 57 appearances across all competitions.

His performances saw him earn a place on the 2019 Ballon d’Or shortlist, and he had an agreement to join Real Madrid before the pandemic struck and the deal broke down.

Despite already having Bruno Fernandes on the books, United took advantage of the situation and signed the Netherlands international in a £36m deal in the summer of 2020.

He scored on his debut against Crystal Palace but never managed to tie down a spot in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s starting 11 and has largely been used as a substitute.

The midfielder struggled to make an impression during appearances in cup competitions and spent the second half of the 2021/22 season on loan at Everton, where he suffered with a series of injury problems.

Van de Beek was expected to feature regularly after Erik ten Hag’s arrival, having been managed by his compatriot during his time at Ajax.

But he fell further down the pecking order after United signed Casemiro and Christian Eriksen in 2022 and now faces an uncertain future at Old Trafford.

Donny van de Beek, August 2022

4. Timothy Fosu-Mensah

An Ajax academy graduate, Fosu-Mensah joined United at the age of 16 in 2014 before progressing through the youth ranks and winning plenty of plaudits for his performances.

He broke into the first team during Louis van Gaal’s final season and made his senior debut in Marcus Rashford’s own Premier League bow: that 3-2 home win against Arsenal in February 2016.

The defender impressed under Van Gaal and looked set for a promising future at Old Trafford but struggled for opportunities following his compatriot’s departure.

Fosu-Mensah had a successful loan spell at Crystal Palace in 2017/18, where he became a fan favourite due to his last-ditch tackles.

The Netherlands international then went on loan to Fulham in 2018/19 but an anterior cruciate ligament injury stalled his progress and kept him on the sidelines for most of the 2019/20 season.

After failing to establish himself in the side under Solskjaer, he rejected the offer of a new United contract and joined Bayer Leverkusen in search of regular first-team football in January 2021.

3. Antony

Having worked with Antony at Ajax, Ten Hag identified the winger as a top transfer target after taking over at Old Trafford in 2022.

United had two bids rejected by Ajax before finally meeting the £85m asking price, making Antony their second most expensive signing of all time.

The Brazil international hit the ground running and became the first United player to score in their first three Premier League games for the club after netting against Arsenal, Everton and Manchester City.

But he’s failed to have the same impact in recent months, registering one goal and no assists in his last nine appearances in all competitions.

His lack of defensive work has also been questioned and some pundits have suggested that the winger is too predictable due to his over-reliance on his left foot.

“He doesn’t run in behind,” former United midfielder Paul Scholes told BT Sport. “He seems to be a bit of a one-trick pony. He’s always cutting inside and either passing back to the full-back or having a shot.

“You’re thinking he needs to develop a little bit. It’s still early days for him, we know that.”

Admittedly, it’s far too early to make a judgement and the 22-year-old has plenty of time on his side but he’s yet to justify that huge transfer fee.

2. Lisandro Martinez

Alongside Antony, Martinez also reunited with Ten Hag at Old Trafford after United fought off competition from Arsenal and agreed to pay Ajax an initial £48.3m.

The defender immediately attracted sceptical views due to his 5ft 9ins stature and some pundits suggested that he’d struggle to adapt to the physical demands of English football.

But he’s silenced those doubters, forming a brilliant partnership with Raphael Varane and establishing himself as one of the best centre-backs in the Premier League.

The World Cup winner impresses on and off the ball and has also become a fan favourite at Old Trafford due to his aggressive and full-throttle approach.

“This is one of the best signings we’ve had for years at Manchester United. It’s because of his fighting spirit. That’s what United fans want to see – those players have to bleed for the shirt,” Patrice Evra said on Rio Ferdinand’s Vibe with Five YouTube channel.

“People were talking about his height and I was laughing. Some people said I was too small when I arrived in the Premier League as well. When you play with that heart and passion, size doesn’t matter.”

He added: “When I see those [Martinez’s] stats – I remember Per Mertesacker at Arsenal, the stats said he never lost the ball – but he was passing it one metre, I can do that every day.

“But Martinez puts the ball through the lines like Michael Carrick. That’s what he does and I love that. What a player, what a player.”

1. Daley Blind

After playing under Van Gaal at the 2014 World Cup, Blind left Ajax and joined United in a £16m deal on transfer deadline day.

The Netherlands international was initially earmarked as the long-term successor to Michael Carrick in the middle of the park but only fleetingly did he get to play that role.

He was converted into a ball-playing centre-back by Van Gaal and formed a brilliant partnership with Chris Smalling, where he showcased his impressive passing range and reading of the game.

Blind lifted the FA Cup and the League Cup before helping United keep a clean sheet in the 2017 Europa League final victory over Ajax.

Having made 141 appearances in all competitions during his four years at Old Trafford, he was then allowed to return to Ajax in 2018.

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