Throughout his 26-year stint at Old Trafford, Sir Alex Ferguson was famous for the effort he’d put in to secure the most promising talents in Europe.
He knew the value of a personal touch in transfer dealings and was no stranger to the negotiating table, making a total of 99 signings while Manchester United manager.
But Ferguson also knew that sometimes there is no substitute for cold, hard cash – and, on occasion, a lot of it.
The legendary Scot broke numerous transfer records to bring the finest players in England and beyond to his club, with many going on to earn the status of Red Devils great.
It did not work out always work out that way, however, and one Premier League-record signing undoubtedly backfired.
Here, Mirror Football takes a look at Ferguson’s top five most expensive transfers.
5. Robin van Persie
Signed from Arsenal in 2012, £24million
In a transfer which enraged long-term rivals Arsenal, Ferguson came calling for Robin van Persie in the summer of 2012.
The Dutchman – on the back of a 30-goal Premier League season – announced he would not sign a new contract at the Emirates in order to fulfil his ambitions of winning silverware.
The following month, the Red Devils agreed terms with Arsenal and Van Persie – as the anointed striker to fire the club to their 20th league title – was aptly handed the No.20 shirt.
It played out like a dream; Van Persie plundered 26 league goals as Ferguson lifted the Premier League trophy in his final season as manager.
Some of Van Persie’s highlights from the 2012/13 campaign include scoring against Fulham with his first shot for United, his hat-trick against Aston Villa – including a stunning volley – and his late free-kick winner against Manchester City.
Injuries and a lack of form meant Van Persie managed fewer goals in his second and third seasons put together (28) compared to his debut campaign (30).
But Ferguson signed him to fire United to a 20th title and bring the curtain down on his managerial career in style – and Van Persie obliged emphatically.
4. Wayne Rooney
Signed from Everton in 2004, £27million
559 appearances, club-record 253 goals, 146 assists, 11 major honours.
Wayne Rooney’s Manchester United numbers speak for themselves and Ferguson’s decision to make him the most expensive teenager in history in 2004 was surely one of his best.
Rooney had announced himself on the international stage with a four-goal showing at the European Championship that summer, and the Red Devils beat Newcastle United to his signature after he submitted a transfer request.
Ferguson would later admit his big-money pursuit of the 18-year-old prodigy “raised eyebrows” among Old Trafford chiefs. But his precocious quality was clear to see and club legend Denis Law tipped him to break “all the United records” – and Rooney did just that.
Ferguson moulded the Englishman into one of the finest players in the world and, quite simply, he was a manager’s dream. Rooney could lead the line, play as a second striker, in attacking midfield or even in deeper roles as his career progressed.
As the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez, Dimitar Berbatov and Robin van Persie arrived and departed, Rooney was the mainstay; a constant source of goals, assists and intensity.
His iconic moments in a United shirt are countless, but perhaps his most incredible goal was his overhead kick against local rivals City in 2011.
Is Wayne Rooney Manchester United’s greatest ever player? Have your say in the comments.
3. Juan Sebastian Veron
Signed from Lazio in 2001, £28.1million
It’s perhaps a tired old saying, but if there was ever a player who struggled to adapt to the physicality of the Premier League, it was Juan Sebastian Veron.
Ferguson made Veron the record Premier League transfer in July 2001 and things started well, with the Argentine playmaker named Premier League Player of the Month in September that year after scoring three goals in four games
But things took a turn for the worse as he clearly struggled to maintain fitness and was stifled of the time on the ball he craved.
Though pressure on Veron mounted during his second season at Old Trafford, Ferguson remained fiercely loyal to him, even declaring “[Veron] is a f****** great player” during a heated press conference.
But the writing was on the wall for the former Serie A sensation and he was sold to Chelsea in 2003 for £15million.
Veron left Old Trafford with 11 goals and 11 assists in 82 appearances and many consider him to be one of the worst signings of the Premier League era.
Mind you, he did pocket a Premier League winners’ medal on his way out.
2. Rio Ferdinand
Signed from Leeds United in 2002, £30million
Two years after Leeds made Rio Ferdinand the world’s most expensive defender, Manchester United did so again with a monstrous £30million bid to prise him from Elland Road.
Ferguson was searching for a youthful and combative centre-back to cement his place in the back four for many years to come.
Ferdinand certainly lived up to the task and would rack up 455 appearances for United, winning nine major honours including five league titles and the Champions League in 2008.
He forged a formidable defensive partnership with Nemanja Vidic and many fans today would name him in their ultimate Premier League XIs.
The road was sometimes bumpy, with Ferdinand banned for eight months after missing a drugs test in 2003 and stripped of the vice-captaincy for stalling on signing a new deal two years later.
But Ferdinand would earn himself legendary status at Old Trafford with his displays on the pitch. Fierce in the tackle, dominant in the air and willing to play through injury, he is one of the finest centre-backs to don a United shirt.
1. Dimitar Berbatov
Signed from Tottenham in 2008, £30.75million
Dimitar Berbatov kicked off his Manchester United career on the right note by snubbing cross-town rivals City to seal a move to Old Trafford.
Ferguson made no secret of his desire to sign him from Tottenham in the summer of 2008 and made Berbatov the most expensive signing of his managerial career in September that year.
The Bulgarian ace only managed 21 Premier League goals across his first two United seasons but his form picked up in the 2010/11 campaign, when he fired the Red Devils to the title with 20 goals and shared the Golden Boot with Carlos Tevez.
Berbatov often frustrated fans and Ferguson alike with his seemingly low work rate, which meant he was left out of many of the biggest matches, including the 2011 Champions League final.
He was superbly gifted on the ball, however, and even has a turn named after him thanks to his dazzling spin-and-assist for Cristiano Ronaldo against West Ham in 2008.
Berbatov also scored a hat-trick against Liverpool and smashed five against Blackburn Rovers, and had amassed 56 goals and 27 assists in 149 appearances for the Red Devils by the time he joined Fulham in 2012.
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