Ranking every midfielder Manchester United have signed since Sir Alex Ferguson retired: Casemiro comes in second
From Roy Keane to Michael Carrick, Sir Alex Ferguson made some excellent midfield signings during his time in charge of Manchester United.
United have often struggled in that department since Ferguson decided to retire at the end of the 2012/13 season, although recruitment has improved under Erik ten Hag.
The Red Devils have signed 11 central midfielders in the last 10 years and we’ve attempted to rank them all from worst to best.
Note: We’ve not included attacking midfielders like Juan Mata or Henrikh Mkhitaryan and we’ve also left out academy signings.
11. Bastian Schweinsteiger
While Schweinsteiger is undoubtedly one of the greatest midfielders of his generation, he was in the twilight of his career when he joined United in the summer of 2015.
The Bayern Munich legend struggled with the pace and physicality of English football and made just 35 appearances for United, scoring one goal in an FA Cup win over Wigan.
After being frozen out of the first-team picture by Jose Mourinho and training with United’s Under-23s, he joined MLS side Chicago Fire on a free transfer in March 2017.
10. Morgan Schneiderlin
Alongside Schweinsteiger, United also signed Schneiderlin in the summer of 2015 after agreeing to pay Southampton’s £27m asking price.
The France international had established himself as one of the best holding midfielders in English football, but he failed to replicate that form at Old Trafford after struggling with Louis van Gaal’s strict approach and controlling demands.
“It hurts me even now that I couldn’t play freely at United,” he told the Athletic. “The pressure of the club was no problem to me. I like pressure, I need pressure and adrenaline.
“The fans were good to me in the street. The problem was me because I knew I had so much to give but I couldn’t give it because I felt restricted.”
But things didn’t get any better under Mourinho and he joined Everton in search of regular first-team football in January 2017.
9. Donny van de Beek
Van de Beek established himself as one of the best midfield prospects in Europe during his time at Ajax and was snapped up by United in a £34m deal in 2020.
He scored on his United debut but hasn’t been given much of a chance to shine at Old Trafford, making just six Premier League starts for the club across two and a half seasons.
The Netherlands international was hoping to reignite his career under Ten Hag but has been plagued with injury problems in 2022/23.
8. Nemanja Matic
Having worked with Matic at Chelsea, Mourinho decided to bring the midfielder to Old Trafford in a £40m deal in the summer of 2017.
He never really recaptured the form he had shown at Stamford Bridge but did enjoy an impressive debut season at Old Trafford, helping United finish second in the Premier League.
His lack of mobility saw him fall down the pecking order under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who favoured the more dynamic Scott McTominay.
The former Serbia international was released at the end of the 2021/22 season and has since linked up with Mourinho once again in Rome.
7. Marouane Fellaini
The first signing of the post-Ferguson era, Fellaini joined United from Everton in a £27.5m deal in 2013 and was reunited with David Moyes.
He endured a disastrous debut season at Old Trafford and became the symbol of United’s decline as they finished seventh in the Premier League in 2013/14.
“You can ask my staff – the last thing I wanted was for Marouane Fellaini to be my first signing,” Moyes later told Radio 5 live in 2017. “I knew, coming from my old club, the look was never going to be good.”
The Belgium international was expected to leave following Moyes’ departure but turned things around and proved to be an important player for both Van Gaal and Mourinho, helping United win the FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League.
While Fellaini was never universally popular at Old Trafford, he still made over 150 appearances for the club and was a useful asset when they played to his strengths.
A big Belgian helped book our place in the 2017 #UEL final ✨#MUFC @Fellaini pic.twitter.com/VKjghtejTu
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) August 15, 2020
6. Paul Pogba
Pogba divides opinion like nobody else so we’ve decided to play it safe by placing him slap bang in the middle of this list.
United broke the British transfer record to sign the midfielder in 2016/17 and he enjoyed an impressive debut season, helping them win the EFL Cup before scoring in the Europa League final victory over Ajax.
But his relationship with Mourinho then turned sour and the France international failed to replicate his international form at club level.
He improved under Solskjaer and was named in the PFA Team of the Year in 2018/19 but often struggled with injury problems and was nowhere near consistent enough to justify his price tag.
To make matters worse, Pogba left on a free transfer in 2022 so United didn’t recoup any of their £89m outlay.
5. Christian Eriksen
Van Gaal, Mourinho and Solskjaer all tried to sign Eriksen during their time in charge of United but it was Ten Hag who finally brought the midfielder to Old Trafford in 2022.
The Denmark international was signed on a free transfer following the expiry of his short-term contract at Brentford and has been a vital player in Ten Hag’s set up at Old Trafford.
Despite being an attacking midfielder at Tottenham, he’s showcased his vision, composure and passing range in a deep midfield role and that has led to comparisons with United legend Paul Scholes.
The 31-year-old registered two goals and nine assists in 31 appearances before his debut season was derailed by an ankle injury.
Signed for £47m in 2018, Fred endured a disastrous debut season at United amid reports that Mourinho never really wanted him.
But he turned things around under Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick, establishing himself as one of the first names on the United teamsheet.
While his on-the-ball limitations are still an issue, the Brazil international thrives in big games and is renowned for his energetic and industrious performances in the middle of the park.
He’s taken his game up another level under Ten Hag and is finally showing why United were keen to spend so much to bring him in from Shakhtar.
3. Ander Herrera
United tried and failed to sign Herrera from Athletic Bilbao in the summer of 2013 before finally activating his £29m release clause 12 months later.
He initially struggled under Van Gaal but later became Jose Mourinho’s lieutenant on the field and produced his best performances in big games, including a 2-0 win over Chelsea in 2017 when he man-marked Eden Hazard out of the game.
While the midfielder wasn’t the most gifted player, he was a fans’ favourite at Old Trafford due to his passion and won the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award in 2016/17.
Admittedly, it’s still early days but Casemiro has completely transformed United’s midfield in a short space of time.
The Brazil international joined United from Real Madrid in the summer of 2022 and has since cemented his status as one of the best defensive midfielders in the world.
He’s also chipped up with some important goals, including a late equaliser against Chelsea and the opener against Newcastle in their 2023 Carabao Cup final victory.
“He’s been a huge signing,” former United midfielder Roy Keane told ITV. “Over the last few years for Man United, particularly in the middle of the park, they’ve lacked a quality player with a big personality, a guy with a bit of presence.
“He’s a top-quality player. We see it week in, week out. He affects games. Before he came there was this perception he’s a sitting midfielder because of working with different players at Real Madrid, players who are more attack-minded.
“But we’re now seeing over the last few months he’s got so much quality going forward in terms of the final pass and he’s getting goals, as well as being very, very good defensively.
“A huge signing for Man United and a big personality, which Man United needed.”
🇧🇷 @Casemiro got the ball rolling for @ManUtd! ⚽️#EFL | #CarabaoCupFinal pic.twitter.com/edydCPeoQG
— Carabao Cup (@Carabao_Cup) February 27, 2023
1. Bruno Fernandes
There was only ever going to be one winner.
Fernandes joined United from Sporting Lisbon in January 2020 and hit the ground running, registering 40 goals and 25 assists in his first 18 months at Old Trafford.
Along with most of the United players, the 28-year-old then suffered a dip in form throughout the 2021/22 campaign.
But he has rediscovered his best form under Ten Hag, showcasing his tireless work ethic while also having the ability the make the difference in the final third.
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