The arrival of the new millennium saw a lot of changes take place at Old Trafford. Some of the players from the treble winning season had left, thus there was a need for restructuring of the team. This wasn't an easy task for Manchester United as other English clubs were on the rise and had also taken to investing in fresh talent to help with their title bids. United got lucky with some of their signings as they went on to have successful careers at Old Trafford and helped add to the club's ever expanding trophy cabinet. Some of them went on to break numerous records while simultaneously solidifying their positions as club legends. Unfortunately, where there is good there's also bad and not every signing proved to be a good buy for United.
These are the type of players that the fans would rather forget and the higher-ups responsible for their arrival prefer not to mention. It should be noted that this list is solely based on players who joined Manchester United in or after the year 2000 and how they fared with the team. Here are the 8 best and 7 worst Manchester United players since the new millennium.
15 Best: David de Gea
Having helped Atletico Madrid win both the UEFA Europa League and the UEFA Super Cup, de Gea was always tipped to be the one to replace the retiring United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar. It thus came as no surprise that he joined Manchester United in 2011. He faced some criticism at first due to a couple of mistakes but eventually became more comfortable in his role. Following Sir Alex Ferguson's departure, de Gea ended up being the standout player for Manchester United, during a transition period that has seen the club struggle to qualify for the Champions League. This has led to him being named as United's player of the year for three consecutive seasons. It has also brought about interest from other clubs including Real Madrid who were on the brink of signing him but failed to do so due to the paperwork being submitted after the transfer window had closed.
Seen as the likely successor to Iker Casillas as Spain's long-term goalkeeper, de Gea seems to have a bright future ahead of him.
14 Worst: Gabriel Obertan
In 2009, Gabriel Obertan left Bordeaux for United, who signed him on a four-year deal. An injury at the beginning of the season saw him sidelined for a month, thus delaying his debut. He ended up spending some time playing for the reserve team before finally making his senior debut. He never played much for United and even missed out on a medal when United won the Premier League in the 2010-11 season due to his few appearances. Following two unsuccessful seasons at United, Obertan left for Newcastle who inexplicably gave him a five-year contract. He turned out to be just as bad as he was at United and he was released in 2016. He thus moved to Russia and joined Anzhi Makhachkala. He only managed to score once at United and thrice at Newcastle, which brings his tally to four goals in his seven years in England.
13 Best: Patrice Evra
In January 2006, Evra left Monaco for Manchester United, his first choice amidst interest from other clubs. He initially struggled to get into the starting eleven but by the end of his second season, he had already established himself as a first-choice left- back. Evra is considered as one of the best players in his position due to his ability to get into attacking positions and deliver crosses to his teammates.This is largely due to the fact that he played as a winger earlier on in his career. His arrival was a huge boost to United's defence and he ended up winning 15 trophies with Manchester United, including 5 Premier League and one Champions League titles. He left for Juventus in 2014, having spent eight and a half years at Old Trafford.
12 Worst: Liam Miller
Liam Miller had a successful final season at Celtic which brought about offers of contract renewal from the club as the manager intended to build a new team around him. He however chose not to renew his contract and instead joined Manchester United on a free transfer in 2004, a move which reportedly angered the Celtic supporters. He mostly found himself playing in cup competitions at United and was loaned out to Leeds in his second season. After two years with United, he left for Sunderland having played only nine league games for the former. At Sunderland, he was transfer listed by former United teammate and then Sunderland manager Roy Keane, due to poor timekeeping, for he frequently arrived late to training sessions.
Following a short stint in QPR, he went on to play in Scotland, Australia and Ireland before joining his current team, Wilmington Hammerheads in the United Soccer League.
11 Best: Edwin van der Sar
After six years of trial and error, Manchester United finally found a worthy successor to Peter Schmeichel when they signed Edwin van der Sar from Fulham in 2005. Having previously played for Ajax and Juventus, Van der Sar didn't have a problem adjusting to life at Old Trafford. He ended up becoming the first goalkeeper to keep 50 clean sheets in the UEFA Champions League and also set the clean sheet record in the 2008-09 season by not conceding a single goal for 1311 minutes. Van der Sar won 11 trophies with United, including four Premier League and one Champions League titles, which makes him the second most decorated goalkeeper of all time.
Considered as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, his retirement in 2011 was a huge loss not only to Manchester United, but to the football world as a whole.
10 Worst: Kleberson
Kleberson got called up to the Brazilian national team after helping Atletico Paranaense win the Brazilian Serie A title. He was then selected to be part of Brazil's squad for the 2002 FIFA World Cup. He played well at the tournament and even managed to set up a goal for his team in the final. Brazil won the World Cup and several European clubs became interested in signing Kleberson following his impressive display at the tournament. He chose to join Manchester United who signed him the following year. He made 20 league appearances in his two seasons at United. After two years in England, he left for Besiktas, then went back to his home country for a while. He currently plays for Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the NASL.
9 Best: Nemanja Vidic
Nemanja Vidic joined Manchester United in 2006, following a failed transfer to Italian side Fiorentina. He went on to develop a good defensive partnership with Rio Ferdinand, which enabled him to establish himself as a first team player. Vidic became known for his consistency and great aerial ability which saw him awarded the Premier League Player of the Season award twice. In the 2008-09 season, he helped United break the record when they kept a clean sheet for 14 consecutive matches in the Premier League. Vidic proved to be important to the team and this was further highlighted when United lost the Premier League title to Manchester City in the 2011-12 season, after he got injured during the latter stages of the season. He left in 2014 having won 15 trophies with Manchester United, including five Premier League titles and one Champions League titles.
8 Worst: David Bellion
His move to Manchester United from Sunderland came with some controversy. United were accused of "tapping up" the player while he was still in Sunderland and were forced to make a compensation payment of £2 million to Sunderland in an out-of-court agreement. Unfortunately for United, Bellion certainly wasn't worth the hassle and they should have known better for the striker had only managed to score once during his time at Sunderland. At United, he made 24 league appearances and scored four times. He ended up being sent out on loan, first to West Ham then Nice, who eventually offered him a permanent contract. He later moved to Bordeaux and following another loan spell at Nice, he joined French third-tier side Red Star F.C.
7 Best: Rio Ferdinand
Rio Ferdinand broke the transfer fee record twice, first when he joined Leeds United in 2000 and then again two years later when he left for Manchester United. He proved to be worth every penny for he had the ability to read the game well which in turn enabled him to be able to distribute the ball accordingly. He also had great pace earlier on in his career and always seemed comfortable when the ball was in his possession. Ferdinand also did well when he was left in charge of the team as he occasionally got to captain United, a role which saw him lead the club to victory in the 2008 Champions League final. He left United when his contract expired in 2014. Ferdinand won 17 trophies with Manchester United, including 6 Premier League and one Champions League titles.
6 Worst: Eric Djemba-Djemba
Well known in France due to his impressive performances while playing for Nantes, the Cameroonian midfielder was signed by Manchester United in 2003. Alex Ferguson had been searching for a replacement for United Captain Roy Keane, who was 31 at the time and had thought of Djemba-Djemba as a possible successor. However, the midfielder found it difficult to maintain his form, proving he wasn't up to the task. 18 months after his arrival, he was sold to Aston Villa having made 20 league appearances for Manchester United.
His move to Villa didn't work out either and he was loaned out to Burnley before Villa finally terminated his contract. He went on to play in Qatar, Denmark, Israel, Scotland, India, Indonesia and Serbia before joining Swiss fifth division club FC Vallorbe-Ballaigues, his current club.
5 Best: Ruud van Nistelrooy
Ruud van Nistelrooy joined Manchester United from PSV in 2001.He quickly adapted to his new team and by the end of his first season, he had scored 23 goals in 32 Premier League matches. He maintained his form in the following seasons anc managed to reach the 30 goal mark in each of his first three seasons at United. Rather unfortunately, his arrival at Old Trafford came during the era of Arsenal's Invincibles, while Jose Mourinho's arrival led to Chelsea also becoming a title contender. Thus he only won four titles during his five seasons at United including one Premier League and one FA Cup titles.
Van Nistelrooy still has one of the highest rates of goals per game for United, having scored 150 times in 219 games. He also previously held the record of having scored in 10 consecutive league matches until it was broken in 2015 when Jamie Vardy scored in 11 consecutive matches.
4 Worst: Dong Fangzhuo
In January 2004, Dong Fangzhuo left Chinese side Dalian Shide for Manchester United. He couldn't play for United as he was ineligible for a work permit and was thus loaned out to Belgian side Royal Antwerp. He slowly adapted to his new team and in his third season for Antwerp, he finished as the top goalscorer for both his club and the Belgian Second Division. He was finally given a work permit and went back to United. Unlike in Belgium, his career at United never took off as he was only a regular for the reserve team. The only thing that was noteworthy about his time at United was the fact that he was their first ever Chinese signing and in 2008, he left in order to find first-team opportunities elsewhere. He announced his retirement from football early last year.
3 Best: Wayne Rooney
In 2004, Manchester United bought 18-year-old Rooney from Everton. Rooney was considered as one of the best English players under 20 and a lot of people were eager to see how he would perform at Old Trafford. Rooney was a precocious player and one of the best of his generation. A prolific goalscorer, Rooney is the second top scorer of all time in the Premier League with 195 goals. He also recently scored his 250th goal for Manchester United to become the club's top goalscorer of all time, a record which had long been held by United legend Sir Bobby Charlton. Rooney has so far won 14 trophies with United, including five Premier League, one FA Cup and one Champions League titles.
2 Worst: Bebe
Bebe began his career in professional football following his performance in the 2009 European Street Football Festival, where he scored four goals in six matches. His move to Manchester United came as a surprise to many for he was signed just five weeks after he had joined Vitoria de Guimaraes. What's more astonishing is the fact that Alex Ferguson only met him the day before his transfer and didn't know much about him for Bebe had been recommended to him by his former assistant. Ferguson probably wished he had done his research for the move proved disastrous and Bebe ended up being sent out on loan to various clubs. He eventually signed for Benfica having played only seven games for Manchester United. He currently plays for Spanish side Eibar.
1 1. Best: Cristiano Ronaldo
In 2003, Cristiano Ronaldo joined Manchester United, becoming their first ever Portuguese player and at the time, the most expensive teenager in English football history. He faced a lot of criticism in the beginning due to his showboating style of play but eventually learnt how to do things the right way. His good performance led to him winning the 2008 Ballon d'Or, following a successful season in which he scored 42 goals in all competitions for United. He won nine trophies while he was with United, including three Premier League and one Champions League titles.
In 2009, he left United to join Real Madrid for a world record transfer fee of £80 million. The best was yet to come from Ronaldo who went on to win the Ballon d'Or thrice following his move to Spain, while setting numerous records in the process. Despite his departure, his six seasons at Old Trafford were enough to make him a club legend.
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