With the January transfer window open and closed for another year, Paul Scholes coming out of retirement was the only significant move in three years to get the fans excited.
Indeed, some bookmakers even offered free bets on who would be the next former star to put on their boots again – Peter Schmeichel? Eric Cantona? Teddy Sheringham?
However, perhaps Sir Alex Ferguson was right not to throw money around as his record during the window is about 50/50. Here are five great transfers that have taken place in January and five that were not so successful since the transfer window’s inception in 2003.
Louis Saha- Joined from Fulham for £12.82 million in 2004
Saha had been on fire in the first half of the 2003-04 season and had scored 15 goals for Fulham by the time Sir Alex Ferguson brought him to Old Trafford. The striker netted on his debut against Southampton and scored seven goals in 10 starting appearances.
The Frenchman could have become one of the all-time greats for United if he didn’t suffer constantly with injury. The 2004-05 season was almost a total write-off but the following season returned 15 goals in 30 appearances – he even kept out goal scorer extraordinare Ruud van Nistelrooy out of the team and netted in the League Cup final against Wigan Athletic.
An injury hampered 2007-08 campaign saw him join Everton the following summer but a total of 42 goals in 124 appearances was not a bad return for a player blighted by injury.
Patrice Evra- Joined from AS Monaco for £5.5 million in 2006
After a patchy start to his Old Trafford career, Evra made the left back position his own, keeping Mikael Silvestre and Gabriel Heinze out of the side. Despite playing in just 24 matches furing the 2006-07 season, Evra was named in the PFA Team of the Year.
Evra was named in the PFA team in the 2008-09 team and again in 2009-10 after playing all 38 Premier League matches. The France international is fast approaching 300 appearances in all competitions for United and is a regular captain. One of the best transfers of all time by Sir Alex.
Serbia international Vidic arrived at Old Trafford during the same window as Patrice Evra and he was an instant success. During the 2008-09 season, Vidic started every game which went on to become a British Football League-record of 14 consecutive Premier League clean sheets. He was credited with the 1,000th Premier League goal scored at Old Trafford in a 2-0 victory against Tottenham Hotspur.
Like Evra, the signing of Vidic was a fantastic piece of business. Since joining the club he has been showered with accolades – named in PFA Team of the Year during the 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09 and 2010-11 seasons and awarded Premier League Player of the Season for the 2008-09 and 2010-11 seasons.
Henrik Larsson- Joined from Helsinborg on loan in 2007
Striker Larsson was 35-years-old when he joined United following prolific spells at Celtic and back in his native Helsingborg. He was drafted in as cover for the injured Ole Gunnar Solskajer and Alan Smith, while Louis Saha could not relied upon to stay injury-free.
Ever the predator, Larsson scored on his debut in an FA Cup third round victory against Aston Villa and notched his first and only Premier League goal during a 4-0 victory against Watford. A winning goal in the Champions League against Lille saw him end his loan spell with three goals in 13 appearances in all competitions.
Scholes retired at the end of the 2010-11 season after 17 years at the club but registered as a player again in January 2012 following an injury crisis at Old Trafford. The midfielder made his second debut as a substitute in the 3-2 victory against Manchester City in the FA Cup and scored on his first start for the team in a 3-0 victory against Bolton Wanderers in the Premier League.
Just how much game time Scholes will get this season is unclear, but he’s done well when called upon and has now scored at least one goal every Premier League season since the 1995-95 campaign.
Unfortunately, transfers are not always successful. Here are four that haven’t worked out…
The Mikel saga began in April 2005 when the then 18-year-old signed a contract to join United in January 2006. Chelsea issued a counter-claim suggesting they already had an agreement with Mikel and his agents but this was denied by Lyn.
Then followed a nine-day disappearance by Mikel, talks of a “kidnapping” and claims from the player he was “pressured” into signing a contract with United when he wanted to join Chelsea all along.
In June 2006, the player was transferred to Chelsea with United making a healthy profit on a player who never kicked a ball for them.
Manucho- Joined from Petro Atletico for an undisclosed fee in 2008
Following a prolific spell in the Angolan league, Manucho impressed during a three week trial at Old Trafford and was signed during the 2008 transfer window. However, work permit problems saw the striker farmed out to Panathinaikos and he did not make his first and only Premier League appearance until November 2008. He then joined Hull City during the 2009 transfer window before being shipped out to Real Valladolid the following summer.
Zoran Tosic- Joined from Partizan Belgrade for an undisclosed fee in 2009
Tosic arrived at Old Trafford along with his team-mate Adem Ljajic in January 2009 but United supports saw very little of either player. Tosic made just two appearances in the Premier League before being sent on loan to Koln in the January 2010 window and then joined CSKA Moscow for a reported £8 million fee the following June.
Ritchie De Laet- Joined from Stoke City for an undisclosed fee in 2009
Belgian defender De Laet has spent much of his career out on loan since arriving from Stoke City. He has made just two Premier League appearances for United – both in the 2009-10 season, including a 3-0 defeat against Fulham. A loan spell at Norwich City this season was cut short by injury.
Who are your best and worst January Transfer Signings?
Tom is a southern dwelling Kendalian who is one of our editors and a weekly guest on the podcast. He has an unhealthy obsession with Jaap Stam and despite 20 years of success never expects United to win.