Post Ferguson Failings: Transfer Window Review - 2015/16

With United back in the Champions League, the club aimed to build a squad to compete at the highest level once again. A mixture of young prospects and proven veterans were brought into the team. But how would Van Gaal's new men gel?
Manchester United FC v VfL Wolfsburg - UEFA Champions League
Manchester United FC v VfL Wolfsburg - UEFA Champions League / Dean Mouhtaropoulos/GettyImages

Entering the summer of 2015, United had cause to feel reasonably optimistic. They had qualified for the Champions League once again and some of the signings from the previous window had started to bed in and would surely help address the gaps in the squad. Louis Van Gaal once again set about rejuvenating his ageing squad. They knew that a forward would be needed following the sales of Van Persie, Nani and Chicharito. Angel Di Maria also departed the club after only one season in red. So while work was needed to bolster the squad the allure and shine had not yet worn off Manchester United and they should have been able to attract the kind of player to revive the club.

Who did United Sign?

Manchester United v Liverpool - Premier League
Manchester United v Liverpool - Premier League / Matthew Ashton - AMA/GettyImages

Anthony Martial
Bought €60 million from Monaco (1/9/15)
Stats: 317 Games; 90 goals, 55 assists

Anthony Martial burst onto the scene with a blistering debut against Liverpool in a famous win at Old Trafford. That was to a signal of what was to follow in his debut season at the club. He would go on to win the prestigious golden boy award for his efforts in a truly remarkable 2015/16 season.

Today’s Anthony Martial makes the “50 million down the drain” chant sound less and less ironic but in his maiden season in red he was fantastic. He has stayed at Old Trafford for nearly a decade (apart from a 6 month loan spell at Sevilla) and was crucial in the FA Cup win in 2016. Plagued with injuries during his career, Anthony Martial never lived up to the promise of that first season. Undoubtedly talented, blessed with spectacular dribbling and finishing ability, Martial’s Old Trafford career will be remembered as one of unfulfilled potential. The 19/20 season in which he combined so marvellously with Marcus Rashford and bagged 23 goals and provided 12 assists was an outlier. He will surely leave Manchester United in the summer, most likely on a free transfer and possibly without kicking another ball for the club due to another injury.  He will hopefully find a number of suitors who are willing to take a chance on him, despite massive concerns over his fitness, form and, sometimes, his attitude.

Champions Laegue - "Manchester United v PSV Eindhoven"
Champions Laegue - "Manchester United v PSV Eindhoven" / VI-Images/GettyImages

Morgan Schneiderlin
Bought: €35 million from Southampton (13/7/15) 
Sold: €23 million to Everton (12/1/17)
Stats: 47 games, 1 goal, 1 assist

Morgan Schniederlin was signed based on some great performances in the Southampton midfield and United fans were hopeful that the rather large outlay of €35 million would reap the kind of rewards that such a price tag merits. Schneiderlin had an unmemorable time at Old Trafford. He rarely performed to the levels witnessed with Southampton. The Frenchman was left scarred by his brief time at Old Trafford. Dan Brown of the Manchester Evening News spoke to the former red last year and he admitted had he performed to his best 

"Maybe I would still be at Manchester United. When I signed, I wanted to be a legend there. That is why I am mad with myself and it will be hard until the end of my life.”

That Schneiderlin’s career never recovered from his year and a half in red perhaps tells us that his wonderful performances for Southampton were the exception rather than the rule. Schneiderlin now plays for Kifisia in the Greek Super League.

Champions Laegue - "Manchester United v PSV Eindhoven"
Champions Laegue - "Manchester United v PSV Eindhoven" / VI-Images/GettyImages

Memphis Depay
Bought: €34 million from PSV Eindhoven (1/7/15)
Sold: €16 million to Olympique Lyon (20/1/17)
Stats: 53 games; 7 goals, 6 assists

Depay signed for Manchester United after his season as top scorer in the Netherlands, notching 22 times and helping PSV win the league title. He found the Premier League tough going as United are expected to play twice a week at high intensity for an entire season, something he found difficult to come to terms with.

Memphis’ time at Old Trafford came to an end after a year and a half having only found the net on seven occasions in a United shirt.
A player who has a goal every other game at international level and proved his level in second tier leagues like France’s Ligue 1 and Eredivisie in the Netherlands. Performances at these levels got him moves to bigger clubs, his outings at PSV and for The Netherlands earned him his first big move to Manchester United. Later, his outstanding displays for Lyon saw him move to the cash strapped Barcelona who saw a free transfer move for the Dutchman as too good to turn down. While he didn’t set the world alight in Catalunya, he did fairly decent in trying circumstances. It was telling that the Catalan giants were happy to let him go for as little as €3 million to rivals Athletico Madrid. 

Bastian Schweinsteiger
Manchester United v Chelsea - Premier League / Clive Mason/GettyImages

Bastian Schweinsteiger
Bought: €9 million from Bayern Munich (13/7/15)
Sold: Free Transfer to Chicago Fire (21/3/17) 
Stats: 35 games; 2 goals, 3 assists

It would be unkind to say that when United signed Schweinsteiger he was past it, a has been. He was 31 when he made the switch to the Premier League and had won the World Cup with Germany the previous Summer and the Champions League the year before that. His performances for Manchester United however were not impressive. He was a wilful runner for United and tried to influence games but the pace of the Premier League proved to be too much for him and he would only make 18 league appearances for the Red Devils. He showed glimpses of the talent that he had shown in his time at Bayern and on rare occasions looked like he could steer United in the right direction from the base of midfield but alas this would not materialise. The former Bayern Munich man had a falling out with Jose Mourinho in the 2016/17 season and was forced to train away from the first team. Schweinsteiger left United for the MLS and played a few seasons with the Chicago Fire before retiring in 2019.

Manchester United v Middlesbrough - Capital One Cup Fourth Round
Manchester United v Middlesbrough - Capital One Cup Fourth Round / Matthew Ashton - AMA/GettyImages

Sergio Romero
Bought: Free Transfer from Sampdoria
Sold: Released (1/7/21)
Stats: Games 61; goals conceded 27, Clean Sheets 39

Romero was signed as cover to David de Gea who was also during the summer of 2015 was involved in a transfer saga with Real Madrid. An apparent fax machine error being the reason for his non transfer to Los Meringues.

Romero could easily be described as the best United number 2 in recent times, rarely making an error and having an undoubtedly fantastic clean sheet record. At times he was in serious contention to be the first choice goalkeeper. He deservedly played in the Europa League final triumph over Ajax in 2017. Romero has also a good chance of being considered one of United’s best signings of the post Ferguson era. He was signed for free and hardly ever putting a foot wrong.

Who did United sell/let go?

Javier Hernandez, Robin van Persie
Manchester United v Chelsea - FA Cup Sixth Round / Alex Livesey/GettyImages

Robin Van Persie
Sold: €6 million to Fenerbahce (15/7/15)
Stats: 105 games; 58 goals, 21 assists

Angel Di Maria
Sold: €63 million to PSG (6/8/15)
Stats: 32 games; 4 goals, 12 assists

Sold: €12 million to Bayer Leverkusen (31/8/15)
Stats: 157 games: 59 goals, 20 assists

Jonny Evans
Sold: €8.3 million to West Brom (29/8/15)
Stats: (when sold) 198 games; 7 goals, 7 assists

Sold: €6 million to Fenerbahce (7/7/15)
Stats; 230 games; 41 goals,  71 assists

Sold: €3.2 to Olympique Lyon(3/8/15)
Stats: 170 games; 5 goals, 15 assists

Angelo Henriquez
Sold: €1.67m to Dinamo Zagreb (6/7/15)
Stats: Games 0

Tom Cleverley
Sold: Free transfer to Everton (1/7/15)
Stats: 79 games; 5 goals, 8 assists

Anders Lindegaard
Sold: Free Transfer to West Brom (31/8/15)
Stats: 29 games, conceded 33, clean sheets 13

Ben Amos
Sold: Free Transfer to Bolton Wanderers (1/7/15)
Stats: 7 games, goals conceded 6, clean sheets 3

Vanja Milinkovic-Savic
Sold: Free Transfer to Lechia Gdansk (1/1/16)
Stats: 0 games

Tom Thorpe
Sold: Free Transfer to Rotherham (3/7/15)
Stats: 1 game, 0 goals, 0 assists

2015/16 Transfer Window- Success or Failure?

Verdict - Failure

United had a job on their hands to make their squad serviceable to both compete for the league title and Champions League again. The evidence suggests that they did not augment their squad enough to do either. United finished 5th in the Premier League and were knocked out of the Champions League in the group stages. Despite winning the FA Cup, Louis van Gaal was not spared and was ruthlessly sacked just one day after lifting the famous old trophy. 

Energy and control was needed in the midfield and it was hoped that Schweinsteiger and Schneiderlin could provide that. That neither managed two seasons at Old Trafford tells us all we need to know about the success of those signings. Darmian had a solid first season for United and Martial looked like an incredible surprise signing. Martial would go on to only have one more good season for United in nearly a decade at the club. The Depay transfer was a failure and while the signing of Sergio Romero was an astute bit of business, bringing in a solid second choice ‘keeper was not enough to classify the signings United made in 15/16 as a success. 

United’s best operator in the transfer window was the faulty fax machine that scuppered David De Gea’s transfer to Real Madrid. De Gea won player of the year award on four occasions during his career, a total that would have stayed at two had it not been for some dodgy technology.