The second part of this article focuses on the players that Manchester United have signed in the January transfer window who went on to become a crucial part of the first team squad. It can be tough for clubs to sign the type of players they need in this period. If they are competing in Europe, it’s likely that their potential targets will be cup-tied, or don’t want to move until the summer. Nevertheless, history shows that United have had quite a few successes over the years.
For Part One, click here.
Saha was United’s first ever transfer window signing, bought from Fulham in 2004. The £12.4 million looked like money well spent at first. Saha scored on his debut, and finished his first half-season at Old Trafford with seven goals from fourteen appearances. Unfortunately for the Frenchman, he spent most of the following eighteen months injured. At the turn of 2006, he returned to the team and managed to stay fit for the entire calendar year. As a result, Ferguson decided he no longer needed Ruud van Nistelrooy.
His form at the start of the 2006-07 season was instrumental in United regaining the Premier League title. Almost as soon as 2007 arrived, Saha’s injury curse struck again, and plagued him for the rest of his United career. He missed that year’s F.A. Cup final, and the Champions League triumph the following year.
He joined Everton for an undisclosed fee in 2008, with Sir Alex Ferguson admitting that he could never plan around him. If it were not for his injury jinx, he could have been one of their greatest strikers. In spite of this, he won two Premier League titles and a League Cup in his time at Old Trafford, and scored 42 goals in 124 appearances for the club. Some might say he wasn’t a success, and he probably should have achieved more at United, but he certainly wasn’t a failure.
A total unknown when United signed the big Serbian from Spartak Moscow in 2006, Vidić went on to become one of their greatest ever defenders. After initially struggling to gain a first team place, he soon settled and formed a great partnership with Rio Ferdinand. In his eight years at Old Trafford, Vidić won five Premier League titles, three League Cups, and the Champions League.
When Gary Neville retired in 2011, Vidić was made club captain. He left in 2014 to join Inter Milan, and retired in January 2016 after failing to recover from a back injury. A Manchester United legend, whose chant is still heard in the stands at Old Trafford on match days.
Evra joined in the same transfer window as Vidić, and initially the signs didn’t look good. He made his debut against Manchester City, and looked so off the pace that he was substituted at half time. Like Vidić, he took time to settle, but by the end of 2006 he was one of the first names on the team sheet.
He played a major part in all of United’s trophies over the following eight years, and left to join Juventus in 2014. He is still playing for the Turin club at the time of writing, but regularly takes to social media to post about United. His passion for the club, with whom he achieved so much, makes him one of the most popular players ever to have left Old Trafford; so much so that media speculation that Evra may return to United this month has caused great excitement on Twitter.
The signing of Henrik Larsson was a total surprise, welcomed by both fans and players at Old Trafford. Having won the Champions League with Barcelona the previous May, he had returned to his homeland with Helsingborgs. United, needing a striker, agreed to take him on loan for ten weeks during the Swedish season winter break. Although he scored just three times, his presence and experience gave the squad an immediate lift. As Ryan Giggs said on United’s season review DVD, “we needed a world class striker, and the manager got us one”.
Larsson’s final act in a United shirt was to score the goal against Lille, which put United through to the Champions League quarter-finals. Ferguson tried to get him to extend his stay until the end of the season, but Larsson had promised to return to his club side. Although he didn’t make the mandatory ten appearances, he was still given a Premier League winners’ medal. Nobody could argue that he hadn’t deserved it.
After retiring at the end of the 2010-11 season, United legend Scholes shocked the football world by returning six months later. The fact that the first time it was announced was when United named him among the substitutes for an F.A. Cup tie at Manchester City added to the surprise factor.
Scholes had looked jaded in the last six months of the previous season, and his retirement had looked a wise move. When he returned, however, he proved to be the catalyst for United’s title challenge that season. Both City and United threw away leads at the top of the table, with the Blues eventually claiming the prize. Without Scholes, that title challenge probably wouldn’t have happened.
The following season proved to be his last, and once again he went out as a title winner. Although he played a less prominent role in Ferguson’s last season, it was a fitting way to crown a glorious career. He ended his time at United in the same way he spent the majority of it – lifting silverware.
In January 2014 Manchester United’s title defence was all but over. It also looked like they wouldn’t qualify for the Champions League, which they subsequently didn’t. New blood was needed and the signing of Chelsea’s two-time player of the year caused much excitement. He was expected to be the catalyst that ignited the fire in the Red Devil’s season. Although Mata did well, the team were still inconsistent, which cost David Moyes his job and caused United to finish 7th.
Although Louis van Gaal’s time at United is one that not many fans remember too fondly, Mata has continued to impress. Feats such as scoring twice at Anfield, and then following that with a goal against City a few weeks later have made him a firm fan favourite. It was widely expected that when José Mourinho took over, he would sell Mata just as he had at Chelsea. This has proved not to be the case, and the Spain international remains a key part of the United squad.
Special Mention: Sadiq El Fitori
A player who cannot be classed as either a hit or a miss just yet, as he is still at United but has yet to break into the first team. After being released by Manchester City, Libyan defender Sadiq El Fitori was offered a trial by Salford City in 2014. He made one appearance for the side before co-owners, and United legends, Paul Scholes and Phil Neville recommended him to their former club. El Fitori passed the trial and signed for United in January 2015.
A strong, athletic right back who can also be deployed centrally, he was drafted into United’s 25 man squad for this season. Despite not yet having made his first team debut, he now has three caps for Libya. Time will tell whether he will be a success or a failure at Old Trafford.