Sancho, Pogba, Van de Beek: Man Utd's most expensive signings ranked by value for money

  • Kobe Tong
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Manchester United have officially opened their war chest for the 2021/22 season.

Man Utd complete Sancho detail

The Red Devils completed the signing of Jadon Sancho on Friday afternoon for a fee in the region of €85 million, duly making him one of the most expensive purchases in Premier League history.

In fact, United have loosened their pursestrings so many times since Sir Alex Ferguson hung up his hairdryer that Sancho finds himself in good company when it comes to record-breaking transfers.

Besides, you only have to look at the mega-money fees that were footed for the likes of Paul Pogba, Harry Maguire and Romelu Lukaku to see that United aren't afraid to splash the cash.

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Man Utd's heavy spending

However, as United fans know all-too well, eye-watering price tags are by no means a guarantee of success at the 'Theatre of Dreams' with some signings crumbling under the weight of expectation.

Fans of the English game will be keeping their fingers crossed that won't be the case for Sancho, but we wanted to take a closer look at the recent precedent for United arrivals nonetheless.

To do so, we've turned to the data gurus at Transfermarkt to establish the 20 most expensive signings in United history and the exact fee that the Red Devils stumped up for the move.

From there, we've put on our analytical glasses to assess how each signing should be judged based on their price tag across sections ranging from 'absolute bargain' to 'very overpriced.'

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Have Man Utd got value for their money?

Now, it's worth stressing how much we're focusing on the fee here because a player being called 'overpriced' is not inherently a slight on them as an athlete, but rather United's transfer strategy.

To give you an example: Javier Hernandez was a brilliantly underrated player for United, but in an imaginary world where he was signed for £70 million, then he would still go under 'overpriced'.

Oh, and it's also worth noting that we are contextualising how inordinately expensive or cheap the respective transfer fees were at the time of the signing.

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Ranking Man Utd's most expensive buys

But enough housekeeping and disclaimers, let's jump into the meat and bones of our analysis by checking out our ranking of United's 20 most expensive signings by their value for money:

Absolute bargain

Bruno Fernandes - £56.70 million

Wayne Rooney - £33.30 million

There's no getting away from the fact that Fernandes has been playing like a £120 million player since he signed for United, so his paltry transfer fee keeps looking cheaper and cheaper by the day.

As for Rooney, there's no denying that his fee was insanely expensive for a teenager at the time but come on, where else can we put a club's record-signing that was purchased for 'only' £33 million?

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Underpriced

Ander Herrera - £32.40 million

Rio Ferdinand - £41.40 million

Herrera is one of the most underrated signings of the post-Ferguson era and given the fees that United have paid over the last decade, you have to say that £32 million was a steal for the Spaniard.

Given that Ferdinand arrived in a world-record deal for a defender, we'd be ludicrous to call him an 'absolute bargain', but he still far exceeded expectations by becoming a bona fide icon at United.

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Bang on the money

Jadon Sancho - £76.50 million

Juan Mata - £40.26 million

Nemanja Matic - £40.23 million

Donny van de Beek - £35.10 million

Dimitar Berbatov - £34.20 million

Luke Shaw - £33.75 million

Aaron Wan-Bissaka - £49.50 million

While Sancho's fee might seem a little steep to some, we're talking about one of the world's most exciting young players here who amassed more than 100 goal contributions for Borussia Dortmund.

Mata and Matic might be well past their best coming into the 2021/22 season, but their price tags in the region of £40 million are broadly fair considering their contributions to United over the years.

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Van de Beek lands in this category by default because he simply hasn't been given enough game time to prove himself and £35 million is pretty darn reasonable for a player of his undoubted quality.

While there's an argument to be had that Berbatov was overpriced, we're giving him the benefit of the doubt by way of reaching dizzying heights during his Golden-Boot winning season in 2010/11.

Shaw will rise into the 'underpriced' section at the rate he's going, but we've got to balance out his tougher moments at United considering he was bought with a world-record fee for a teenager.

Perhaps we've been a little kind on Wan-Bissaka, but fees in the region of £50 million have become par for the course when it comes to full-backs and he's a made a strong start to life at Old Trafford.

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Overpriced

Paul Pogba - £94.50 million

Harry Maguire - £78.30 million

Romelu Lukaku - £76.23 million

Anthony Martial - £54.00 million

Fred - £53.10 million

Henrikh Mkhitaryan - £37.80 million

Eric Bailly - £34.20 million

Let's make one thing crystal clear: we are not saying that Pogba and Maguire have been poor for United, quite the contrary, because the pair have been world-class for great swathes of their spells.

However, have they become the world's best player and the globe's leading defender in the way that their transfer fees similarly topped the charts? 

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The answer, by little fault of their own, is a pretty amicable 'no' and one that's substantiated by Transfermarkt data placing them both within the most overpriced starting XI in football history.

Meanwhile, although Lukaku's time at Old Trafford is severely underrated, you'd be hard-pressed to argue that he justified himself as the most expensive centre-forward in Premier League.

Similarly, now that Martial is 25 years old and still not reaching the dizzying heights expected of him, the argument that £54 million has been a ludicrous, long-term investment is increasingly wilting.

And rounding off this inevitably-controversial tier are the trio of Fred, Mkhitaryan and Bailly who, despite all showing flashes of brilliance, are pretty universally accepted as having been overpriced.

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Very overpriced

Angel Di Maria - £67.50 million

Juan Sebastian Veron - £38.34 million

There's an alarming amount that these two players have in common from their Argentine nationality to the fact their time at United has become marred with infamy.

Neither player performed as poorly at Old Trafford as many fans would have you believe, but at the end of the day, they didn't come within a lightyear of justifying their British-transfer-record price tags.

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So, there you have it, quite the range of coups and cock-ups in the recent history of United's transfer spending. Be sure to let us know how you think they should be ranked across our social channels.

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