Post Ferguson Failings: Transfer Window Review - 2014/15

The appointment of Louis Van Gaal led to drastic squad changes, with big names coming in and going out.

Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League
Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League / Matthew Ashton - AMA/GettyImages
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In the wake of a disastrous season that saw Manchester United finish the season without the prospect of European football for the first time since the 1990/91 season, United announced Dutch coach Louis Van Gaal as their manager for the 2014/15 season. 

The former Ajax and Barcelona manager coached an average Dutch team to the semi finals of the 2014 that summer in a campaign that included a mesmerising 5-1 defeat of the then reigning World Champions Spain. So, with a new superstar manager in charge and rumours of big name stars arriving, United fans had cause for optimism as the 2014/15 summer transfer window opened.


Who did United sign?

Soccer : Barclays Premier League - Leicester City v Manchester United
Soccer : Barclays Premier League - Leicester City v Manchester United / Matthew Ashton/GettyImages

Ángel di Maria
Bought: €75 million from Real Madrid (26/8/14)
Sold: €63 million to Paris SG (6/8/15) 
Stats: 32 games; 4 goals, 12 assists

Angel Di Maria is a World Cup winner. He has 136 caps for Argentina. He was Man of the Match in a Champions League final. He is and has been a truly world class footballer.

For Manchester United he was largely unspectacular and didn’t show the quality that he undoubtedly had. Signed by Louis van Gaal but ultimately not trusted by him, he was not allowed enough opportunities in the correct positions to show his talents. In his first appearances for United, he looked so impressive that United fans could legitimately be optimistic about mounting a title charge with him, Rooney and Van Persie all starting games.

His scooped finish in a match United ultimately lost against Leicester was a goal of such beauty that even the bitterest of United fans will surely occasionally rewatch it for nostalgia purposes. Di Maria’s season fizzled out after Christmas and he had a foolish sending off against Arsenal in the FA Cup, which seemed to seal his fate as a United player. It is worth noting that his record of a goal involvement every two games is an impressive statistic and today’s team would gladly take a player who could guarantee such a return.


The best thing to be said about Di Maria’s transfer to Manchester United is that ultimately it didn’t cost United too much. They sold him after one season for a loss of €12 million and he got the move to Paris that he wanted a year earlier.


Luke Shaw
Arsenal v Manchester United - Premier League / Michael Regan/GettyImages

Luke Shaw
Bought: €37 million from Southampton (1/7/14) 
Stats: Games 270; 4 goals, 69 assists

Brought in for a handsome fee from Southampton, the teenage version of Luke Shaw looked like he could realistically replace the departing Patrice Evra. United would however buy 2 more left backs in the same transfer window, leaving him unsure of his place in the pecking order.


As has so often been the case with Luke Shaw, injuries would rule him out of so many games. He missed 14 of United’s 38 Premier League games through injury in 2014/15. By the end of the season, Shaw was starting to show glimpses of the form that prompted United to shell out the bigs bucks and he would carry this form into the 2015/16 season, only to have his season cruelly cut short in September with a horror double fracture of the tibia and fibula.


Shaw has gone on to have a very solid career at Old Trafford and now, when fit, is one of the first names on the team sheet. He has been saddled with the reputation of having one good year and then following it up with a bad year but those good years are very, very good indeed.


Ander Herrera
Manchester United v Stoke City - Premier League / Mike Hewitt/GettyImages

Ander Herrera
Bought: €36 million from Athletic Club de Bilbao (1/7/14)
Sold: Free Transfer to Paris SG (4/7/19)
Stats: Games 189; 20 goals, 27 assists

Manchester United finally got their man after the embarrassment of fake agents and inflated fees from the summer of 2014. United finally settled on a fair price (the same price as quoted in 2013) for Ander Herrera and could now look forward to relying on the services of the industrious young midfielder. Herrera was part of the energetic Athletic side that had impressed so much under the management of Marcelo Bielsa and he brought passion, energy and drive to the United engine room.

In his first season at Old Trafford he was often deployed in an advanced role in midfield and enjoyed his most prolific season, notching 8 goals in all competitions.

During his spell at Old Trafford, he was an ever reliable if unspectacular player who ably swapped across every position in the midfield. He will perhaps be best remembered for his incredible performance in a 2-0 victory over Chelsea at Old Trafford in 2016/17. The Spaniard bagged a goal and provided and assist all while performing a herculean man marking job on Eden Hazard. That season was undoubtedly Herrera’s best and he was rewarded with 2 trophies (League Cup, Europa League) and the player of the season award.


Marcos Rojo
Manchester United v Everton - Premier League / Michael Regan/GettyImages

Marcos Rojo
Bought: €20 million from Sporting CP (20/7/14)
Sold: Free Transfer to Boca Juniors (2/2/21)
Stats: 122 games; 2 goals, 4 assists

Marcos Rojo signed after impressing in the World Cup for Argentina. He was a versatile and consistent performer for Manchester United and during his debut season he played in a variety of positions across United’s defensive line. His composure on the ball in overall defensive solidity meant that he can be considered a moderately successful signing. He went on to play 122 games for United and despite his reputation for being hot-headed he was remarkably never sent off whilst playing for the Red Devils.


Daley Blind
Manchester City v Manchester United - Premier League / Laurence Griffiths/GettyImages

Daley Blind
Bought: €17.5 million from Ajax (1/9/14)
Sold: €16 million to Ajax (17/7/18)
Stats: 141 games; 6 goals, 10 assists

Another player signed after an impressive World Cup. His coach Louis van Gaal could trust him in any role but played best in the LB slot. He won the FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League in his time at Manchester United and was a reliable player. Blind was a very intelligent player and covered many gaps in a United team, even playing impressively in a defensive midfield role. While Blind sometimes looked like he struggled for pace, he has gone on to prove he is more than capable of playing at the highest level with impressive performances in Erik ten Hag’s Ajax team that reached the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2019. Blind is currently churning out excellent, intelligent performances in La Liga with surprise package Girona. 


Radamel Falcao
Manchester United v Newcastle United - Premier League / Alex Livesey/GettyImages

Radamel Falcao
Bought: €7.8 million loan fee from Monaco (1/9/14)
Sold: End of Loan return to Monaco (30/6/15)
Stats: 29 games; 4 goals, 5 assists

Radamel Falcao was arguably the world’s best striker when he moved for huge money from Atletico Madrid to Monaco in the summer of 2013. He missed half of the 2013/14 and the 2014 World Cup due to a cruciate ligament tear. When he was signed in September 2014 there was huge cause for optimism. After all, Ruud van Nistelrooij was signed after suffering the same injury and went on to have an incredible goal scoring return at Old Trafford. It just didn’t work out. He looked like he had lost a yard of pace and wasn’t even getting into the positions to score goals. It is probably not his fault that things didn’t work out for him at United and his arrival was very exciting, but looking back, allowing Chicharito to leave in order to bring in Falcao was a mistake. He returned to Monaco after one season on loan and later would have an equally unimpressive spell at Chelsea.


FBL-ENG-PR-MAN UTD-SOUTHAMPTON
FBL-ENG-PR-MAN UTD-SOUTHAMPTON / OLI SCARFF/GettyImages

Victor Valdes
Bought: Free Unattached (8/1/15)
Sold: Free to Middlesborough (7/1/16)
Stats: 2 games

Allowed to train with Manchester United to help rehabilitate following his cruciate ligament injury, Louis van Gaal opted to offer him a contract in January 2015 as a backup goal keeper. He would only make 2 appearances and the relationship between van Gaal and Valdes soured leaving the former Barcelona keeper looking for a way out of the club. He would go on loan to Belgian club Standard Liege in January 2016 before moving on a free to Middlesbrough in the summer of 2016.

Vanja Milinkovic-Savic
Vanja Milinkovic-Savic of Torino FC gestures during the... / Nicolò Campo/GettyImages

Vanja Milinkovic-Savic
Bought: €1.75 million from Vojvodina (1/7/14)
Sold: Free Transfer to Lechia Gdansk (1/1/16)
Stats: No Appearances

Manchester United signed the teenage Serbian to their academy in the summer of 2014. He would not go on to play for the club. He has gone on to play 18 times for his country and is now in his third season as the first choice goalkeeper at Italian Serie A side Torino.


Who did United sell/let go?

Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra
Manchester United v Aston Villa - Premier League / Clive Mason/GettyImages

Nemanja Vidic
Sold: Free to Inter (1/7/14)
Stats: 300 games; 21 goals, 4 assists

Rio Ferdinand
Sold: Free Transfer to QPR (14/7/14)
Stats: 455 games; 8 goals, 9 assists

Patrice Evra
Sold: €1.9 million to Juventus (21/7/14)
Stats: 379 games; 10 goals, 38 assists

Darren Fletcher
Sold: Free Transfer to West Brom (2/2/15)
Stats: 342 games; 24 goals, 30 assists

Anderson
Sold: Free Transfer to Internacional (1/2/15)
Stats: 181 games; 9 goals, 20 assists

Javier Hernandez (Chicharito)
Sold: Loan fee €3 million to Real Madrid (1/9/14)
Stats: 157 games; 59 goals, 20 assists

Danny Welbeck
Sold: €20 million to Arsenal (1/9/14)
Stats: 142 games; 29 goals, 22 assists

Shinji Kagawa
Sold: €8 million to Borussia Dortmund
Stats: 57 games;  6 goals 10 assists

Alexander Buttner
Sold: €5.5 million Dinamo Moscow
Stats: 28 games;  2 goals,  3 assists

Wilfried Zaha
Sold: Loan made permanent €3.8 million Crystal Palace (2/2/15)
Stats: 4 games; 0 goals, 0 assists

Bebé
Sold: €3 million to Benfica (25.7.14)
Stats: 7 games; 2 goals, 0 assists

Federico Macheda
Sold: Free Transfer Cardiff City(1/7/14)
Stats 36 games; 5 goals, 5 assists


2014/15 Transfer Window - Success or Failure?

Verdict : Failure

The window was not a huge failure. United recovered from the 13/14 season by qualifying for the Champions League via a 4th place finish in the EPL. However, errors in the type of signings and high profile outgoings meant that the window could not be considered a success. 

The recruitment of the summer of 2014 looked very different to any window in United’s history. Louis Van Gaal came in and obviously wanted to make his mark. There were some causes for optimism as United signed two of the world’s biggest stars in Radamel Falcao and Angel di Maria. That one of those players, Di Maria, never wanted to move to Manchester should have been enough to veto the transfer but United pushed ahead and brought him in. He started incredibly well and even for €75 million he looked like a bargain. By the end of the season the fans had turned on him and many questioned his commitment to the club. Di Maria is a top player and has had a very successful decade post Manchester United. He will probably view his time in the North West of England as a blip in an otherwise stellar career.  Falcao on the other hand was a flop from the very start and his rushed return from a cruciate ligament injury seemed to affect his performances. The signings of Herrera and Shaw can certainly go onto the rather short list of successful signings in the post Ferguson era and Herrera would go on to become a popular player with fans. 

Perhaps the most significant aspect of the window came in the form of departures. When Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra and Darren Fletcher were given transfers out of Old Trafford, four legitimate club legends left the club. With them, left a huge chunk of the club's winning fabric and identity. While none of these players were at their peak, they would be greatly missed. In years to come it would become clear that clearing out four players in such a fashion was an error and a case of “throwing the baby out with the bath water.”