Sir Alex is a genius. A superbeing, and a God amongst reds. But at the end of the day, he is only human – and he has been known to get it wrong on occasions.
He’s built some great teams at Old Trafford, but who are the players that have come and gone through the door who are firmly established as Fergie’s worst ever signings? There is quite a range to choose from, but here are 5 who I think take top spot…and what they are up to now:
5. Liam Miller. A free transfer from Celtic in 2001, and the best midfielder since Roy Keane. Allegedly. Coming in on a free, he commanded a wage of £42,000 a week. He had chances in the team and he looked bored. He couldn’t be bothered, and the fact that established players like Wes Brown were struggling to up their wage from £20,000 at that time shows what a con the transfer of Liam Miller was. A nothing player, who had no attributes of any worth, he played 9 league games for the reds, scoring no goals and was shipped to Sunderland just two years later for free.
Miller is now ploughing his trade in Scotland again, playing for Hibernian.
4. Mal Donaghy. Contrary to popular belief, United existed long before 1999 and Mal Donaghy was a confusing signing for the reds in October 1988. Included in this list as Fergie had just let 31 year old centre-back Kevin Moran leave United on a free-transfer after stating he was getting on a bit…and spent £650,000 on the 31 year old Donaghy from Luton. Started off in the middle, and spent a season as first choice left back for the club but weakened a United defence, and was somehow at Old Trafford for four years. Sold to Chelsea for £100,000, aged 35.
Donaghy spent a good chunk of the early part of the 21st century as coach of the Northern Ireland under 19s team.
3. Jordi Cruyff. A career on the back of his dad’s name? SAF bought Jordi after Euro 1996 for £1.4million from Barcelona. An impressive start for the attacking midfielder saw him score two goals in his first three games, but Cruyff wasn’t made of strong stuff. ‘Jordi’ was maybe more ‘Bambi’ when it came to having to dig in, he looked frail and had no heart. When you’re trying to oust Ryan Giggs from the left wing spot, you have to have something about you but Cruyff just didn’t have it in his locker. In 2000, and 54 games later he was given a free transfer, where he returned to Spain with Alaves.
Jordi is still in football, and currently in Greece where he is team manger of AEK Larnaca.
2. Mark Bosnich. It’s usually a certain Italian ‘keeper who’s brought in to these sort of lists, but not for me. After Schmeichel left in ’99, Fergie was on the lookout for a replacement. After missing out on Edwin Van der Sar, he had two realistic options of available ‘keepers to use the following season. One was Bosnich. One was Raimond Van Der Gouw. Fergie chose the wrong one and brought the Aussie back to Old Trafford. A keeper who always looked puffed out, care-free and by all accounts a problem character, he was the first player I can ever remember who walked off injured at Old Trafford and didn’t get applause – plenty of moans, groans and shakes of the head though. A good shot stopper in his time, but more the fat kid in goal in the playground by the time he came back to us. Fergie installed Van Der Gouw in the second half of the 99-00 season as his first choice, and Bosnich eventually left for Chelsea.
Presently, Bosnich is probably sat outside a pub having a cigarette.
1. Ralph Milne. Any list like this that doesn’t have this man at the top of it isn’t worth reading. Ralphie Milne, a signing from Bristol City in 1988 that prompted people to say “Who?” when they heard about it (not me though – I was 10 and remember him from Panini football stickers when he was at Dundee United). Fergie remembered Milne as the flying winger who smashed the goals in at Tynecastle during the European glory years for the Scottish side, and at one time he was the sort of player that United like to see on the flanks. But at United, and hated by the coaching staff, he was appalling. I think Fergie has even hinted at him being his biggest mistake. Three goals in 19 appearances flattered Milne, who could only be described as clueless, out of depth, and rubbish. He tells of being addicted to alcohol and gambling during his career in his autobiography, and maybe he just couldn’t handle the pressure of being a United player.
Milne now owns a bar and still battles drink problems. His book, is a very good read and covers his before, during and after United career in a new light. Semi warts and all, What’s It All About, Ralphie? is well worth a read.
Everyone will have a different top five, for various reasons. Names such as Kleberson, Djemba Djemba and Bellion we’re all up for consideration but I’ve chosen to look at not only how they performed on the pitch, but other sacrifices that were made as a result of them coming to the club, to make them the worst ever signings.
Who would you choose?