Post Ferguson Failings: Transfer Window Review - 2013/14

The first attempt for Manchester United to sign players in a post Sir Alex Ferguson world did not go as planned.

Manchester United v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League
Manchester United v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League / Alex Livesey/GettyImages
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We’ve taken a brief look at Manchester United’s history in the transfer windows since Sir Alex Ferguson left the club in 2013. He left behind a team of proven winners, a team that had lifted the Premier League trophy on his last football game in charge. Whichever manager came in, we knew he wasn’t going to be Fergie, but surely with the tools at his disposal only a small tweak in the first post Alex Ferguson transfer window would be needed and United would be in contention again. 

Here is our first instalment of the Post Ferguson Failings - 2013/14.


David Moyes
‘The Chosen One’ was United’s first (of many) attempts to replicate the Ferguson era. / Paul Thomas/GettyImages

David Moyes took charge in the summer of 2013 and United fans were promised big names.  

In what would become a recurring theme for Manchester United in the subsequent decade, transfer targets would be made known and months of dilly-dallying would follow. This ultimately led to many targets going down one of two routes: moving to other clubs or arriving at Old Trafford at the last minute for inflated prices. 

Two Everton players (Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines) were pursued all summer. United delayed so long that they eventually only signed Fellaini on deadline day in comical fashion… for £4million more than had they paid his release clause a month sooner. 

Cesc Fabregas, Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo, Fabio Coentrao, Daniele de Rossi and Sami Khedira were all approached by the new CEO in charge of spearheading transfers, Ed Woodward. The new executive also pulled out of a deal to sign Ander Herrera for £30m, believing the deal to be too expensive. The Spaniard would sign for Manchester United the following year for the same fee. As Adam Crafton wrote at the time; “United were found wanting this summer, lacking somebody streetwise and with a burgeoning contact book to secure deals”


Who did United sign?

Marouane Fellaini
Manchester United v Derby County - Carabao Cup Third Round / Gareth Copley/GettyImages

Marouane Fellaini -
Bought: €32.40million from Everton (2/9/13)
Sold: €7.9million SD Luneng (1/2/19)
Stats: 177 games; 22 goals, 12 assists.

The Belgian was an excellent player who tormented United under Ferguson while at Everton. Had Fellaini been signed alongside some of the superstars United were interested in, or indeed for the correct price, it would have been viewed as a shrewd signing. Much ridiculed often purely for his appearance, Fellaini was a capable footballer who was proven in the Premier League.

United had an ageing midfield and his arrival could have brought a new dimension to their play. It was always intended that he would be joined by another midfielder but this did not happen until the end of January 2014. Fellaini’s signing put David Moyes under pressure from the very start. His legacy will probably be that he symbolised the Moyes era and the start of the inadequacies of the Woodward era. Fellaini did however, have his moments.

Under Louis van Gaal he was used to good effect and helped United dominate Manchester City at Old Trafford in April 2015. He scored a crucial FA Cup semi final goal against Everton in 2016. He was used by successive Manchester United managers as a late game target man and often it worked. Fellaini left in February 2019, moving to Shandong Luneng for €7.9 million.


Juan Mata
Liverpool v Manchester United - Premier League / Alex Livesey/GettyImages

Juan Mata -
Bought: €44.73million from Chelsea (24/1/14)
Sold: Free - contract expiry (1/7/22)
Stats: 285 games; 51 goals, 47 assists.

Juan Mata was a very exciting player in January 2014. Unsure of where he would fit into the team, he had remarkably been frozen out at Chelseaby Jose Mourinho. United broke their transfer record to secure his services, and his Chelsea and Valencia records warranted the fee. ‘El Mago’ shone at Valencia playing alongside David Silva and David Villa and when Chelsea signed him from the Spanish side, he slotted in immediately and looked like and incredible bit of business by the Blues.

Mata played 15 times in the 2013/14 campaign after being signed in January 2014, scoring 6 times and assisting 5 goals. His addition to the squad was not enough to keep his manager in a job and there was often a lack of clarity to the role that he would fulfill. Mata, Shinji Kagawa and Wayne Rooney, at this stage of his career, all wished to occupy the central role behind a main striker and this would be a familiar situation for Mata throughout his career at Manchester United.

The Spaniard would often not wholly be trusted by managers to play as a number 10 and not quick enough to be a truly devastating wide player. Mata would go on to be an important player for United, playing 285 times and scoring 51 goals. He won the FA Cup, League Cup, Europa League and Community Shield in his time at United. 

Mata was a popular player with fans, giving them a rare moment of Anfield bliss when he scored both goals in a 2-1 victory in March 2015. A career defining scissor kick against the Kop elevated him to a fan favourite status regardless of how the rest of his time at United would pan out. It certainly helped that Mata was a fantastic asset for United both on and off the pitch - cofounding the charity Common Goal; a charity that encouraged wealthy footballers to donate 1% of their income to charity.


Who did United sell/let go?

Paul Scholes
Manchester United v Bolton Wanderers - Premier League / Alex Livesey/GettyImages

Paul Scholes (retired) -
Stats: 716 games; 155 goals, 82 assists.

Fabio Da Silva -
Sold: Cardiff City - free transfer (31/1/14)
Stats: 56 games.

2013/14 Transfer Window- Success or Failure?

Verdict: Failure.

The summer window was an unmitigated disaster. The overpayment and comical scramble for Fellaini‘s signature and the failure to sign other main targets put Moyes on the back foot. The season never got going and by the time Juan Mata was signed in the January window, the rot had already set in. When David Gill and Alex Ferguson left the club, United were without the clear direction/planning that had characterised their previous excellence. 

United looked amateurish with Ed Woodward trying to conduct business and David Moyes would pay the price. The Scot wouldn’t see out the season, losing his job when it was finally confirmed that the team couldn’t qualify for the Champions League - sending shockwaves to football fans around the world at the Manchester United crisis.