What a glorious sporting summer we’ve had so far. The Lions, Andy Murray, Chris Froome and now England’s display in the Ashes are all conspiring to achieve the unthinkable: surpassing 2012 as Britain’s best ever summer. Throw in scorching hot temperatures and sunshine and you’ll see that the 2013 vintage is as good, if not superior, to its counterpart of 12 months ago.
For those of you thinking that racquets, oval balls and bikes are all well and good but do little to allay fears borne out of United’s inactivity in the transfer window, and for those Reds who firmly believe Shane Watson has more chances of avoiding being trapped lbw than David Moyes has of landing a top player before the transfer window shuts, fear not.
Chelsea and Manchester City might have been throwing money left, right and centre as per usual, but United’s history shows that, at times, not buying is an altogether preferable option than buying, even as far as the midfield is concerned. So, fasten your seatbelts, here’s a top 5 of the worst United’s summer signing ever.
5. Juan Sebastian Veron
There was a time when United not only signed midfielders, but they were even eager to splash cash on top class players. As Veron arrived at Old Trafford in the summer of 2001 from Lazio for a then record British transfer fee of £28.1m, the majority of Reds – including the one compiling this list – were so excited at the prospect of the Argentinian linking up with Ruud Van Nistelrooy that nothing, it seemed, could possibly go wrong.
Alas, a lot could go wrong and most of it would, as Veron struggled to recapture the form of his dominant displays with Lazio and Argentina as he failed to adapt with the pace and physicality of English football. “He’s a marvellous player and Juan will bring a personality to the team which I feel we need at this moment. I feel we need a challenge,” said Fergie of the Argentinian who impressed in his first outings for the club, before falling down the pecking order and only partially recover in his second, and last, season at the club, which saw him adding a Premier League winner’s medal to his trophy cabinet.
“He’s a fucking great player, and you’re all fucking idiots,” thundered Fergie when one journalist too many had dared to criticise the Argentinian.
As Veron was shipped out without much fanfare in 2003, United took the rather hilarious decision to replace the South American flop with another South American flop. In fairness, Kleberson had won the World Cup with Brazil 12 months earlier and had been described by Felipe Scolari as the “driving force” of his team, plus he costed less than half – £6.5m – of what United had pocketed by selling Veron to Chelsea.
United beat Newcastle and Leeds United (remember them? They used to be a mid-table club in the Premier League a couple of years ago) to the Brazilian playmaker, who got duly injured in his second game for the club and departed after two largely unsuccessful seasons in which he managed to notch a grand total of 20 league appearances.
On a brighter note, Kleberson at least didn’t consume the amount of food a fellow Brazilian who would arrive at the club only two years later would go on to become famous for. Yes, Anderson, we are talking about you.
3. Eric Djemba-Djemba
There was a time when United still purchased midfielders. Unfortunately for United fans, the Cameroonian had neither the ability, nor the mentality to establish himself as a serious challenger for a midfield berth, despite joining the club when United were in a period of transition. Signed from Nantes for £3.5m in the summer of 2003, the man “so good they named him twice” did very little to ensure long lasting memories of himself at Old Trafford, apart from clattering Sol Campbell in the Community Shield and scoring a cracker against Leeds, which, in fairness, is more than enough for us.
2. Massimo Taibi
How do you replace arguably the greatest keeper of the modern era, who also proved to be a spectacular bargain and who ended up lifting the Champions League in his last game for the club, thereby completing an unprecedented Treble? Well, by plucking an unknown 29-year-old from the obscurity of a relegation-threatened club in the Italian Serie A for £4.5m and throwing in at the deep end of the Premier League pool, obviously.
Taibi’s opening display against Liverpool was a mixture of shocking errors and outstanding saves but, unfortunately for United, the former would soon disappear from his performances as Taibi went on to be nicknamed “The Blind Venetian” by a popular newspaper, after allowing a Matt Le Tissier’s shot to dribble through his legs and into the net.
The fact that the Italian played only four games in 12 months for the club at a time when his only competitors were Raymond Van Der Gouw and Mark Bosnich speaks volume for the sheer ineptitude he displayed on the pitch, which earned him an automatic top-3 spot in any “Fergie’s worst signing ever contest”.
1. Tiago Bebe
As usual, when the topic of conversation concerns United’s questionable decisions in the transfer window, there can only be one winner, for the Portuguese winger is the ultimate lottery winner. Bebe isn’t so much a case of winning the lottery without even buying a ticket as of winning the lottery despite being completely unaware of its existence.
A player who could have considered himself lucky enough at having signed with Vitoria de Guimaraes – a mid-table side in the Portuguese league, but a professional side nonetheless – then famously struck gold when, after netting five goals in six friendlies (FRIENDLIES!!!) United agreed to purchase him thanks, in no small measure, to some unscrupulous agent’s work.
Vitoria de Guimaraes only pocketed 60% of the £7.4m United forked out, which goes to show the true nature of the deal, while Bebe’s embarrassing shortcomings were laid bare during his first season at the club in which, miraculously, he managed to net in the Champions League.
“He told me to cut my hair, it will look better. So I cut it the same day. In the next training session, he didn’t recognise me. I went past him many times and he didn’t know me,” said Bebe of Sir Alex.
That, pretty much, sums his United career up.
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