During Sir Alex Ferguson’s 23 year reign at Old Trafford, we’ve seen him sign, sell, select, drop and give the hair dryer treatment to hundreds of Manchester United players. The start of the decade saw Ferguson sign some of his most memorable flops, the biggest notably coming from South America.
Argentine midfield general, Juan Sebastian Veron caught the eye of Ferguson playing as part of the Lazio’s treble winning side in 2000. Ferguson went all out to make Veron a United player, eventually signing him on a 5 year deal for an English record transfer fee at the time of £28.1m. However, a big transfer fee comes along with big expectations from the fans and media. Veron quickly found it hard in England, not being able to find the space to play and he struggled to keep up with the fast pace of the English game. This led him along a path of various below average and largely forgettable performances. The only memory of Veron in United colours I can recall is when he directed a blistering shot past Derby goalkeeper Andy Oakes during a Premier League game. This just wasn’t enough to stop the media getting on the back of Veron, and eventually Ferguson. After only two seasons at Old Trafford, Veron jumped ship to Chelsea where he flopped again. Eventually, escaping his Premier league embarrassment Veron returned home to Argentinean side Estudiantes.
Another South American attracted the attention of Ferguson in 2002, in the way of Independiente striker Diego Forlan. Forlan cost Ferguson £6.9m and came to England boasting an impressive goal scoring record which excited Ferguson. However, it took Forlan an amazing 27 games before he decided to show the United fans his goal scoring touch. Forlan’s goals came as a rare surprise during his two years at Old Trafford, and this inconsistency inevitably cost him his place in Ferguson’s plans, finally being sold to Villarreal in 2004. If any consolation for Diego, I’m sure the Uruguayan forward will always be in the heart of every Manchester United fan due the double he hit against Liverpool back in 2002 and his hilarious goal celebration, which saw him take his shirt off then struggle to put it back on, running around the pitch bare-chested against Southampton!
Following the World Cup in 2002, Brazilian centre midfielder Kleberson had caught the attention of various European clubs. His calming influence and creative play ensured he was a regular fixture in Brazils World Cup winning team. Ferguson was quickest to act securing his signature for a fee of £6.5m. Kleberson came to Old Trafford in 2003 and seemed to be a direct replacement for the disappointing Veron. It wasn’t poor performances that hindered Kleberson’s early Manchester United career, he was frustratingly injured in his second appearance. From then on the Brazilian returned from injury and found it hard to force his was back into the team before leaving for Turkey and Besiktas in 2005.
However, not all South American acquisitions have disappointed. Carlos Tevez and Anderson have been particularly impressive for United in past years, helping Ferguson capture a Premier League title and Champions League in the same season. Another United favourite was Gabriel Heinze who built a reputation at Old Trafford for his no nonsense defending.
In recent years Ferguson has dipped into the transfer market with great success and United currently boast an array of South American talent. Anderson has been joined by Brazilian twins Rafael and Fabio, along with Ecuadorian winger Antonio Valencia who has excited United fans with his electrifying pace. If Fergusons good fortunes continue, I’m sure there will be more South American talent arriving on English shores in the future.
Written by Jordan Ormrod