It’s 30 years since Sir Alex Ferguson took change of Manchester United, he is one of the greatest managers of all time and his eye for spotting talented players for a bargain price was the best in the business. From Eric Cantona to Roy Keane, Fergie signed 99 players for Manchester United, but who really was his best bargain buy during his time with The Red Devils?
The first signing made by Sir Alex Ferguson to be considered a steal has to be Steve Bruce. £825,000 may seem like a fair amount for a centre-back in 1987, but this reliable and loyal player proved the sum paid for him was a snip. He made 309 appearances for the club and scored 36 goals, the most important of those coming in 1993 against Sheffield Wednesday. His two historic headers that day were critical in the club winning their first league title in 26 years – something you couldn’t put a price on. Bruce will always be thought of as one of Fergie’s best signings and forever be a club legend.
Perhaps deemed as one of the bargain buys of all time let alone a great Fergie signing must be Peter Schmeichel. The former Manchester United manager paid a mere £750,000 to Brondby for what some might say was the greatest goal keeper in the world during his time at Old Trafford. Stunning saves, phenomenal throw outs starting numerous attacks, Schmeichel had it all. Many times his shot stopping would win United games. How could anyone forget the match against Newcastle United in 1996 when the big Dane pulled off a string of incredible saves from Les Ferdinand and Faustino Asprilla to turn the Premier League race on its head?
Whilst on the subject of the clash with Newcastle United, Eric Cantona scored the winning goal that night, and he has to go down as the possible number one choice when Fergie’s bargain buys are commented on. The £1.2million Frenchman will always have a special place in United hearts and will go down as another absolute steal made by Sir Alex Ferguson. His sublime goals, spectacular touches and perfect passes are just some of the reasons why Cantona is one of the best players Manchester United have ever seen. He was inspirational, almost gliding across the pitch, and it was his goals that won the matches to overtake Newcastle and win the 1995/96 Premier League. That season United won the ‘double’ for a second time, completing a title triumph and FA Cup final win against Liverpool, with of course, Eric Cantona scoring the winning 89th minute goal. In today’s market, ‘The King’ would be priceless.
Compared to the three pervious players, £3.75million may seem excessive for a Fergie buy during the early 90’s, but there was nothing undue about the signing of Roy Keane. He was a powerhouse in midfield for The Red Devils for 12 years, his driving force the difference between a win or a draw on many occasions. Keane’s stand out performance came in the semi-final of the 1999 Champion’s League against Juventus, scoring a goal, he was the inspiration behind the team coming back from 2-0 down to win 3-2 which took United through to the final, a final that Keane would miss through suspension.
In more recent years, you couldn’t argue with the fact that Cristiano Ronaldo should be considered as one of Fergie’s bargain buys despite costing £12.25million. It was an investment in, what would turn out to be, one of the club’s greatest players and one of the best the world would see. His skill and speed on the ball made an incredible impact, his ability was staggering. Ronaldo went on to score 118 goals in all competitions in 292 appearances for Manchester United and he was the catalyst behind the team winning nine major honours during his six year stay at the club including three Premier Leagues and the 2008 Champion’s League. Exciting, dynamic, assisting as well as scoring unbelievable goals himself, Ronaldo was a snip at just over £12million.
Five Fergie greats have been discussed, however, others cannot be ruled out in his list of signings that were a steal. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who scored the 1999 Champion’s League final winner, cost just £1.6million and has to be considered; as well as Dennis Irwin, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra and Gary Pallister.
It would be extremely difficult to pick one bargain buy out of the players mentioned, as Sir Alex Ferguson was the master of such transfers, but for me it is between Eric Cantona and Peter Schmeichel. It’s incredible to think between them they cost less than £2million pounds yet they played such an integral part in the club’s history as well as being world-class players. Both of these footballers are two of Manchester United’s greatest ever players, let alone the best bargain buy Sir Alex Ferguson ever made.