So many great stars have graced Manchester United during Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign. Since he became manager in 1986, he has won 12 Premier League titles and two Champions Leagues.
Every fan will have a different opinion about who were the best signings, and may be shocked at some of the names that have been left out of my list – Denis Irwin, Mark Hughes, Rio Ferdinand, Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole and Nemanja Vidić all miss out.
Unfortunately, I can only pick five so here are my top five signings based on the impact they had in driving Manchester United forward.
5 – Ole Gunnar Solskjær
Ole Gunnar Solskjær was largely unknown in England when United spent £1.5m on him in 1996. However, he quickly earned the nickname ‘baby faced assassin’ due to his youthful appearance and ruthlessness in front of goal. He made 33 appearances for United in his first season and scored 18 goals.
Due to the huge amount of talent at the club, Solskjær often found himself on the subs bench but he even managed to turn this into an art form. He didn’t complain; instead he focused on the game and analysed the form of the players and the patterns of play from the bench. When he was called upon he was ready. He became known as a supersub for his knack of coming off the bench and scoring vital goals.
A player of his quality would have been in the starting line up for any other team in the country so it was a testament to the loyalty he felt for United that he was prepared to accept his role as third choice striker.
However, it also meant that he was trusted to deliver when it really mattered as he would be the player to come when things weren’t going well and swing the pendulum in United’s favour. He scored several goals after coming on as sub that would have changed draws into wins. These extra points turned good seasons into title winning seasons.
He wrote himself into the history books when he scored the winning goal in the last minute of the 1999 Champions League final against Bayern Munich. Typically, he had started the game on the bench, but when he was called upon he was ready to deliver one of the most important goals in the history of Manchester United.
4 – Peter Schmeichel
In 1991, Alex Ferguson spent £505k on Danish goalkeeper, Peter Schmeichel. Ferguson would later describe the signing as the ‘bargain of the century’. It is not difficult to see why.
Schmeichel’s shot-stopping and distribution were fantastic. United often turned defence into attack thanks to a freakishly long throw from the quick thinking Dane. He was also the king of one on ones. His big frame made the goal shrink and even the most deadly opposition strikers could lose their cool when Schmeichel charged out to stop them.
During his eight years at the club, Schmeichel was a rock and he gave his teammates the confidence to play (although he was never shy about screaming at them if he felt they had made a mistake). However, his team mates knew that if they did make a mistake, it was likely that Schmeichel would be able to get them out of trouble. This gave them the confidence and freedom to play the attractive attacking football that won so many trophies over the years.
Schmeichel won 15 trophies with the club and was captain on the night they won the Champions League in 1999.
After he retired, he was extremely difficult to replace. United signed five goalkeepers in six years before they found a worthy successor. Ferguson said that Edwin van der Sar was the best goalkeeper to play for United since Schmeichel, although nobody is ever likely to surpass the great Dane.