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The Good, The Bad And The Mediocre – United Transfers – But Who Do You Rate As United’s Best Ever Buy?

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Written by John White
Branch Secretary
Carryduff Manchester United Supporters’ Club

Over the years Manchester United have bought hundreds upon hundreds of players, some good, some bad, some mediocre and some sensational.

In this article, John White, a leading authority on Manchester United, and the author of 17 books on the club, takes a look at each United manager’s first ever going back to when Matt Busby was appointed the manager of the club on 19 February 1945.

Matt Busby – Jimmy Delaney, £4,000, Glasgow Celtic, February 1946

Wilf McGuiness – Ian Ure, £80,000, Arsenal, August 1969

Frank O’Farrell – Martin Buchan, £125,000, Aberdeen, 29 February 1972

Tommy Docherty = George Graham, £120,000, Arsenal, December 1972

Dave Sexton = Joe Jordan, £350,000, Leeds United, 4 January 1978 (Gary Bailey was signed for Free from Witts University, Johannesburg, South Africa in January 1978)

Ron Atkinson – John Gidman, £450,000 and a swap deal with Mickey Thomas, Everton, August 1981

Alex Ferguson – Viv Anderson £250,000, Arsenal, 9 July 1987

David Moyes – Marouane Fellaini, £27.5 million, Everton, 2 September 2013

Louis van Gaal– Ander Herrera, £29.mIllion, Atletico Bilbao, 26 June 2014

Jose Mourinho – Eric Bailly, Undisclosed Fee, Villarreal, 6 June 2016

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – Daniel James, Undisclosed Fee, Swansea City, 12 June 2019

For me, unquestionably the best ever first signing by a Manchester United manager was when Frank O’Farrell broke the club’s transfer record to sign Martin Buchan from Aberdeen for £125,000. The immensely stylish Scot went on to captain United to the Second Division Championship title in season 1975-76 and FA Cup glory over Liverpool in 1977 preventing the Scousers from winning the Treble.

Buchan oozed class, a Rolls Royce performer on the pitch, and remains the only player to captain a Scottish FA Cup winning side, Aberdeen in 1970 aged 21, and an English FA Cup winning side, United in the Silver Jubilee Cup final of 1977 (beat Liverpool 2-1).

Buchan was so stylish, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra should have been playing in the stands at Old Trafford accompanying him. Martin played 456 times for United and scored 4 goals from 29 February 1972 to 1 August 1983.

Who in your opinion is the best ever player signed by United which involved a fee, meaning you cannot say George Best, and who in your opinion was the worst?

Please feel free to air your views in the comment facility beneath this article.

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  • Brendan Perry says:

    Eric Cantona = best.
    Bringing Paul Pogba back does not appear to be working,sadly.Should he leave Man Utd?

  • Paddy says:

    King Eric as he waltzed in with his chest out collar up and won us our 1st league title in 26 years and the rest they say is history

  • Brendan Perry says:

    ok Paul.
    Paddy Crerand 1960’s Lou Macari 1970’s Bryan Robson 1980’s all great signings.

  • Gerry McCollum says:

    Think John your article is about the first signing each manager made and have to agree re Martin Buchan. Met a few times and as class off field as was on it. Sometimes today we forget how good players in past were as good as they were.

    As any signing difficult go past Eric albeit only a short time.Denis Irwin also a great buy and as like Eric cost very little. Then of course ROY!!

    A great favourite of mine Stevie Coppell

  • Eugene says:

    As a united fan since 1981 Bryan Robson sitting behind the table with Big Ron on the pitch springs to mind. Then in the 90s Robson recommended Sir Alex sign Roy Keane. Real leaders. I also think Steve Bruce was a great buy.

  • Jim says:

    Has to Cantona for me followed by Ronaldinho.

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