Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign at Manchester United is over, with the Red Devils having parted company with the Norwegian following last weekend’s 4-1 thrashing at Watford.
The defeat to the Hornets continued a wretched recent run of form for the side, who have lost five of their past seven league fixtures to drop to eighth in the Premier League, that sequence including home humiliations to both Liverpool and Manchester City.
Solskjaer departs after almost three years in charge, a period which has failed to result in silverware despite a huge spend on transfer fees. He has spent almost £400m on new additions, with no Premier League side having invested more during that time.
Solskjaer’s signings have certainly represented a mixed bag and following his exit we’ve decided to rate the impact of each Manchester United signing of the Norwegian’s reign.
Daniel James – Swansea (£15m)
Daniel James was the first signing of the Solskjaer era, the Welshman arriving from Championship side Swansea just months after seeing a move to Leeds collapse.
James began brilliantly with a debut goal against Chelsea and scored three times in his first four league appearances for the Red Devils, but the winger struggled to build on that start and became an increasingly marginal figure.
James’ electric pace was a constant threat but he lacked end product and finesse to his game, whilst his confidence visibly deteriorated during the latter stages of his career with the club.
He scored nine goals and provided nine assists across two seasons at Old Trafford, before departing for Leeds after falling down the pecking order – the initial fee of £25m earning the Red Devils a sizeable profit.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka – Crystal Palace (£50m)
Solskjaer’s search for emerging British talent saw Aaron Wan-Bissaka follow James to Old Trafford, the right-back having been named as Crystal Palace’s Player of the Season following a breakthrough campaign with the Eagles.
The £50m fee raised eyebrows for a defender with just a single full season of top-flight experience and it is an investment that is yet to be justified with Wan-Bissaka having endured a mixed time at the club.
The 23-year-old’s defensive strength in one-against-one duels and the prolificacy of his tackling has won admirers, but his lack of end product and forward threat in comparison to Premier League contemporaries is a concern in the modern game.
This season Wan-Bissaka appears to have regressed and has endured a nightmare run of form, the right-back having been positionally suspect and exposed in a Red Devils’ defence shipping goals at an alarming rate.
Harry Maguire – Leicester (£80m)
Manchester United made Harry Maguire the most expensive defender in world football in 2019, spending £80m to sign the centre-back from Leicester.
The England international is another who has endured a shambolic start to the current campaign, with Maguire’s game littered with errors and his confidence damaged at present.
You signed me for the best club in the world and gave me the biggest honour in football. Huge respect and forever grateful.
Thankyou for everything boss.
Legend 🔴 pic.twitter.com/coBoYmEvFv
— Harry Maguire (@HarryMaguire93) November 21, 2021
The 28-year-old was an improvement on the centre-back options that greeted his arrival at Old Trafford and has produced some strong performances in the club’s colours, but there is little disputing his price-tag was a huge overspend on a player a considerable distance behind the game’s best centre-backs.
Bruno Fernandes – Sporting Lisbon (£47m)
The best signing of Solskjaer’s reign as Manchester United manager, the Red Devils gambled on Fernandes as other major European clubs stalled and deliberated on the signing of the midfielder.
Fernandes had enjoyed a prolific record in Portuguese football and has transferred that form onto the Premier League stage, providing 52 goal involvements (30G, 22A) in 63 league appearances since his arrival at Old Trafford.
— GOAL (@goal) November 22, 2021
Fernandes’ 28 goals in 2020/21 broke Frank Lampard’s midfield record for the most goals scored in a season in the Premier League era, with the midfielder having had a transformative impact on the side.
The 27-year-old’s recent struggles have been a factor in the Red Devils’ demise, but he will be a central figure in the new manager’s plans for the future.
Donny van de Beek – Ajax (£35m)
Solskjaer’s failure to hand Donny van de Beek an opportunity at Manchester United has become a tedious narrative of his recent tenure, a midfielder who arrived as one of Europe’s most promising talents having been restricted to a bit-part role.
Van de Beek has incredibly started just four league fixtures since his £35m arrival from Ajax in 2020, the Netherlands international marginalised and frustrated for much of his Premier League career to date.
The last goal of the Solskjaer era was scored by Donny van de Beek. pic.twitter.com/BMaN7YeBjI
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) November 21, 2021
There have been glimpses of his quality during his time with the Red Devils, but in truth they have been few and far between. The Dutchman did though ironically score the last goal of the Solskjaer era and will be hopeful he will be given a chance to prove himself by a new manager.
Alex Telles – Porto (£13.6m)
Signed from Porto to provide competition and cover for Luke Shaw, it has been a largely watching brief for Alex Telles as a Manchester United player.
The 28-year-old dead ball specialist has made just eight league starts and has struggled to dislodge Shaw, who was named as the Red Devils’ Player of the Season in 2020/21.
Edinson Cavani – Free agent
Edinson Cavani’s free transfer arrival was viewed as desperation in the closing stages of the 2020 summer transfer window, but the arrival of the former Paris Saint-Germain forward proved one of Solskjaer’s shrewdest investments.
Cavani’s debut season saw the veteran score 17 goals across all competitions, including 10 from just 13 starts in the Premier League.
Injury issues have restricted his involvement, but the 34-year-old’s intelligent movement, application and winning mentality have been a major positive on a squad searching for direction.
Facundo Pellistri – Penarol (£9m)
The teenage winger was signed from Uruguayan side Penarol as one for the future and is yet to make a senior appearance for Manchester United, spending time on loan at Deportivo Alaves.
The 19-year-old has made five league starts in La Liga so far this season, but is yet to register a goal or assist for the Spanish side.
Amad Diallo – Atalanta (£19m)
Another exciting prospect, the Red Devils signed Diallo from Atalanta in a deal that could rise as high as €40m.
It was a significant investment in a winger with just limited senior experience with the Italian side, though hopes are high that Diallo can develop into a key figure at Old Trafford after glimpses of his talent last season.
The Ivorian made eight appearances and scored in a Europa League clash with AC Milan, before injury scuppered his expected loan exit in search of regular first-team football. After making his return to training the teenager is set for a temporary move away from the club, with Feyenoord linked with securing an 18-month loan deal in January.
Jadon Sancho – Borussia Dortmund (£73m)
Jadon Sancho emerged a long-term target for Manchester United following his performances for Borussia Dortmund, the Red Devils concluding a £73m deal in 2021 after failing with a move for the winger the previous summer.
Sancho developed into one of Europe’s most exciting talents in the Bundesliga and provided 114 goal involvements in 137 appearances for Dortmund, but has endured a disappointing start to his career at Old Trafford.
The England international has failed to register a single goal or assist in 14 appearances and a priority for an incoming manager will be rediscovering Sancho’s spark. The 21-year-old put in his best display in a United shirt and bagged his first goal for the club in Tuesday’s 2-0 win over Villarreal, with Red Devils fans hopeful he can use that showing to kickstart his Old Trafford career.
Raphael Varane – Real Madrid (£34m)
Expectations significantly rose at Manchester United following the club’s summer spending in 2021, their incomings including four-time Champions League winner Raphael Varane.
Varane had forged a reputation as one of world football’s leading centre-backs at Real Madrid, forming part of the side that dominated European football, in addition to winning the World Cup with France.
The fee for the 28-year-old proved a bargain sum given his contract situation at the Bernabeu and Solskjaer will have been frustrated that he was unable to call on the services of the defender more regularly.
The Red Devils have lost just one of the six Premier League games Varane has featured in so far this season, with the four defeats in their past five fixtures coming with the centre-back sidelined through injury.
Cristiano Ronaldo – Juventus (£12.85m)
The deal that truly shifted the goalposts for Solskjaer, the Red Devils’ fans rejoiced following the capture of Cristiano Ronaldo from Juventus, a return for the former fan favourite more than a decade after his world-record exit to Real Madrid.
Since leaving Manchester United in 2009, Ronaldo had added four Ballon d’Or awards and four Champions League trophies to the one of each he won at Old Trafford, establishing himself as one of the greatest footballers of all time.
He’s been my striker when I first came to Old Trafford and he’s been my coach since I came back to Man. United. But most of all, Ole is an outstanding human being. I wish him the best in whatever his life has reserved for him.
Good luck, my friend!
You deserve it! pic.twitter.com/pdm7RXr2RX
— Cristiano Ronaldo (@Cristiano) November 22, 2021
The 36-year-old’s signing represented a short-term gamble, but having finished as the leading scorer in Serie A last season, Ronaldo remains amongst the best goalscorers in European football.
He has scored nine goals in 13 appearances since rejoining the club, with his performances in the Champions League having almost singlehandedly kept the Red Devils’ hopes of qualification alive.
The presence of Ronaldo has undoubtedly altered the dynamic of the side, but this was a team lacking identity prior to his arrival. He may not be a part of the next manager’s long-term plan, but his goals have arguably papered over even bigger cracks so far this season.