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Ranked : Manchester United’s top five Premier League signings

No club has been more successful since the inception of the Premier League in 1992 than Manchester United, who have been champions no less than 13 times of the 25 seasons it has been in operation.

Whilst they have been one of England’s best Clubs in bringing players through their Academy system who have helped them towards their 13 titles, they have also bought in vast amounts of players, spending well over £1 BILLION pounds on incoming transfers since the Premier League began.

Here, we rank our ‘Top Five’ players that Manchester United have purchased in their 25 Premier League seasons – ranking them by effect and impact, more than the fee the players commanded :

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ERIC CANTONA (Bought from Leeds United for £1.2m November 1992)

The signing of Cantona from bitter rivals Leeds United signalled the turnaround in Manchester United’s fortunes….United were sat 10th in the inaugural Premier League season, lagging behind the likes of Aston Villa, QPR, Norwich City and Blackburn Rovers. A few weeks later Eric arrived at Old Trafford – and six months later they captured the Premier League title – their first League success in 26 years, losing only two games after signing the French maestro. Cantona quickly became the darling of Old Trafford, helping the Red Devils capture three more League Championships as well as two FA Cups and three Charity Shields before his rather premature retirement from football in 1997 aged just 30. Manchester United fans still sing his name loud and proud to this day, even with all the trouble and controversy that followed him. A Manchester United and Premier League legend.

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CRISTIANO RONALDO (Bought from Sporting Lisbon for £12.2m August 2003)

The weight of being the world’s most expensive teenager when signing for Manchester United didn’t phase Ronaldo – who on making his debut was described as giving “the most exciting debut ever” by none other than George Best, who Ronaldo subsequently went on to draw many comparisons to, with his extraordinary pace, balance and skill, followed by a ferocious shot, being straight out of the Best mould. Ronaldo spent six seasons at United, making 292 total appearances, scoring 118 goals. He helped United to win three Premier League titles, an FA Cup, two League Cups, a Community Shield victory, a FIFA World Club Championship and, famously, a Champions League victory where he scored in a dramatic final against Chelsea. Ronaldo has scored some of the most memorable goals in Premier League history for Manchester United and would go on to become the worlds most expensive player (at the time) when he moved to Real Madrid for £80 million. Becoming one of the worlds greatest players of his time, Ronaldo always acknowledges his time at Manchester United and his admiration for then manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

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ROY KEANE (Bought from Nottingham Forest for £3.75m Summer 1993)

If not for an administrative error, Roy Keane would have joined Blackburn Rovers from Forest – but when the move stalled, Sir Alex Ferguson moved in and captured Keane, whom would become a dominating, albeit polarising, player in the Manchester United midfield for just over 13 years to come. Keane became the ‘new’ Bryan Robson for United – fierce in the tackle, high energy with an eye for a crucial goal – but his leadership and inspiration to his teammates was what made Keane the player he was. Keane was central to the famous Manchester United treble winning team of the 1998/99 season, and few will forget his own individual performance in the away tie at Juventus at the semi final stage – described by many as one of the finest individual performances ever seen in the Champions League – although Keane actually missed the dramatic final win over Bayern Munich. Keane’s list of honours with United could fill another article by itself and he is without doubt a United Premier League legend. Although his ending at United was quite acrimonious, and controversy has followed Keane around to this day, there is no doubt his signing was a key piece in the Manchester United success jigsaw.

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WAYNE ROONEY (Bought from Everton for £25.6m August 2004)

253 goals in 559 total appearances for Manchester United speaks volumes about the effect that an 18 year old Wayne Rooney would have at Old Trafford when he joined from Everton for a new high record fee paid for a teenager. On his debut, against Fenerbahce in the Champions League, Rooney smashed home a hat trick and recorded an assist in a 6-2 romp for United – a sign of things to come. Although his career was blighted by knocks and injuries, Rooney scored at least 14 goals per season across his 12 seasons until his last season, where he had scored 8 until he rejoined his boyhood club Everton. Rooney has won every major domestic trophy with Manchester United in his time there, and has scored some of the most memorable goals in Premier League history. His final total of goals as a Red Devil would signal him being the leading all time score for United, surpassing the record held by another Manchester United legend Sir Bobby Charlton, who presented Rooney with a golden boot to celebrate this fabulous achievement.

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NEMANJA VIDIC (Bought from Spartak Moscow for £7m December 2005)

In a team known for their flair and attacking prowess, Vidic became a Stretford End hero for his no nonsense style of defending, forming a formidable partnership with Rio Ferdinand and helping United to record an amazing run of 14 Premier League games without conceding a goal in the 2008/09 season. Vidic would go on to Captain both the team and the Club in 9 superb seasons at Old Trafford, chalking up exactly 300 power packed performances before an emotional departure to Inter Milan. Vidic only lasted just over a season with Milan before calling time on his career and retiring from football wholly. Vidic remains a loved figure with United fans who will never forget his versatility, commitment and bravery that resulted in 5 Premier League champions medals, a Champions League success and several other Cup winners medals.


There are many others that could come into the reckoning – but we feel these five are the top five of the last twenty five glorious seasons at Manchester United.