The immediate years following the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson will be remembered with little enthusiasm or enjoyment by Manchester United supporters. David Moyes was selected as the Scotsman’s immediate replacement but failed to adapt to life at Old Trafford, lasting just nine months before being sacked.
However, the appointment of his successor, Louis van Gaal, was met with initial excitement by supporters. The Dutch manager was one of the most prestigious managerial figures in European football having achieved substantial success with a variety of clubs across Europe whilst his performance in charge of the Netherlands national team was widely applauded.
Despite his impressive CV, van Gaal’s rein at Old Trafford will be looked back on with a degree of disappointment. Although he ended his final campaign with an FA Cup triumph his United team never looked genuinely capable of mounting a challenge for the title and there was widespread apathy among supporters for the dull, unexciting style of play that he implemented.
The lack of success on the pitch was further exaggerated the club’s failure in the transfer marker with the Dutchman spending over £250 million on transfers during his three seasons.
Here The Boot Room looks at four of the worst signings made by Louis van Gaal during his spell at Manchester United.
On transfer deadline day in the summer of 2014 Manchester United announced the signing of Columbian superstar Radamel Falcao on a season-long loan.
The then 28-year-old striker arrived with a prestigious reputation as being one of the most deadly forwards in Europe having scored 104 goals in 139 games in the previous five years with Porto, Atletico Madrid and Monaco. The prospect of Louis van Gaal partnering him with the likes of Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney at Old Trafford generated an abundance of interest among the supporters.
United were reported to have paid a £6 million ‘loan fee’ to secure Falcao’s services for the forthcoming season, with the option of a permanent deal worth £43.5 million at the end of the campaign, in addition to the striker’s £265,000-a-week wage packet. However, the club would see little return on their excessive expenditure on the Columbian.
Falcao struggled to make any impact at Old Trafford and looked ill-equipped to cope with the rigorous physical demands and intensity of Premier League football.
There were concerns raised over his fitness levels and the amount of time that he needed after games to recover whilst he was able to score just four goals in 29 appearances. Unsurprisingly, United opted not to purchase the striker at the end of the season and his huge weekly wage packet would have certainly dented the coffers at Old Trafford.
Bizarrely, Chelsea agreed a similar loan deal for Falcao the following season but the Columbian was equally as unsuccessful in West London. He has since returned to Monaco where he has showed signs of recapturing his former prolific form in front of goal.
After a frustrating debut season at Old Trafford Louis van Gaal spent the summer of 2015 attempting to remould his Manchester United team into a more prolific and effective unit.
The Dutchman had implemented a style of play that was defensively solid but lacked any real creativity in the final third of the pitch, leading him to spend £31 million on Memphis Depay.
The then 21-year-old signed a four year contract with The Red Devils and arrived with a reputation for being a pacey, direct and somewhat unpredictable winger that was equally capable of creating and scoring goals.
He had finished the previous season as the Eredivisie’s top scorer after he had found the back of the net 22 times for PSV Eindhoven as the club secured their first title for over half-a-decade. However, Depay would last only eighteen months at Old Trafford before being sold by Jose Mourinho at the end of the 2017 January transfer window.
The winger scored seven goals in 53 appearances, most of which came from the bench, and he played just eight times under Mourinho. United were able to recoup £21.7 million when they agreed to sell Depay to Lyon but the youngster never came close to fulfilling his potential at Old Trafford.
Manchester United paid Southampton £25 million for French midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin in the summer of 2015 as Louis van Gaal looked to add some steel to his midfield.
The central midfielder had joined the Saints in 2008 from Strasbourg for £1.2 million and helped the club to rise from League One into the Championship and before becoming an established Premier League side.
The then-25-year-old was recognised as being a solid, all-round central midfielder who possessed good vision and range of passing whilst also being mobile and strong in the tackle. However, he was never able to replicate his form at Southampton and struggled to make any significant impact at Old Trafford.
He was a regular figure in the team under van Gaal but played just 11 minutes of Premier League football following the arrival of Jose Mourinho as the Portuguese maestro oversaw heavy investment in the playing squad during the summer of 2016.
The French midfielder was unable to secure a spot ion Mourinho’s new look team and was subsequently sold to Everton in January 2017.
United were able to agree a deal with The Toffees that would see the Merseyside outfit pay a fee rising to £24 million for Schneiderlin, but his spell at Old Trafford was extremely underwhelming.
Angel di Maria
There was a genuine sense of excitement around Old Trafford in the summer of 2014 after the club announced the signing of Argentinian winger Angel di Maria.
Manchester United had agreed to pay Real Madrid a then British record fee of £59.7 million and Louis van Gaal was quick to describe his new signing as a genuine ‘world class’ talent. The winger was a Champions League winner that was blessed with an abundance of technical ability and creative talent that United fans hoped would transform their club into title contenders.
However, despite a bright start to his United career, with a goal and an assist in three of his first four games, he appeared to lose his way. Van Gaal seemed unable to decide what Di Maria’s best position was and the Argentinian was rotated between six different positions, including as a central midfielder and a striker.
He then suffered a pelvic injury in December 2014 that sidelined him for a prolonged period of time and there were reports that he had failed to settle in Manchester after an attempted break-in at his Cheshire home.
The following summer he failed to attend United’s pre-season training camp in America and was swiftly sold to Paris Saint Germain for a fee of £44.3 million.
Overall, the Argentinian’s short-lived stay at Old Trafford cost the club £1.8 million per game and £14.9 million per goal, while supporters were left wondering how Van Gaal had failed to maximise the Argentinian’s potential.