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5 of the biggest flop signings at Manchester United since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson

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5 biggest flops signings at Man United since the departure of Sir Alex

Sir Alex Ferguson’s illustrious and distinguished reign at Old Trafford, which stretched over two-and-a-half decades from 1986 to 2013, was arguably the most memorable era in Man United’s history in English football.

Several legends of the beautiful game were a part of a period that saw the Red Devils consolidate their position as one of the powerhouses in Europe.

The proud Scot’s influential and charismatic stewardship was instrumental in guiding Man United to as many as 38 major titles over the course of 26 years, including 13 Premier League crowns, 5 FA Cups, 4 League Cups and 3 UEFA Champions League titles. 

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However, things have hardly been the same since the talismanic and legendary manager brought down the curtains on his trophy-laden managerial career at the end of the 2012-13 season, which was the last time that United had managed to claim the bragging rights in English football with a Premier League triumph.

The Red Devils have been in some kind of a downward spiral since Sir Alex’s departure, with United only winning a handful of silverware over the course of the last six seasons, including the 2016-17 UEFA Europa League as well as the FA Cup and the League Cup.

The lack of silverware in the recent past is unlikely to tarnish the legacy that the legendary Scotsman built over such a long time, however, one cannot help but question the kind of transfer policy that the club has adopted since his departure.

David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, and Jose Mourinho each tried to impose their own brand of philosophy, both in terms of the style of play as well as the transfer approach, although neither of them proved proficient enough to last for a considerable time.

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Being one of the most decorated clubs in the world, the financial backing in the transfer window was never a problem for all the managers who took over at Old Trafford since the departure of Sir Alex.

The club’s vice-executive chairman Ed Woodward has given his seal of approval to several high profile transfers over the past six seasons but his rate of failure has been quite alarming.

United haven’t got much out of the staggering money that they have spent since the retirement of Sir Alex, with the Red Devils opting to splash the cash on several ageing and established players with little or no success.

A former player under Sir Alex, Man United’s current manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has made an attempt to bring a sense of stability at the helm of affairs since taking over the reins from Mourinho back in December last year.

The Norwegian, who is pretty well-versed with Sir Alex’s age-old methods of building a strong platform for continued success, has already made his intentions very clear with the acquisition of top-quality homegrown domestic talents. 

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United, however, still look more or less like a disjointed unit comprising of several players brought in by different managers. That is currently the challenge on Solskjaer’s hands and he would need time to build a squad in his own image and ultimately work towards the revival of the club.

Let us take a look at some of United’s most expensive flop signings since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson.

1. Paul Pogba – £89million

The expectations surrounding the return of Paul Pogba to Old Trafford were rocketing sky-high when United splashed a club-record fee of £89million to re-sign their former academy product from Juventus back in 2016. Three years down the line, the Red Devils would probably now look at the move as nothing but a waste of money. 

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Indeed, Pogba enjoyed his most fruitful spell as a footballer in the 2018-19 season, having racked up a total of 16 goals and 11 assists in all competitions under Solskjaer and Mourinho.

While those stats on paper show that he was one of United’s best players last season, Pogba himself would probably know that he was far from his best. 

The Frenchman arrived at Old Trafford as a marquee and marketable asset and, though United have got their returns from the player, Pogba has failed to deliver the goods on a consistent basis.

Despite teasing the fans with some awe-inspiring moments of individual brilliance, Pogba seemingly doesn’t have the character and the mentality to take the club to greater heights. Not really what you would want from an £89million signing!

2. Angel Di Maria – £59.7million

United splashed a then club-record amount to bring Angel Di Maria to the club from Real Madrid and the Argentinian magician inherited the famous No.7 shirt at Old Trafford which was previously worn by the likes of David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo, George Best, and Eric Cantona.

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The winger arrived with a massive reputation of scoring and creating goals for fun but what followed was less than impressive.

Di Maria’s classy finish in a victory over Leicester City became one of the few highlights of his short and ill-fated stay at United, as the Argentinian struggled to cope with the physicality of the Premier League.

It became more and more apparent that he didn’t have the necessary attributes to cut the mustard in the English top-flight and United had to cut their losses on him in the following summer.

3. Fred – £52million

The Brazilian midfield enforcer looked like a real coup for United when the Red Devils splashed a daunting £52million fee to nab him from Shakhtar Donetsk. However, one year down the line, United cannot help but feel that they have been way too wasteful with their finances in the transfer market.

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Jose Mourinho was the man responsible for bringing the Brazilian to Old Trafford in the summer of 2018 but even he found it impossible to entrust Fred with a regular starting role in the team.

It is not very often that you see a £52million-rated player go without playing a game for nearly two months in a season while still being fit. That pretty much sums how shambolic Fred has been over the past twelve months.

The Brazilian showed some signs of promise under Solskjaer last season but he flattered to deceive more often than not, and nothing short of an excellent 2019-20 campaign could possibly save him from the chop.

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4. Romelu Lukaku- £75million

Romelu Lukaku struggled for regular minutes at Chelsea earlier in his career but he arrived at Man United for £75millionas a bonafide goalscorer for Everton, having struck 87 goals in 166 appearances for the Toffees prior to his arrival at Old Trafford in 2017.

It looked as if the Belgian had all the attributes to be the next prolific No.9 at United when he netted 27 goals in all competitions in his first season at the club.

However, a sudden loss of form in the 2018-19 season saw him finish with a mediocre tally of 15 goals in all competitions and he fell out of favour under Solskjaer towards the end of the campaign.

A tally of 42 goals in 96 games do not look bad on paper but in all honesty, anybody who has watched him play would know that he lacks the technical abilities and the natural finesse to consistently rack up the goals at a club of United’s stature.

A glaring misfit for Solskjaer’s style of play, Lukaku was truly pathetic last season and United have made the right move by offloading him to Inter Milan.

5. Eric Bailly – £30million

The Ivorian has proven himself to be an impetuous defender with a poor injury record at Old Trafford and truth be told, he has never looked like a centre-back who has the quality to be a regular starter for any top-six club in the Premier League.

Bailly had a strong debut season at United and managed to establish himself as one of the first names on Mourinho’s teamsheet, making a total of 24 starts in the Premier League and also helping the Red Devils win the Europa League.

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However, he slipped down the pecking order after that due to several injuries and even when he played, the Ivorian’s habit of letting his team down with moments of madness and lapses in concentration made him unpopular amongst the fans.

He has certainly not proved himself worthy of the £30million that Man United had spent to bring him to Old Trafford.

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Arsenal

Arsenal? Manchester United? – Which of the big clubs will achieve a top-4 finish in the PL this season?

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Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Man United- who will miss out on top four?

The 2018/19 Premier League title race went down to the wire, with Manchester City beating Liverpool to the crown by just a point. The team that followed them were Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United respectively.

The new season is just two games old and Liverpool and Arsenal are the only teams to have enjoyed a 100% record thus far, after Manchester United dropped points in the 1-1 draw with Wolves at Molineux on Monday.

We saw an entertaining battle between Manchester City and Tottenham end in a 2-2 draw at the Etihad last weekend, with VAR’s intervention denying the champions a late winner. These are early days but the Premier League table is shaping up very well.

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Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal have comprised the table’s top six in each of the previous three seasons.

Considering City and Liverpool are set to battle it out again for the Premier League title, which two teams amongst Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United will make it to the top four this time? Let’s have a look.

Chelsea

Just two games into the new season, Chelsea manager Frank Lampard is already under pressure to find some tactical answers as he is still seeking his first Premier League victory.

After the opening day mauling at the hands of Manchester United at Old Trafford, Chelsea’s performances improved in the UEFA Super Cup defeat to Liverpool and the 1-1 draw with Leicester City at the weekend, although Lampard’s men were lucky to escape with a point.

The Blues’ transfer window embargo meant Lampard couldn’t strengthen his squad in the summer. The 41-year-old had to be content with the squad set up by Maurizio Sarri but without Eden Hazard, who joined Real Madrid.

Hazard contributed directly to half of Chelsea’s league goals last season, and their attack was almost totally reliant on him. The Belgian’s departure has left a huge void and that coupled with the exits of experienced defenders Gary Cahill and David Luiz, Lampard’s Chelsea are set for a long season.

Prediction: There have been more negatives than positives in Chelsea’s first two league games and while Lampard will take time to give his side a fixed style of play, it’s difficult to see the Blues making it to the top four.

Tottenham

Against all odds, Tottenham reached the Champions League final last season only to fail at the final hurdle. A combination of their European exploits and a failure to make new signings saw their Premier League form suffer.

However, Spurs spent heavily this summer, signing players like Tanguy Ndombele, Giovani Lo Celso and Ryan Sessegnon.

Pochettino’s side have started the new campaign well, taking four points out of a possible six. Despite the departures of Kieran Trippier, Fernando Llorente and Vincent Janssen, Tottenham have been boosted by their new signings and can better last season’s finish.

Prediction: If Pochettino can keep Harry Kane fit throughout the season and get the best out of his new signings, Tottenham can threaten to make it a three-horse title race this time around.

Arsenal

There is a real buzz at Arsenal because of the arrival of new faces at the Emirates and the rollicking start they have made to the new campaign.

Victories over Newcastle and Burnley means that the Gunners have enjoyed a perfect start, although a trip to Liverpool beckons at the weekend. Considering their recent visits to Anfield, it could be all doom and gloom for the North London giants.

Nevertheless, Unai Emery will be happy with the start and would expect things to get better. On loan from Real Madrid, Dani Ceballos made quite an impact on his full debut against Burnley, while the fans also saw glimpses of quality from star man, Nicolas Pepe.

But the Gunners still look defensively shaky and that was visible in the game against Burnley.

David Luiz’s acquisition from Chelsea on the transfer deadline day was a coup but his track-record of clumsy and erratic defending will hardly fill Bernd Leno with confidence.

Then there is the error-prone Shkodran Mustafi, an ageing Sokratis Papastathopoulos and a not-yet-fit Rob Holding in central defence.

Prediction: While Pepe has given a different threat and dynamism to the Arsenal attack, Emery’s defence could again plot his downfall. They’ll miss Aaron Ramsey’s midfield vigour and big-game performances. Frankly, the Gunners won’t make it to the top four this season.

Manchester United

Despite a frustrating transfer window, Manchester United brought three new players in Daniel James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire. And all three of the new signings have made an impact in the first two weeks of the new season, helping the Red Devils bag four points out of a possible six.

Ever since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, Manchester United have only made the Premier League top-four twice. This shows just how far they’ve fallen from grace.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants to bring the glory days back at Old Trafford by promoting young players and playing relentless attacking football.

United were defensively shambolic last season and Solskjaer strengthened his backline with the additions of Maguire and Wan-Bissaka. They lacked natural width as well and Solskjaer addressed it by bringing in the explosive Daniel James, who is also direct in his style of play.

The United boss has let go of Romelu Lukaku to Inter but didn’t sign a replacement. This seems like a plan to promote academy starlet Mason Greenwood.

Prediction: Going by the first two games, the Red Devils look more composed and secure at the back. Solskjaer’s army looks weak in the midfield and an injury to either Paul Pogba or any central midfielder could see them sweat.

Genuinely, though, the players seem sharper and fit, attacking with pace and hitting opponents on the counter. Despite some obvious weaknesses, the Red Devils’ immediate objective of steady improvement and a return to the top four seems possible.

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Manchester United

Wolves 1-1 Manchester United – Here’s where it went wrong for Solskjaer’s men

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How Wolves drew 1-1 with Manchester United at the Molineux

Manchester United had travelled to the Molineux Stadium on Monday to face Wolves, hoping to build on their winning start to this Premier League campaign.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side made a bright start to the game and opened the scoring in the 27th minute through Anthony Martial, who scored with a powerful finish from a tight angle.

However, the home team came up with a response in the second half through Ruben Neves’ fantastic long-range strike in the 55th minute.

Paul Pogba earned a penalty and had the chance to win it for the visitors, but his spot-kick was saved by Rui Patricio. In the end, Solskjaer’s Manchester United had to settle with a point as the game finished 1-1 at the Molineux.

The build-up to the game

Manchester United headed into Monday night’s game on the back of a fantastic 4-0 victory over Chelsea. Goals from Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Daniel James gave United a perfect start to the season.

Wolves, meanwhile, booked a place in the Europa League play-off after enjoying a thumping 8-0 aggregate victory over Armenian club FC Pyunik.

Tactical Analysis

Solskjaer dropped Andreas Pereira in favour of Daniel James for the only change he made to the starting lineup against Chelsea, fielding his team in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Wolves remained unchanged from their 0-0 draw with Leicester City, as Nuno Espirito Santo stuck to his usual 3-5-2 formation.

United started the game on the front foot and dominated possession straightaway. Wolves were happy to sit back, defend and wait for the counter-attack.

They defended in a low block with minimal space to work in the midfield as their midfielders Ruben Neves, Joao Moutinho and Leander Dendoncker harried and hassled the United players into relinquishing possession.

As the game progressed and United began to control more of the ball, Wolves’ organised defence means it became difficult for the visitors to find any spaces to exploit. Nuno’s side were quite disciplined and well-drilled, clearing anything that came in and around the box.

Wolves’ deep block defence and intense press in the defensive third posed problems for United’s centrally-oriented attacking play. As a result, the visitors struggled to quickly switch play and execute their plans down the wide areas.

Despite Solskjaer’s men dominating possession, they couldn’t create chances to play centrally and even when they did on a few occasions, it was dealt with by the Wolves defenders.

As it happened

Wolves’ plan, however, was disrupted in the 27th minute when Martial fired home the opener after a Luke Shaw run distracted Coady and pulled him away to open up space for the Frenchman, who made no mistake and scored from inside the box with a left-footed shot.

United were utterly dominant and were unlucky not to double their lead before heading into half-time.

Matt Doherty came off at half time after picking up an injury and was replaced by Adama Traore. It was a forced substitution for Wolves but one that worked wonders.

Wolves came out all guns blazing in the second half, as expected, with Traore isolating Shaw and getting past him on a number of occasions with ease.

Nuno’s men started asking questions to United’s backline as Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota – the duo that rarely got any service from its teammates to thrive, became lively. And it was Traore who won the free-kick for Jimenez’s header that struck the post and was later cleared away for a corner.

From the resulting corner, Wolves equalised through Neves. Moutinho supplied a low cross towards the edge of the box to Neves, who controlled the ball and sorted out of his feet before rifling a shot to the top corner of the net, giving David de Gea absolutely no chance to save.

Solskjaer’s side were rattled after the equaliser and they had only themselves to blame. Before Neves’ goal, United had the chance to go 2-0 up when Wan-Bissaka played a simple pass to Lingard in the opposition box. But the 27-year-old failed to control the ball.

The visitors, however, responded well. Wolves had to deal with spells of wide play from United, who looked to increase the number of bodies inside the penalty area and thus prioritised attacking with crosses into the box.

And for all the possession they dominated after the equaliser, Paul Pogba, dancing his way past a couple of Wolves players and into the box, won a penalty after a foul from Conor Coady.

There was a brief discussion between Rashford and Pogba regarding the spot-kick before the latter took the responsibility. But Pogba’s penalty was kept out excellently by Rui Patricio as it was at a nice height to be saved.

What followed later wasn’t anything significant as the game ended 1-1 at Molineux.

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Wolves vs Man United: 3 Key battles that could decide the outcome of this exciting PL clash

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3 Key battles that could decide the outcome of Wolves vs Manchester United

Wolves welcome Manchester United to the Molineux on Monday night for their second game of the 2019/20 Premier League campaign.

Nuno Espirito Santo’s side drew 0-0 with Leicester City in their season opener at the King Power Stadium last weekend. Five matches into the season and having reached the Europa League qualifying round, the Portuguese tactician made nine changes in Thursday’s 4-0 win over Armenia’s Pyunik, giving four new signings their first Wolves start.

Manchester United, on the other hand, kicked off their 2019/20 Premier League campaign in the best way possible, running out 4-0 winners against Chelsea at Old Trafford last Sunday.

A clean sheet and solid debuts for all the new signings, it was a perfect start for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer but he most certainly will not get carried away knowing who their next opponent is.

Wolves have won the last two meetings at home against United and come into the game after an impressive 4-0 win over FC Pyunik in the Europa League qualifying stages. However, United will be full of confidence, raring to make a statement to back their victory over Chelsea.

Let’s take a look at three key battles that could decide the outcome of this exciting contest.

1. Marcus Rashford vs Conor Coady

Marcus Rashford was excellent in the opening day success, scoring a brace against Chelsea. He was quick, direct and pounced at every opportunity to counter-attack and exploit the spaces left behind by the visitors.

The England international opened the scoring with a fantastic penalty before making it 3-0 with a calm finish off Paul Pogba’s exquisite long ball.

Rashford will probably line up against Wolves defender Conor Coady on Monday, which will be an important battle in the game. A leader of the team, Coady is a very good organiser of the backline and will look to keep the United forward at bay.

2. Raul Jimenez vs Harry Maguire

Raul Jimenez caused United a lot of problems in their last season’s visit to the Molineux. The Mexican was a real handful in the box, outmuscling the defenders with his strength and power. In fact, he had also netted in the 2-1 victory over the Red Devils in the FA Cup quarter-finals.

The Wolves striker is likely to come up against United’s Harry Maguire. The Englishman has wasted no time in making his presence felt at United and gave an impressive display as the Red Devils recorded a clean sheet in their season opener.

He will be back in the heart of United’s defence for Monday’s night clash against Wolves as Solskjaer’s side aim to win all three points. Expect a mouthwatering battle between Jimenez and Maguire at the Molineux.

3. Paul Pogba vs Ruben Neves

Even though he was sloppy on occasions, Paul Pogba starred against Chelsea, bagging two assists. He made his presence felt when it mattered the most, with the floated long pass for Rashford’s second goal being the highlight of the victory.

However, the Frenchman has to be at his very best on Monday as he will come up against Ruben Neves, who has the ability to control games with his wide range of distribution. The Wolves midfielder should be tasked with nullifying Pogba’s influence in the final third, whilst recycling possession and creating chances for his teammates as well.

The Neves-Pogba battle in the midfield would be an interesting one to watch and one that could decide the outcome of the game.

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