The authors of this week’s UTD Unscripted long reads – Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic – may have complemented each other in one of Manchester United’s greatest ever partnerships on the pitch, but the deals that brought the defenders to the club required very different levels of expenditure.
Ferdinand’s eye-catching arrival in 2002 was one of six times United have broken the British transfer record but four years later, Vidic’s January 2006 signing was somewhat under the radar and inexpensive by comparison.
By the time the Serbian left Old Trafford for Inter Milan in the summer of 2014, the reported £7million transfer fee paid to Spartak Moscow for his services looked very much like a bargain, after he’d helped the club to win five Premier League titles, the Champions League, the Club World Cup and three League Cups.
Here we look at five other signings since 2005 who’ve provided similar value to Vidic…
EDWIN VAN DER SAR
Signed from Fulham, July 2005 | Games: 266After six years of upheaval following Peter Schmeichel’s departure in 1999, the arrival of Edwin van der Sar in 2005 was like sinking into a warm, relaxing bath. And he reportedly cost the club just £2m! Given that the goalkeeping position is so tricky to sort, it was a scarcely believable deal. And, even better, van der Sar was in his 30s, and already hugely experienced. He was just what a young-ish defence built around Ferdinand and Vidic would need over the next few years.
Van der Sar proved to be one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s best bargain buys.
Whatever was going on in front of him, Edwin was as cool as a cucumber; as composed as a Cold War diplomat. As a supporter, it made watching the Reds that much easier: you knew an Edwin mistake was as rare as a lunar eclipse. And you knew his defenders felt exactly the same way. He made everyone else perform better during his six years in M16, and left with Old Trafford demanding ‘One more year’ en masse during his final few matches. Oh, and he won us a European Cup. The only regret was that we didn’t capture him earlier in his career. But what a tremendous piece of business his transfer was — one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s most important and underrated moves.
Signed from PSV Eindhoven, July 2005 | Games: 205, Goals: 27
Park’s intelligence, physicality and technical skill made him a vital component of the United team that won five Premier League titles from 2007 to 2013 and although he was infamously omitted from the 2008 Champions League final squad – a decision described by Sir Alex as one of the hardest he had to make in management – the Korean icon still deservedly collected a winners’ medal after making a big contribution en route to Moscow. His transfer fee was officially undisclosed but seven years and over 200 appearances for a reputed £4million mean he’s a must-pick for our bargain buys list.
Signed in 2005, Park became the first Asian player to win the Premier League two years later.
Signed from Monaco, January 2006 | Games: 379, Goals: 10
Like Denis Irwin before him, a decade-and-a-half earlier, Evra arrived without fanfare to eventually become an immovable force on the left side of United’s defence. Also wearing the no.3, the Frenchman showed similar traits to his legendary predecessor in terms of his willingness to join the attack. But unlike Irwin, Pat wasn’t noted as a quiet man and was instead a flamboyant dressing-room character who loved to express his love for the game to anyone who’d listen, as he stacked up his winners’ medals in a successful eight-year stint from 2006 to 2014.
United Greats: We all love Patrice Evra Video
Signed from C.D. Guadalajara, April 2010 | Games: 157, Goals: 59
There’s nothing like a well-timed transfer announcement to lift your mood and after we exited the UEFA Champions League in April 2010, the news of Javier Hernandez’s capture was very well received from my point of view. I’d never heard of him in all honesty, but Bayern Munich had mugged us via away goals the night before and confirmation of a new Mexican import cheered me right up. The fee, while undisclosed, was reported to be small and it was so satisfying to see ‘Chicharito’, our hidden gem, ripping it up upon his arrival, eventually scoring 20 times in his debut season and winning the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award. He played four full seasons at Old Trafford and was eternally popular with the fans, combining his boyish good looks with a steely work ethic and genuine appreciation for the club. He was class! As far as value for money goes, the ‘Little Pea’ was a big bargain.
Free agent, July 2016 | Games: 53, Goals: 29
There was always a sense of wondering how the giant Swede with the even bigger ego would fare in the Premier League and he wasted no time proving he was up to the task at Old Trafford.
Of course, there was no fee as he was out of contract with Paris Saint-Germain and the move was not only shrewd but popular as he radiated charisma and personality. The sort of centre-forward who would get his revenge in first on defenders, he was a winner with a burning desire to succeed that rubbed off on his younger colleagues. In short, Zlatan was a lot of fun and good value in his short time with the Reds.
United Cult Heroes: Javier HernandezVideo
Edwin: How we won in MoscowVideo
United Greats: Ji-sung Park Video