After a comment was left on my Fergies best buys post that I make a list of the flops that have arrived at Old Trafford during this same period, I thought it only fair that I comply, purely in the interest of balance.
Not every purchase made works out how you imagined, and there are various factors that come into play for this, the individual not settling in the area, personal problems, a new style of play, the cultural differences and of course not being able to adapt to the pressure. Whatever the reasons behind their failures this is a list of some of the flops that have been brought to United by Sir Alex.
1. David Bellion. Arriving from relegated Sunderland with the title of the “next Thierry Henry” Bellion did little to suggest he was worthy of being mentioned in the same breathe as the French genius. After scoring in his first game, a pre season friendly against Celtic in America, there was optimism to follow the controversial signing of the Frenchman. There were suggestions that Bellion had been tapped up by United while at Sunderland, and claims that he had also been offered to Arsenal by his agent without Sunderlands knowledge. There is little more to say about Bellion as he did very little while at United. There most have been some promise there as Sunderland fought for him, and United wanted and got him, but what promise there was was never seen by the United fans. After spending time on loan at West Ham Bellion was moved on to Nice in France, initially on loan and then permanently.
2. Eric Djemba Djemba. The defensive midfielder arrived at United in 2003 after some impressive performances in France for FC Nantes. The Cameroon international was known as a tough tackling, skillful, midfielder, who would be vying for the role of Roy Keanes successor at United. While some early performances were good Djemba Djemba found himself in and out of the first team as United used a variety of midfielders in what was seen as a transitional period for the club. The constant rotation did little for the form or confidence of Djemba Djemba who soon found himself sold to Aston Villa having failed to impress the staff or fans of United.
3. Kleberson. The Brazilian midfielder came to the attention of the world, and United scouts, during his impressive performances during the 2002 World Cup, where he helped Brazil lift the trophy. Brazil coach at the time, Scolari, declared that Kleberson was the driving force behind Brazils triumph, prompting interest from several clubs, including Newcastle and Leeds. He was thought to be close to joining Leeds until the deal fell apart when Kleberson decided to remain in Brazil as he would not leave without his girlfriend, who he could not marry until she turned 16. Kleberson eventually arrived at United for 6,5 million pounds. Kleberson spent much of his time at United on the injury list, seldom playing consecutive games. Perhaps it was the constant injuries, or the change in culture and style, but Kleberson never regained the form that made him a wanted man and eventually lost his place in the Brazil squad to. He was sold to Besiktas in Turkey.
4. Liam Miller. The Irish midfielder arrived at United on a Bosman free from Celtic, where he had been pretty impressive, particularly in Europe. However after some initial promising performances Miller found his first time opportunities limited. In all he only managed 22 first team appearances in 2 years at United. During his frustrating time at United, the end of which was spent on loan at Leeds, Miller still managed to hang on to his international place with the Republic of Ireland. He moved to Sunderland to join former team mate Roy Keane, the Sunderland manager, and helped them win promotion back to the Premiership. Miller will be hoping to show the United fans and staff that he is a better player then they saw in the coming season.
5. Juan Sebastian Veron. Veron arrived at Old Trafford for a record fee of 28 million pounds, the Brit sh record at the time. Veron was impressive in his early United career, particularly in Europe, but then his form began to decline and he was rarely the player everyone had hoped for during the rest of his 2 year stay at United. The reasons behind this where multiple, firstly he found himself injured for much of his time, secondly United where never sure where to play him often using him behind a lone forward in van Nistelrooy, and most importantly, the pace and physical nature of the English game was not suited to Veron’s thoughtful game. This was clearly seen with his performances once he returned to the slower game in Italy with Inter. Veron may have just been a victim of a different style and a team unsure how best to use him.
6. Diego Forlan. Forlan came to United from Independiente in Argentina. It took 8 months and 27 appearances for him to score his first goal, a penalty in a European game against Maccabi Haifa. Although seen by many in England as a flop, Forlan was well liked by both his team mates and the fans at United as he always gave his best and it was evident that he was a good player. He managed to score a few goals after breaking his duck, and they usually ended up being important goals such as a late equaliser against Villa, a late winner against Chelsea, and a couple of goals against Liverpool. The arrival of Rooney saw Forlans chances limited and he moved on to Villareal in Spain, where he finished the season as Spains top scorer with 25 goals, and the European Golden Boot winner, despite not arriving at the start of the season, and so missing a month or so of games. His form has continued in Spain where he has been linked with Barcelona, Valencia, Liverpool and now Atheltico Madrid. Forlan is showing the type of scoring form that made United bring him to England, and perhaps given the time he would have shown at Old Trafford. Many of his appearances where as a substitute, and I don’t believe he was given a fair go at establishing himself at United.
7. Massimo Taibi. The Italian keeper was brought to United as one of the many who were asked to fill the void left by Peter Schemiechel. After an impressive debut performance against Liverpool, where he was named man of the match, Taibi only managed 3 more games for United. This followed a 5-0 loss to Chelsea, where he was blamed for some of the Chelsea goals, and a game against Southampton when he let a tame Matt Letissier shot through his legs, to the embarrassment of all. He has gone on to play well for a number of clubs in Italy since then, but will always be remembered at United for a brief, inept, career.
It is perhaps no coincidence that many of Fergies flops have been central midfield players, as he attempted to find the answer to life without Roy Keane. Perhaps he now has the answer in Owen Hargreaves, but he did have a fair go and finding a replacement for Keano!