Manchester United‘s recruitment has come under fire in recent years, and the club hasn’t always been immaculate when it comes to selling players.
Ed Woodward, United’s executive vice-chairman, is not a popular person among United fans due to the club’s dismal transfer market record, with the club missing out on several of their successive managers’ top targets since 2013. We looked at the ten players who were signed by Woodward and then sold for less than what they were worth during his stay at Old Trafford.
Angel Di Maria
In 2014, United paid £59.7 million to Real Madrid for Di Maria, a then-British record transfer fee. Despite a strong start to his Manchester United career, he fell out of favor under Louis van Gaal due to off-field issues.
After only a year in England, the Argentina international was permitted to go at a hefty loss, joining Ligue 1 side PSG for £44.3 million.
Schneiderlin joined United for £25 million in 2015 after impressing in the Premier League with Southampton. However, the midfielder never quite recovered from his form on the south coast, and Jose Mourinho quickly thought him surplus to needs. In January 2017, United sold him to Everton for £22 million, recouping the majority of their investment.
After joining United for £31 million from PSV in 2015, Depay was expected to be the next great thing, but he failed to make an impact quickly enough at Old Trafford. Before joining Lyon for £21.7 million in January 2017, he has only seven goals in 53 appearances in all competitions.
After leaving United, the 27-year-old recovered his greatest form in France, and in the summer of 2021, he joined Spanish giants Barcelona.
Schweinsteiger was nearing the end of his career by the summer of 2015, yet United agreed to pay £14.4 million for the midfielder. However, Jose Mourinho relegated the Germany international to the under-23s after he spent the majority of his debut season on the bench.
He earned his way back into the first team, however, in March 2017, he was granted a free transfer to the Chicago Fire of Major League Soccer.
United notably missed out on Thiago and Cesc Fabregas in 2013, before buying Fellaini on deadline day for £27 million from Everton. The Belgium international was a mainstay in the team under Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho, despite being a much-maligned figure at Old Trafford.
He was transferred to the Chinese Super League side Shandong Luneng for £10.4 million in January 2019 after falling down the pecking order under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but United surely got their money’s worth.
Darmian joined United in 2015 for £12.7 million and was expected to be Gary Neville’s long-term replacement. During his four years with the club, though, the right-back never established himself as a first-team regular and was sold to Parma for barely £1.4 million in 2019.
Herrera’s £29 million release clause was activated 12 months after United attempted – and failed – to recruit him from Athletic Bilbao in the summer of 2013. After five years at Manchester United, the midfielder declined a late contract extension and joined PSG on a free transfer in 2019.
Lukaku joined United from Everton for £75 million in 2017, and in his first season, he scored 27 goals in all competitions. Following Solskjaer’s appointment in December 2018, the goals dried up in his second season, and he was frequently banished to the bench.
By selling the striker to Inter Milan for £74 million in 2019, United was able to reclaim the majority of the money they paid to Everton. He’s on the list because of the £1 million shortfalls, but Ed deserves credit for this one.
In January 2018, United and Arsenal agreed to an ill-fated swap deal featuring Sanchez and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who were each valued at about £30 million by their respective teams. At Old Trafford, the Chilean international was reportedly paid £500,000 per week, but he failed to live up to expectations, scoring just five goals in 45 appearances.
Despite having two years left on his contract, United permitted Sanchez to join Inter Milan on a free transfer in 2020, desperate to get his salaries off the books for forever. Oh, and for good measure, they also awarded him £9 million.
United identified Rojo and agreed to pay Sporting Lisbon £16 million for his services after Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic left at the end of the 2013-14 season. The center-back failed to live up to his predecessors’ expectations, being known for his rash defending and recurring injury issues.
In his final four seasons at United, he only made 17 Premier League appearances before joining Boca Juniors on a free transfer in February 2021.
A Horrific Start
In July 2013, the wheels began to fall off for Woodward and Manchester United at the Park Hyatt in Sydney, which is positioned just beneath the city’s famed Harbour Bridge. He had just been in control of the club for a month when it became evident that he had been given a harder task than he could have expected.
According to sources, Woodward believes that the mistakes made in the first summer after Ferguson’s retirement impacted the club’s psyche and continue to haunt United today and that David Moyes, who was appointed as Ferguson’s successor before Woodward’s elevation to executive vice-chairman, was given a job he couldn’t succeed in because the club was simply not prepared for life after Ferguson.
Struggle to Create new Identity for United
In the last eight years, Woodward has sacked four managers, a record he is not proud of. After less than a season in command, Moyes was fired, and Woodward has made it clear to the now-West Ham manager that he believes United failed him during his time in control. A rookie chief executive, a bunch of players unprepared to move on from Ferguson, and a club yearning for a new identity all conspired to make Ferguson’s job untenable.
When the end came for Moyes, Van Gaal, and Mourinho, it had been clear for weeks, if not months, that the appointment wasn’t working, yet they all stayed in place until a poor situation had become irreversible.
When Woodward steps down from his position, he will leave United in a clean break. Despite rumors that the Glazers have offered him a lucrative consulting job, sources indicate he will take some time off before deciding what to do next.