If the success of mid-season Manchester United signings were to be listed, there’s no doubt that Eric Cantona would be at the top every time. However, during an era when The King went on to be a huge success at Old Trafford following his move from Leeds United, signings could still be made throughout much of the season.
It was only ahead of the 2002-03 season that UEFA officially introduced the transfer window system, with the majority of leagues around Europe adopting two periods when clubs could sign and register players. While there was more time to move in the summer, the January transfer window often sparked a frenzy of activity, given the shorter period of time to get deals done.
Since then, United haven’t often dipped into the winter market for their bigger signings, yet the club needed to make some important moves this year. Having enjoyed a busy conclusion to the 2020 January transfer window, with key arrivals that could boost their Premier League betting odds to finish inside the top four this season, let’s take a look at three key January arrivals from the past that enjoyed great success.
Having already helped Monaco to reach the 2004 Champions League final, Patrice Evra had already gained attention as one of the most talented left-backs in Europe, with a number of the biggest clubs around the continent monitoring his progress.
Arsenal and Liverpool were keen, while Inter Milan had made a firm bid, although Alex Ferguson and Manchester United swooped with a £5.5 million bid and the player arrived on 3rd January 2006.
Patrice Evra with a ROCKET 🚀🚀🚀
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) January 10, 2019
Despite initial problems settling into the English game, there’s no doubt that Evra went on to become a huge success. He won 5 Premier League titles, 3 League Cups, 5 Community Shields, plus the Champions League and the FIFA Club World Cup during his time with the Red Devils. After eight and a half seasons with United, the Frenchman enjoyed continued success at Juventus in the twilight of his career, before spells at Marseille and West Ham United.
Few in England even knew who he was, yet Manchester United had been tracking Serbian centre-back Nemaja Vidic for more than two years, before eventually swooping in the January 2006 transfer window. Eyebrows were raised at the reported £7 millio fee paid to Russian outfit Spartak Moscow, yet he went on to become an iconic figure at Old Trafford, forming a magnificent defensive partnership with Rio Ferdinand.
🇷🇸 14 years ago today, Man United signed Nemanja Vidic for £7 million. One of the greatest gifts we’ve ever gotten on Christmas.
This video during his farewell could make grown men cry. Best defender the PL has ever seen. 😢 pic.twitter.com/UFfecLO1Ns
— Devils of United 🔰 (@DevilsOfUnited) December 25, 2019
Vidic was as tough as they come, a hard-man defender who was both feared and respected, earning the Premier League Player of the season twice. His impressive haul of silverware included 5 Premie League titles, 3 League Cups, 5 Community Shields, along with the Champions League and FIFA World Club Cup. Following a string of injury problems, Vidic left United in 2014, playing just one season before retiring.
Back in the 2006-07, United had the youthful duo of Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo tearing up rival defences, while Louis Saha and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer were still banging in the goals. Alan Smith was struggling to score and given that Saha and Solskjaer were plagued by injury problems, Alex Ferguson desperately needed to bring in another striker during the January transfer window.
“My only regret in my career is that I didn’t stay longer at United.”
— Full Time DEVILS (@FullTimeDEVILS) October 5, 2019
Options were limited, either by cost or the refusal of other clubs to negotiate, so the arrival of Henrik Larsson proved to be a huge surprise. Well into the twilight of his career and having left Barcelona for a return home to Sweden with Helsingborg, the vastly experienced striker agreed a short loan deal between January and March. He scored just 3 goals in 10 appearances, but instantly became a cult figure who is still fondly remembered by fans.
United’s January 2020 Transfer Window Trio
Having endured another difficult campaign this season, United desperately needed some fresh impetus in the January 2020 transfer window. Way behind in the title race, United were also were also at serious risk of falling behind in the chase to finish amongst the top four. Nevertheless, the club did manage to conclude some transfer business, albeit during the last couple of days before the window slammed shut.
📹 Odion Ighalo on how he got the Man Utd loan move over the line last Friday. Dramatic.
“My agent said, ‘You’re going to get a pay cut to go to United’. I said ‘I don’t care. Make this deal happen. I don’t care how much is the pay cut.”
— Soar Super Eagles (@SSE_NGA) February 5, 2020
As a long-term target the club had been tracking for some time, the arrival Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes is a major boost for United in midfield, having demonstrated a knack for scoring goals and providing assists while at Sporting. Meanwhile, the capture of goalkeeper Nathan Bishop from Southend went somewhat under the radar, although the 20-year-old is regarded more as one for the future.
The big surprise on the final day of the transfer window this year was Odion Ighalo, arriving on loan from Shanghai Shenhua. While many fans were underwhelmed by the signing, this 30-year-old Nigerian has dreamed of playing for United all his life. He also boasts a great scoring record in China and at Watford, during his last spell in the Premier League. All being well, even at this later than hoped stage of his career, he’ll prove to be a cult hero for the team.