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The 10 biggest Manchester United transfer flops

Dan Fitch looks at the most expensive Manchester United transfer flops and what they'd cost in today's inflated market.

Manchester United have made some inspired signings over the years, but for every Cantona or Ronaldo, there has been an expensive transfer flop.

As one of the biggest clubs in the world, United have always had money to burn and many promising careers have gone up in smoke, when faced with the pressure of playing at Old Trafford.

We have come up with a list of the 10 most costly Manchester United transfer flops, calculating just how much they would fetch in today's market, based on their percentage cost in relation to the record sum spent by an English club at the time.

10. Jesper Blomqvist - 1998 - Transfer fee then: £4.4m - Transfer fee now: £9,425,000

Blomqvist was signed as cover for Ryan Giggs and David Beckham. He made a total of 38 appearances in his first season, but never really impressed.

A serious knee injury saw Blomqvist fail to make a single appearance over the next two seasons and he was released to Everton. Although his United career was ultimately an expensive failure, the Swede will always have a space in the club's history, having started the Champions League final of 1999.

9. Massimo Taibi - 1999 - Transfer fee then: £4,500,000 - Transfer fee now: £9,750,000

In terms of value for money, the signing of Massimo Taibi could be the most costly, even though he only makes in to number nine on our list. Taibi made his United debut against Liverpool, in which he rather gifted Sami Hyypia a goal, but was eventually named man of the match after making a string of saves.

That game was to be one of only four appearances that Taibi ever made for United. He made an awful error against Southampton and conceded five against Chelsea. Fergie's search for Peter Schmeichel's successor went on.

8. Karel Poborsky - 1996 - Transfer fee then: £3,500,000 - Transfer fee now: £13,325,000

Poborksy was one of the standout stars of Euro 96, of which one of the highlights was a brilliant lobbed goal by the Czech star. After the tournament, Poborksy was signed by United.

Unfortunately for the right-winger, his arrival at Old Trafford coincided with the rise of David Beckham. After a season and a half in which he was unable to establish himself in the team, Poborksy was transferred to Benfica.

7. Alan Brazil - 1984 - Transfer fee then: £625,000 - Transfer fee now: £13,650,000

Alan Brazil had been prolific for Ipswich Town, but after having failed to impress during a season at Tottenham, Ron Atkinson took a leap of faith with his attempt to resurrect Brazil's career at United.

In two seasons Brazil scored a total of 16 goals in 41 appearances. That might sound good enough, but only eight of those goals were scored in his 31 games in the league. Brazil was sold in 1986 to Coventry for £300,000.

6. Louis Saha - 2004 - Transfer fee then: £12,800,000 - Transfer fee now: £14,300,000

A total of 15 goals in 22 games was enough to persuade Fergie to swoop for Louis Saha in the January transfer window of 2004 and with the Frenchman scoring another seven goals in 14 games for United, it looked like another canny purchase.

Unfortunately, injuries blighted the rest of Saha's United career and he was never able to establish himself with a prolonged run in the side. He was eventually sold to Everton in 2008 for an undisclosed fee.

5. Peter Davenport - 1986 - Transfer fee then: £750,000 - Transfer fee now: £16,250,000

Peter Davenport's impressive goalscoring ratio at Nottingham Forest saw Ron Atkinson splash out for the England international, as a replacement for the departing Mark Hughes.

After joining the club at the tail-end of the 1985/86 season, Davenport's first full season saw United struggling and Atkinson replaced with Alex Ferguson. He scored 16 goals in total, but wasn't a hit with the Old Trafford fans. Davenport struggled for goals in his second season and with Mark Hughes having returned to the club in 1988, Davenport was transferred to Middlesbrough.

4. Danny Wallace - 1989 - Transfer fee then: £1,200,000 - Transfer fee now: £16,900,000

Danny Wallace was by no means a total flop at Old Trafford, but never recaptured the form that he showed at Southampton, which had prompted Ferguson to pay a sizable fee for his services.

In his second season at the club, Wallace was ousted from the first team by Lee Sharpe, before the emergence of Ryan Giggs made first team outings even harder to come by. Wallace was eventually sold to Birmingham for £250,000 in 1993, but will be remembered fondly for his role in a 6-2 thrashing of Arsenal.

3. Garry Birtles - 1980 - Transfer fee then: £1,250,000 - Transfer fee now: £27,625,000

Having won two European Cup medals with Nottingham Forest, Garry Birtles was snapped up by United boss Dave Sexton for a huge fee.

Birtles' first season was nothing short of a disaster, as he made 25 appearances without scoring a single goal. He eventually opened his tally during his second season at the club in his 30th game and went on to score a respectable 11 goals in 33 appearances that term. It was not enough to impress his new manager Ron Atkinson and Birtles was sold back to Nottingham Forest.

2. Ted MacDougall - 1972 - Transfer fee then: £200,000 - Transfer fee now: 29,570,000

After starting his career at Liverpool, MacDougall eventually found himself at Bournemouth, where he enjoyed a prolific goalscoring spell in the fourth and then third divisions of English football.

His form prompted Manchester United to pay a then massive £200,000 for his services. Signed by Frank O'Farrell, as the club struggled to replace Matt Busby and stars such as Denis Law and Bobby Charlton, MacDougall had joined a club in turmoil.

Within weeks Tommy Doherty had taken over as manager of United and before the end of the season MacDougall was transferred to West Ham, having scored a total of five goals in 18 appearances.

1. Juan Sebastian Veron - 2001 - Transfer fee then: £28.1m - Transfer fee now: £32,500,000

How do you improve upon what was already the best midfield quartet in the world? Fergie sought to do that when he broke the British transfer record to buy Veron from Lazio, giving him options when one of Keane, Scholes, Giggs and Beckham were injured and the opportunity to field a five-man midfield of the highest possible quality.

Unfortunately Veron never settled to the pace of the English game and his presence unsettled what had been a well-oiled machine. Although he showed flashes of brilliance, Veron left United in 2003, joining Chelsea for £15m.

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14 October 2010

Oddly Enough

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