In a summer of change at Old Trafford, Eric Bailly is the first of what could be multiple new signings as new manager José Mourinho looks to reshape the team in his own image. With potential transfer targets currently playing in the European Championships in France, Last Word on Sports looks back at the signings Manchester United have made in the Premier League era in summers where a European Championships has taken place, and what impact they had at the club.
Only signings made during the summer will be looked at, so signings such as Eric Cantona’s 1992 move from Leeds United won’t be considered as it was completed in November.
Manchester United Post European Championship Signings
Dion Dublin, Jovan Kirovski, Pat McGibbon
The summer prior to the first Premier League season Manchester United signed three players none of whom played at the European Championships in Denmark. Striker Dion Dublin was signed from Cambridge United to add more firepower to a United side that had finished second in the league the previous year. Dublin failed to make an impact at Manchester United after a broken leg and the good form of Eric Cantona restricted his appearances. Dublin left for Coventry City after just two years at the club.
Pat McGibbon and Jovan Kirovski were both young players signed with an eye on the future. However, they mustered only one League Cup appearance between them – McGibbon v York City – before both moved on.
Jordi Cruyff, Ronny Johnsen, Karel Poborsky, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Raimond van der Gouw
United were very busy in the transfer market in the summer football came home. After impressive performances for their countries in Euro 96, United signed right-winger Karel Poborsky and son of the legendary Johan Cruyff, Jordi. Poborsky found his first team opportunities as a young David Beckham established himself as a United star. Cruyff also did not manage as many appearances as he would have liked as injuries hampered his chances before he departed in 2000
Norwegian duo Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ronny Johnsen both joined and would play major roles in United’s success, both being key parts of the treble winning side of 1999, before Johnsen departed in 2002 and Solskjaer retired in 2007, his place in United history firmly etched, scoring 126 goals for the club including the winner in the 1999 Champions League final.
Raimond van der Gouw was signed as back-up to Peter Schmeichel and proved a reliable deputy to the Great Dane performing well whenever call upon. He continued this role after Schmeichel left for Sporting Lisbon, even taking a spell as first-choice goalkeeper as Schmeichel’s replacement Mark Bosnich struggled for form in the 1999-2000 season. Van der Gouw left in 2002 after 60 appearances for the club picking up six winners medals in his time at the club.
United only made one signing in the summer of 2000: Monaco goalkeeper Fabien Barthez, fresh off winning Euro 2000 with France, was the next in a long line of goalkeepers who would attempt to fill the gloves of Peter Schmeichel. Despite being considered to be of the world’s best after winning both the European Championships and 1998 World Cup with France, Barthez had a mixed time at Old Trafford. Sublime on his day, Barthez also had a tendency to eccentricities in goal, including mind games with opponents, as well trying to dribble past strikers and this started to cost United goals. In 2003 Sir Alex Ferguson ran out of patience with Barthez and the Frenchman moved to Marseille.
Alan Smith, Gabriel Heinze, Gerard Pique, Giuseppe Rossi, Wayne Rooney
Alan Smith joined Manchester United in 2004 after Leeds United were relegated. Initially a striker, Smith would later be deployed in central midfield with mixed results. A horrific injury which saw Smith break his leg against Liverpool in 2006 would limit further appearances as he recovered from his injuries before he joined Newcastle in 2007.
Gabriel Heinze made an immediate impact after joining Manchester United establishing himself as first choice left-back and winning United’s player of the year for 2004/05. However after sustaining a long term injury Heinze did not regain his first team place upon his recovery having been replaced by new signing Patrice Evra. With limited appearances, Heinze had an acrimonious departure from Old Trafford as he tried to force a move to rivals Liverpool. This move was rejected by Sir Alex Ferguson and eventually the Argentine moved to Real Madrid.
Gerard Pique and Giuseppe Rossi were both young prospects when they joined Manchester United but both would find greater opportunities and success away from Old Trafford. Pique made 23 appearances for United but failed to dislodge the established partnership of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidić before returning to Barcelona, where he would become a key figure in their success. Rossi himself could not force his way past the likes of Ruud van Nistelrooy and Wayne Rooney and made only 14 appearances before departing for Villarreal, and would be part of the side that reached the Champions League semi-finals.
After he impressed for England at Euro 2004, Manchester United paid a record fee for a teenager to bring Everton forward Wayne Rooney to Old Trafford. Currently Rooney is club captain, has won every major club honour and is four goals short of Sir Bobby Charlton’s Manchester United goal scoring record.
Dimitar Berbatov, Davide Petrucci
Dimitar Berbatov joined Manchester United from Tottenham Hotspur on deadline day in 2008 after a summer long transfer saga. An effective striker, Berbatov scored 56 goals in 149 games for United; Berbatov was praised for his technical ability. However, he would often be criticized for his work rate and would be described as lazy. After four years and two league titles Berbatov signed for Fulham in 2012.
Davide Petrucci was a young prospect signed from Roma. However, he never made a first team appearance and left for Romanian side CFR Cluj.
Shinji Kagawa, Alex Büttner, Robin van Persie, Ángelo Henríquez
The summer after Euro 2012 would be Sir Alex Ferguson’s last before he retired; Shinji Kagawa became the first Japanese player in Manchester United history. Kagawa spent two years at United picking up a Premier League winner’s medal in 2012/13.
Dutch left back Alex Büttner joined from Vitesse. However, Büttner struggled to break into the first team and left for Dynamo Moscow in 2014 having made only 28 appearances for the club.
Ángelo Henríquez joined as young prospect from Universidad de Chile. The Chilean striker spent three years at the club mostly out on loan at Wigan Athletic, Real Zaragoza and Dinamo Zagreb before making the move to Zagreb permanent in 2015 without making a senior appearance for United.
In August 2012, Manchester United signed Robin van Persie from rivals Arsenal. Van Persie made an immediate impact scoring 30 goals in his first season, firing United to the Premier League title. He was less prolific over the next two years scoring 28 goals across both seasons. In 2015, van Persie left Manchester United to join Turkish side Fenerbahçe.