Rarely has a Manchester United squad entered January in more urgent need of an injection of quality than David Moyes’ 2013/14 vintage. The Old Trafford side have spluttered through the first half of the season, possessing a squad made up of a makeshift central midfield, uninspired set of wingers and shaky group of fullbacks.
Yet fans desperately calling for substantial transfer activity this month should be wary: the January window, a time of inflated prices, shoddy scouting and expensive panic buys, is a notoriously difficult moment to do business.
Whilst United have occasionally struck lucky, they’ve also been guilty of a few mishaps in the January market in the past. Here are some of their most their most notable, and more forgettable, post-Christmas arrivals.
Andy Cole Bought from Newcastle United in a deal worth £7 million in 1995, Cole scored 93 goals for United in 195 appearances, including five in one match in a 9-0 win over Ipswich Town. His potent strike partnership with Dwight Yorke propelled United to a historic treble during the 1998/99 treble season. He is second in the list of all time Premier League goalscorers with 189 goals.
Nemanja Vidic United signed football’s fierce Serbian for £7.2 million from Spartak Moscow in 2006. Alongside Rio Ferdinand, he went on to form one of the finest centre back partnerships in the history of both Manchester United and the Premier League. Vidic, who the club’s captain in recent seasons, was instrumental in the five league titles and one Champions League triumph his side have won during his time in a red shirt.
Patrice Evra Evra experienced a torrid start to his Manchester United career, being unceremoniously dragged off on at half time of his debut against Manchester City having signed from Monaco for just days earlier. But his form quickly improved, soon forcing former Player of the Year Gabriel Heinze out of the club and establishing his reputation as one of United’s finest ever left backs. His outspoken words of the pitch and dynamic attacking play on it have made him a firm fan’s favourite.
Diego Forlan Things never quite worked out for Forlan, United’s £6.9 million acquisition from Argentinean side Independiente. He did experience some memorable moments in a red shirt, most notably his double away to Liverpool in the 2002/03 season, but ultimately was only ever able to notch ten goals in 63 appearances for the Old Trafford side. He left for Villarreal in 2004 and went on to play for Athletico Madrid and Inter, becoming one of world football’s most feared strikers in the process. One of United’s great lost hopes.
Dong Fangzhou Chinese striker Dong signed for United for a fee of £500,000, potentially rising to £3.5 million depending on appearances. Whilst waiting for a work permit, Dong enjoyed several reasonably fruitful seasons on loan at Royal Antwerp in Belgium. Despite being finally granted a permit three years after his initial joining date, Dong failed to kick on as much as hoped, and made just a handful of appearances for the Red Devils before his contract was terminated in 2008.
Wilfried Zaha Sir Alex Ferguson bought the Crystal Palace winger for £15 million in January last year, but immediately loaned him back to his former club for the rest of the season. Since returning to Old Trafford, Zaha has made just two appearances under new manager David Moyes. A raw attacking talent with pace to burn, his days at the club could be numbered.