Manchester United are one of the true superpowers in world football. Only a handful of teams on the planet can match, or even come close, to matching their history. Their list of trophies, achievements, results and legends are all illustrious. Some of the greatest players of all time, including the likes of Sir Bobby Charlton, George Best and Cristiano Ronaldo have all donned the famous red shirt of Manchester United.
The Red Devils have spent the vast majority of their existence in the top flight of English football, now known as the Premier League, having spent only one season outside the top flight since the end of WWII. The red side of Manchester have won 20 league titles, 11 FA Cups and three European titles, among other achievements, which have made them the third most profitable football club in the world and the most valuable football brand, worth and estimated $1.2 billion.
Given the club's prestigious history and consistent challenges at the head of English football, generally only top players have found themselves plying their trade at the theater of dreams, AKA Old Trafford. However, there have been some who've slipped through the net, and we take a look at some of the worst in this list. Here are the top 15 worst Manchester United players of all-time:
The signing of Kleberson seemed like an excellent piece of business for Manchester United back in 2003. Coming off the back of an excellent 2002 World Cup, in which the national team manager Luis Felipe Scolari had described Kleberson as the "driving force" behind Brazil winning the tournament, the holding midfielder was one of the most sought after players in world football, and he signed for $12 million. Injuries plagued his time at Manchester United, but even when fit he didn't look up to much. He lasted two years, playing only 20 games, he now plays for Indy Eleven in the NASL.
Bebe was perhaps Sir Alex Ferguson's most unusual signing as Manchester United manager. Bebe had spent just six weeks with Vitoria, who had picked up Bebe on a free transfer, and the winger had only played in pre-season games when Manchester United shed out in excess of $10 million for the player. He had a torrid time at Old Trafford. Bebe played only seven times for the Red Devils, looking out of his depth on every occasion. He currently plays for Rayo Vallecano, on-loan from Benfica.
13 Jonathon Spector
Jonathon Spector is currently a first team regular for Birmingham City in the Championship, and in truth, that is his level. Spector, now aged 29, has carved out a respectable career for himself, as a solid defender, but he was never cut out to play alongside the world's best at Old Trafford. The USMNT international has 34 caps for his country, but never broke into the Manchester United first team, with Alex Ferguson even preferring to deploy midfielders at the back rather than him when faced with an injury crisis. He left the club in 2006 after three years and eight games.
12 David Bellion
David Bellion played over 100 games in Ligue 1 over the course of his career, as well as representing France at under-21 level four times, yet in his time at Manchester United he looked rather more like a Sunday league player. Bellion, a striker, got his first taste of English football with Sunderland, where he scored once in 20 appearances, but that was enough to convince Manchester United. In three years at United, he played 24 times, scoring four goals, before being shipped out on-loan and eventually on a permanent deal back to France. Now aged 32, Bellion is currently playing for Red Star in Ligue 2.
11 William Prunier
Another Frenchman and another disastrous Manchester United career. One of United's greatest ever players, Eric Cantona, was a Frenchman, but the Red Devils have certainly had their fair share of French flops. Bellion and Prunier make this list, but the likes of Mikael Silvestre and Gabriel Obertan were also candidates. Prunier only played twice for United. He arrived on-loan from Bordeaux for what was intended to be a trial period, but an injury crisis called him into action. His first game passed without incident, but his second was calamitous. He was part of a defense which shipped four goals against Tottenham and Prunier never played for the club again.
10 Darren Ferguson
Are we suggesting that there might have been a hint of nepotism in Darren Ferguson ever being on the books at Manchester United? Suuurely not.. Young Darren played 20 times for the Red Devils, with 15 of those 20 coming in consecutive games at the start of the 1992-93 season. He had big boots to fill, filling in for the injured Bryan Robson, that would prove a tough task for anyone but Sir Alex's son clearly wasn't up to it. He left the club in 1994 and went on to play over 100 games for Wolves and over 300 for Wrexham. He most recently managed Peterborough United.
9 Massimo Taibi
Few goalkeepers in the world could replace Peter Schmeichel, but Alex Ferguson was tasked with finding someone who could do just that after the big Dane chose to leave the club in 1999 after their treble winning season. Taibi wasn't the only 'keeper to fail to replace Schmeichel, arguably six others followed suit, but none so spectacularly. He joined for just under $10 million from Venezia, and despite being named man of the match in his debut, a howler against Southampton and conceding five goals to Chelsea saw him nicknamed 'the Blind Venetian' and dropped from the team. He played only five times for United before returning to Italy, where he played in Serie A, B and C.
8 Eric Djemba-Djemba
Like the last two names on this list, Eric Djemba-Djemba was also brought into the Manchester United team to replace a club great, but in this case it was an ageing Roy Keane. Djemba-Djemba represented Cameroon at the 2002 World Cup and had a growing reputation within France whilst playing for Nantes when he was snapped up by Ferguson in 2003. He was signed as an uncompromising tough-tackling midfielder, and he cemented that reputation with a tack Arsene Wenger described as "obscene" on his debut. Ultimately, Djemba-Djemba played only 20 games for United, where he looked thoroughly out of his depth, before heading to Aston Villa, where he looked equally useless. He now plays in Indonesia.
7 Liam Miller
Liam Miller was a slightly unusual signing for Manchester United. Right from the get-go manager Sir Alex Ferguson seemed to have very little faith in the midfielder. He joined at the age of 23 after four years at Celtic. Miller made 22 first team appearances for United in his two years at the club, and never nailed down a first team spot. He left Old Trafford in 2006, spending another 3 years in English football before returning to Scotland and eventually Australia, where he spent 3 years before heading to Ireland and Cork City, where he still plays today.
6 Michael Clegg
Most players, even if they fail at Old Trafford, tend to carve out respectable careers elsewhere, but not Michael Clegg, who wound up retiring at the age of 27. He joined Manchester United at the age of 16, in 1993, and didn't leave the club until 2002, 9 years later. In that time he played only 9 league games. The defender was fortunate to stay with the Red Devils for as long as he did, and there were hardly a long line of suitors when he was released by the club. He joined Oldham Athletic on a free transfer in 2002 but spent only two years there before retiring.
5 Pat McGibbon
Pat McGibbon signed for Manchester United from Portadown in 1992. He spent five years at Old Trafford, but in that time, he made only a solitary appearance for the club, and it was not a happy one. He played his first and last game in 1995 against York City in the League Cup. United suffered a shock 3-0 defeat, as McGibbon was sent off. The horror show signaled the end of the Northern Irishman's time at United, he was shipped out on loan twice before joining Wigan Athletic in 1997, where he would spend the bulk of his career.
4 Arnie Sidebottom
Jack of all trades but a master of none, Arnie Sidebottom played both cricket and football at a high level, but looked out of his depth playing both. He joined Manchester United at the age of 18 and played 20 games for the club, 16 of which came in United's only season outside the top flight since the war, when he helped them to a Second Division title in the 1974-75 season, but with United back in the big time, Sidebottom looked poor. He joined Huddersfield and later Halifax, before ending his football career at the age of 25. He was voted the fifth worst player to ever play in the top flight by the Times. He also played cricket for Yorkshire and once for England.
3 Ralph Milne
Ralph Milne was actually a very talented footballer, almost certainly the most technically gifted player on this list, along with Kleberson perhaps. However, Milne's life and career were forever troubled by heavy drinking. Milne played for the famous Dundee United team of the early 1980s, where he won a league title and helped the team along their European adventures. Often regarded as one of Scotland's greatest players, despite never earning an international cap, Milne was dreadful for Manchester United. He was well past his best when he moved to Old Trafford in 1988, despite still being in his 20s, and played only 23 games in three years at the club. Alex Ferguson once described him as his worst signing.
2 Dong Fangzhuo
The only Chinese player in Manchester United's history surely has to be regarded as one of the worst footballers the club has ever had. Dong Fanzhou joined Manchester United in 2004, and left the club in 2008, playing only three competitive fixtures in those four years. It has been suggested that Fanzhou's signing could have been largely business motivated, with the Red Devils enjoying a large number of Chinese and Asian supporters, and a Chinese player was a sure-fire way to improve shirt sales and support. Fangzhuo never looked up to it, and only played 13 times for a very poor Chinese national team over the course of his career, a damning indictment of his true ability.
1 Mark Lynch
Mark Lynch had an unfortunate career. He joined Manchester United aged 17, and never looked up to much. He made his club debut in a Champions League tie against Deportivo La Coruna, in which he scored an own goal. Sir Alex never gave the defender a second chance and he moved on to Sunderland, where he looked equally useless. Lynch appeared to have found his level in the second tier when he joined Hull City in 2005. He suffered a horrible injury on his Hull City debut, and when he made his return to the first team, he was sent off. Moves to Yeovil, Rotherham, Stockport and Altrincham followed, with Lynch retiring in 2012 with barely 100 career appearances to his name.