United's top transfers

Posted by Mark Payne

With Manchester United rumoured to be preparing a club-record bid for Cesc Fabregas, a look at history suggests that they might think again. United have had mixed results when breaking transfer records in the past, and the list of their most expensive signings contains more than one flop.

- United to launch third Fabregas bid

1. Dimitar Berbatov, £30.75m

Bulgarian hero Dimitar Berbatov was hailed as the last signing of his kind when he arrived at United. Former chief executive David Gill said large transfer fees would not be paid for overage players again. At the time, Berbatov was 27 years old and apparently reaching his peak. He had easily been the best player outside of England's top four clubs and had dazzled in a previous incarnation at Bayer Leverkusen.

United were European champions in the summer of 2008, but the enormous bundle of cash that had recently arrived on Manchester City's doorstep had spooked them. As the Citizens moved for Berbatov, Sir Alex Ferguson took matters into his own hands. The then-manager drove to the Manchester airport and kidnapped Berbatov before he could even meet City's representatives. Tottenham Hotspur's Daniel Levy couldn't believe his luck as two of the richest clubs in the land battled it out for his player. A fee north of 30 million pounds was quickly agreed to and Berbatov showed up holding a red scarf in the next day's newspapers.

Four years and only 108 starts later, Berbatov was quietly hustled out the door to Fulham in unceremonious circumstances. "I am not sure I did anything wrong," said the Bulgarian. Despite winning the Golden Boot in 2011, his work rate was not to the pleasing of his manager. Not even 30 million pounds could make Sir Alex sentimental.

2. Rio Ferdinand, £29.3m

Rio Ferdinand arrived from Leeds United in a world-record fee for a defender in 2002. Eleven years later and that record still stands. It is hard to think of a centre back who has performed better over the same period.

Despite some fraught contract negotiations and a few diabolical haircuts, Ferdinand has won the hearts of most of the Old Trafford faithful. Between 2006 and 2009, in particular, his game was a showcase of perfect defending, as he hardly put a foot wrong. Marshalling a defence at the top of the Champions League is as tough a task as there is in football. Alongside Nemanja Vidic, Ferdinand has made it look easy. Money well spent.

3. Juan Sebastian Veron, £28.1m

"He's a great player," snarled Alex Ferguson at the assembled press pack. It was late 2001 and United were struggling in what was to be Sir Alex's final season. The team lay adrift of the league leaders and the hunger and fluency that had characterised Ferguson's teams was nowhere to be seen.

There were two obvious scapegoats for this. Firstly, Fergie had announced his retirement too early and his players had taken their foot off the gas. The manager, of course, reversed his decision in the new year and everybody started running a little faster.

Secondly, Argentinian Veron had arrived in the summer for an enormous fee and disrupted the midfield. It must have seemed a good idea at the time: Buy Serie A's most visionary player and in the process give United another dimension in Europe and a greater chance at another European Cup. Unfortunately, the result was far grimmer.

Veron's arrival disrupted the midfield of Ryan Giggs, Roy Keane, Paul Scholes and David Beckham, possibly the finest ever to grace the British Isles. Scholes found himself being played out of position, or not at all, and United's fluidity suffered massively.

Veron was sold to Chelsea at a loss of 50 percent just two years later. Scholes regained his spot in the midfield and notched up another 300 performances for the club. It is fair to say that after the Veron debacle, Scholes was appreciated much more than he was before. It will be interesting to see how United fare without him again in the coming season.

4. Wayne Rooney, £27m

How many players score a hat-trick on their Champions League debut? How many register more than 150 goals for Manchester United before the age of 25? Only one player -- Wayne Rooney.

There are those who say Rooney has not lived up to his potential; those people are emphatically wrong. Rooney will still break all the records there are to break for the England national side, and he is not far away from breaking goal-scoring records at United, too. But his future is up in the air.

Nobody questioned the £27m price tag when Rooney arrived and nobody would be surprised if he were sold for more than that nine years later. His quality is supreme, and he has lived up to that transfer fee. A quick glance at the likes of Andy Carroll or Fernando Torres proves how difficult it is to accomplish such a task.

5. Robin van Persie, £24m

Despite David Gill's insistence that United would no longer pay big money for an ageing player, van Persie was just too good an opportunity to miss. The footballer of the year and a player hungry for honours waltzed into Old Trafford with only one thing on his mind: turning his abilities into trophies.

Nearly 12 months later and a Premier League title medal in the bag and van Persie can barely stop smiling. In fact, his transfer was such a success, United are lining up another huge bid for old pal Cesc Fabregas. United would not have countenanced the idea had van Persie not been such a success.

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