The three worst signings of Ed Woodward's time at United

The Ed Woodward era at Manchester United is finally coming to a close.

He will leave Old Trafford at the end of 2021. Ideally, it would be sooner, but at least we can start counting down the days.

Woodward’s position became untenable after his backing of the doomed Super League proposal and he’s fallen on his sword.

Bungling in the transfer market became his trademark. Although it was largely in relation to the players he chased but didn’t land, we’ve picked out the three worst signing of Woodward’s time at United…

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Alexis Sanchez

Signing Sanchez from Arsenal in January 2018 was undoubtedly the worst transfer decision of the Woodward era.

Sanchez’s form fell off a cliff almost instantly and it soon became apparent United weren’t getting the same player who had lit up the Premier League with Arsenal.

He scored just five goals in two-and-a-half years for United, which would represent an abject return for any attacking signing. But Sanchez was the club’s highest earner.

Sanchez was the club’s highest earner and his arrival shattered the club’s wage structre.

It led to the departure of Ander Herrera, who subsequently felt undervalued, to Paris Saint-Germain and played a part in David de Gea’s bumper extended deal.

Sanchez represented absolutely appalling value for money, as Woodward didn’t have the good sense to turn his back on the deal once the numbers got ridiculous.

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Bastian Schweinsteiger

Bayern Munich don’t give up players unless they’re sure they can get no more out of them.

So alarm bells should have been ringing in Woodward’s head when he was able to sign the German international for less than £15 million in July 2015.

Schweinsteiger had only played 28 times the season before his arrival due to knee injuries and it was plain to see he was past his peak.

He made just league start after the turn of the year in his debut season as those knee injuries flared up again.

The move saw the midfielder reunite with his former Bayern Munich boss Louis van Gaal but he just wasn’t the same player he was at his peak in Bavaria.

In September 2016, United had to write off £6.7 million for Schweinsteiger after Jose Mourinho excluded him from his squad.

Woodward thought he’d played a blinder landing a World Cup winner but he landed an ageing midfielder past his best with injuries which accelerated the end of his career in European football.

John Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images

Morgan Schneiderlin

Schneiderlin was signed at the same time as Schweinstiger in 2015.

In one swoop, Woodward thought he had revamped United’s midfield, which had struggled to recover from the retirement of Paul Scholes and exit of Paul Pogba on a free transfer.

The Frenchman was one of the best holding midfielders in the league for the Saints, capable of dispossessing opponents high up the field in their coordinated pressing style.

The Frenchman told the Independent in January 2017 what went wrong for him at Old Trafford: “I don’t think I arrived at the best time. There was a lot of criticism around the team and I lost a little of the joy of playing football.

“It is nice to say that you played for Manchester United but, if you don’t play every weekend, it is not enough. I don’t know how to explain it.

“When you play football, you need to play with freedom and I didn’t in my first year in Manchester. Even when I had good games, I didn’t have the run of games that would have given me the opportunity to establish myself.

“It was hard for all the players to perform. We were not very good on a consistent basis.”

It’s a fairly damning verdict on United under van Gaal and Woodward’s attempt to reshape the club’s midfield in 2015 failed so badly that he spent a world record fee on Paul Pogba the following summer.

Woodward – bafflingly – has one final transfer window to oversee at Old Trafford and we can only hope that doesn’t bring further new arrivals who belong on this list this time next year.

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Sam Preston is an NCTJ gold standard news and sports journalist who studied with the Press Association. He also has a 2:1 law with French law degree from the University of Birmingham, which included a year studying at Bordeaux Montaigne University. He is an FA Level 1 football coach who appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show in 2018 and has also written digital football content and match-day programme pieces for Colchester United, Mansfield Town and Stockport County.