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 Red11 REDitorial

Published: 12 SEPT 2004

by John Ryan

Players, Staff & fans of Manchester United are used to big name signings. It comes with the territory of being a big club that the best players are inevitably linked with Old Trafford. But how the whole area of transfers has changed over the past years. Manchester United is a club famed for it's youth policy, most notable under Matt Busby & alex Ferguson. Throughout the years the club has produced a production line of talent so good that even players that do not make it at Old Trafford end up with top playing careers elsewhere. Yet United are always linked to a player when he becomes available. But is that player of Manchester United standard?

Wayne Rooney is the latest big gun to arrive at Old Trafford with a huge price tag weighing about his shoulders. His fee could eventually rise to £27M if things go Everton's way. In 2003 United paid £12M for Christiano Ronaldo & in 2002 paid £33M for Rio Ferdinand. These were huge sums of money, but the players involved were young, talented & most importantly, wanted to move to Old Trafford. Rio Ferdinand most definitely had an impact in the 2002-2003 season, helping to turn a leaky defence that lost 6 times at Old Trafford in the 2001-2002 Premiership, to become champions in 2003. Christiano Ronaldo was an undoubted star of United's 2003-2004 season & lit up Euro2004 with some fine performances. All in all these young players were not only investments for now but for the future also. Their skill & flair will more than likely illuminate football for years to come. And in keeping with a Manchester United tradition, big names will be linked to Old Trafford over & over again.In 1962 Manchester United paid Torino £115,000 for Denis Law. Only those old enough who saw him play can compare & contrast him to other players who have arrived at Old Trafford. Law is still fondly remembered as "The King" by those whose lives he lit up and the man is still held in the highest of affections of the Old Trafford faithful. Between 1962 & 1973 Denis Law played 396 games for United, scoring 236 goals. To say that he was good value for what was paid for him would be an understatement. If you pay a large sum for a player & he stays at your club for over ten years giving fantastic service, there is not a lot more you can ask for. Thirty years on United broke the then British transfer record by paying Nottingham Forest £3.75M for the services of Roy Keane. Eleven years on, Keane is still in the thick of the action giving his all for United. Yet again, it was money very well spent. Law & Keane have both given over ten years to the club and are everything you would want from a player in their respective positions. Keane joined United when they were crowned champions of the inaugural FA Premier League and in his first season with United, United won the double. . Law joined united in the post Munich era and in his first season United won the FA Cup. Denis Law scored twice on his debut for United, while Roy Keane scored twice on his home debut. Certainly, similarities exist between these two bargain players.

Manchester United & Alex Ferguson in particular, is also no stranger to the type of cloak & dagger transfer that saw Andy Cole end up at Old Trafford. Ferguson will always make a move for his man when he feels like the time is right. Cole's transfer was one from the Ferguson hall of fame, while journalists were predicting Teddy Sheringham, Les Ferdinand or Stan Collymore would move to United during the 1994-1995 season to replace Mark Hughes, Ferguson landed Andy Cole from Newcastle. Andy might not have been an initial success but he went on to win five Premiership medals, two FA cups & the Champions League with united. Dion Dublin's transfer was somewhat similar with Ferguson nabbing a player few had thought he would go for, however the injury to Dublin robbed him of a chance to show United his best form. Given the way Manchester United has grown on & off the pitch under Ferguson it has become harder for him to hide his intentions from the media. The transfers of players like Stam,Yorke, Van Nistelrooy, Ferdinand & Rooney were all widely anticipated by the Press. At Old Trafford there really is no place to hide.

Yet one transfer stands out not only for value for money but also in terms of shock & impact upon the club. The shock signing of Eric Cantona in November 1992 came totally out of the blue catching journalists & fans alike off guard. Prior to Cantona signing, United had finished 13th, 6th and 2nd in the three previous seasons, and given that Cantona arrived after the heartbreak of the title defeat in 1992 few thought he would change the history of United forever. Cantona signed on November 27th 1992. United had won just 6 of their first 16 league games before his arrival. The touch of flair & crucial goals saw United win 18 of the last 26 games. The title was at Old Trafford for the first time in 26 years. Old Trafford had a new king. Cantona's success grew and United won 4 titles with him in the side. In 1996 he helped United to overhaul Newcastle's twelve point lead and United regularly won games 1-0 with schmeichel performing heroics at one end, Cantona making or scoring the winner. It must also be remembered that Cantona won the French title with Marseille in 1991, and the English title with Leeds in 1992. That points to the fact that teams with him in the side won titles in 6 out of 7 years. That one year a side failed was when he was suspended in 1995 for attacking a fan.

Cantona's departure from Old Trafford was almost as much a shock as his arrival. At 31, he retired leaving a vacuum at Old Trafford that was not immediately filled & saw Arsenal win the double in 1998. Unlike other players, he did not want to play at a lower level & bowed out of Old Trafford a champion.Eric Cantona's impact upon the club, supporters, media and English football in general can never be over-estimated. He gave the fans a skill level & hero worship they craved and week in week out fans packed in to see him & a great team around him, play dazzling football. While Roy Keane & Denis Law were tremendous value for money, Cantona's four and a half years at Old Trafford were the catalyst that made the club what it is today. There will never again be a transfer like it.

John Ryan


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