One thing the New Year always brings with it, other than hangovers and the harsh reality of being back at work, is the January transfer window. By this stage of the season, clubs will have a better idea of where they are, and what they need to improve their squad. Manchester United are expected to be busy this month. They have been continually linked with Benfica defender Victor Lindelöf, among others.
It is often said that the Red Devils don’t buy in winter, however, this is not the case. United’s history shows that since 2002-03, when the January transfer window was established, they have signed or loaned 17 players. Some were hits, and some really weren’t.
Dong Fangzhuo was the first ever Chinese player to join United, and he signed from Dalian Shide in 2004. He cost the Red Devils £3.5 million, and was immediately loaned to Royal Antwerp due to work permit issues. Dong spent two years with the Belgian side, scoring 31 goals and making his full debut for China. He was finally granted a work permit in 2007, and added to United’s first team squad.
Dong only made three appearances for United, and he was released in 2008, returning to Dalian Shide. His later career took him to Poland and Armenia. In 2014, following a spell in the Chinese second tier, he retired at the age of just 29.
Angola international striker joined United after impressing during a three week trial in December 2007. Upon signing he was immediately loaned to Greek side Panathinaikos, due to issues obtaining a work permit. He joined the squad for the 2008-09 season, but after making just three substitute appearances he was loaned to Hull City. Unable to make the grade at Old Trafford, he joined Spanish outfit Valladolid in 2009 for an undisclosed fee.
He moved onto Rayo Vallecano of Spain’s Segunda division in 2014. After a promising start, his career has become that of a journeyman. It is rumoured, but not confirmed, that he is due to sign for Mexican side Cruz Azul. Now aged 33, he has not played for Angola in more than two years.
The Brazilian joined from Internacional in January 2008, and United had high hopes for the midfielder. He made his Premier League debut as a substitute on the opening day of the 2008-09 season against Newcastle. He was given his first start for the club a month later, in a League Cup game against Middlesbrough. In this game, he sustained a serious injury following a challenge by Emanuel Pogatetz and was ruled out for several weeks. Upon his return he found first team football hard to come by.
Possebon did win a League Cup medal, as an unused substitute in the 2009 final win over Tottenham. Following a loan spell with Portuguese side Braga, he returned to Brazil with Santos in 2010. Still only 27, his career has taken him to six different clubs in the last four years. The last team he was reported as playing for are Brazilian semi-pro outfit URT.
In January 2009, Manchester United announced a double deal for Partizan Belgrade players Zoran Tošić and Adem Ljajić. The latter was meant to join the following year, but the deal was scrapped due to work permit issues. Tošić joined immediately, and made his debut for United later that month in an F.A. Cup tie against Tottenham. The Serbian winger never started a game for United, and in January 2010 he was loaned to German side 1. FC Köln. In June of that year he joined CSKA Moscow in an £8 million deal, where he still plays to this day.
Ritchie De Laet
The versatile Belgian defender joined United from Stoke City in the January transfer window of 2009, for an undisclosed fee dependent on appearances. The club’s strength in depth made it difficult for him to break through, and he spent most of his three years with United on loan. He moved to Leicester City in 2012, helping them to promotion to the Premier League. He currently plays in the Championship for Aston Villa.
The Danish goalkeeper was signed by United from Aalaesund in January 2011, for a fee of £3.5 million. At the time, Ferguson was looking for a potential replacement for the departing Edwin van der Sar. He made his debut in the F.A. Cup against Southampton later that month. Although he was a solid goalkeeper, he never convinced enough to prevent the United manager from buying David De Gea.
Most of Lindegaard’s opportunities came while the Spanish keeper initially struggled adapting to the Premier League. Once De Gea settled, the Dane barely featured again. He joined West Bromwich Albion on a free transfer in 2015, later joining his current side Preston North End.
On the final day of the 2012 January transfer window, it was announced that United had signed someone from local rivals City. Few had heard of Swiss born Frederic Veseli, before he made the cross town switch, and fewer still remember him. He never made a single senior appearance for either Manchester club, and joined Ipswich Town in July 2013. Veseli later moved on to Port Vale, before heading to Italy with Lugano. He is currently on the books of Empoli, having joined last summer.
The only reason most will remember Zaha’s United career is that he was the final player ever signed by Sir Alex Ferguson. He never played under the legendary manager, as he stayed on loan at Crystal Palace, before moving to Old Trafford in the summer of 2013. By the time Zaha pulled on a United shirt, David Moyes was in charge and clearly didn’t fancy the winger, loaning him to Cardiff City.
When Louis van Gaal took over the United hot seat, he loaned him back to Palace, and the deal was made permanent in 2015. Since moving back to Selhurst Park, Zaha has been in the same kind of form that made United buy him in the first place. Despite having previously played for England, it was not in a competitive match. As a result, he has accepted an invitation from the Ivory Coast to represent them at the African Cup of Nations.
The Barcelona legend was a free agent following the expiration of his contract, and he moved to Old Trafford in January 2015. Louis van Gaal had given the goalkeeper his debut back in 2002, when he was manager at the Nou Camp. At the time it was unclear whether he was signed as a replacement for the seemingly Real Madrid-bound David De Gea, or just as cover for his fellow Spaniard. Valdés made his debut as a substitute against Arsenal in May 2015, following an injury to De Gea. He kept his place for the final game of the season against Hull City the following week.
Valdés never made another appearance for United, following a public falling out with van Gaal. The manager claimed that Valdés refused to play in a reserve fixture, and he was not even assigned a squad number for the 2015-16 season. He was loaned to Standard Liège in January, leaving United at the end of his eighteen month deal. At the start of this season he joined Middlesbrough, and played against United at Old Trafford on New Years Eve.
In January 2015, Andy Kellet became an internet sensation when it was reported that he had joined United on loan. Bolton At this time the Red Devils were struggling for defensive cover, with quite an extensive injury list. The young full back had been previously unheard of before moving to Old Trafford from Bolton Wanderers. He had only made four appearances for the Trotters, and had spent the first half of the season at Plymouth Argyle. The arrangement saw United academy product Saidy Janko move to Bolton in a similar deal.
Kellett never made an appearance for the senior side, instead featuring primarily for the Under-21’s. Following the end of his loan deal, United chose not to follow up their interest in the defender. That summer, he moved to his current club Wigan Athletic. He may not have made the grade at Old Trafford, but the deal saw hundreds of thousands of United fans briefly checking out his Wikipedia page. Indeed, Kellett himself thought it was a joke when his then manager Neil Lennon told him
Coming Soon – Part Two: The Hits.