Ole Gunnar Solskjaer spent around £400million on new players during his three years at Manchester United – but how have his signings fared at Old Trafford?
Solskjaer famously didn’t win a trophy at United but will be hoping that he has left behind a better squad than the one he inherited from Jose Mourinho.
We’ve ranked each of his 16 signings from worst to best. Note: we’ve only included players who had made their senior debut before joining United.
16. Paul McShane
Rub your eyes, give your glasses a wipe – yes, that actually does say Paul McShane.
McShane came through United’s academy but never made a first-team appearance and was sold to West Bromwich Albion in 2006.
After playing for several clubs in English football’s top three divisions, the 35-year-old returned to Old Trafford as a player-coach and has made five appearances for United’s Under-23s.
“I’m not here to play, I’m not here to get in the first team, so it’s not an issue that I don’t play certain games,” McShane told Goal in October 2021. “I’m here for the coaching side.
“The beauty of it is that I can still play, so I can get a different perspective on things in training sessions and in games, and I can help lads when we’re in the thick of the action.”
15. Nathan Bishop
One of two goalkeepers on this list, Bishop showed promise at Southend United before being snapped up by the Red Devils in January 2020.
The 22-year-old has been named on the bench for three United games and is spending 2021-22 on loan at League Two side Mansfield Town.
14. Tom Heaton
Heaton, who left United on a free transfer in 2010, returned to his boyhood club and signed a two-year contract in 2021.
The 35-year-old goalkeeper is currently behind David de Gea and Dean Henderson in the pecking order and is still waiting on his competitive United debut.
13. Facundo Pellistri
After Pellistri got a glowing reference from former United striker Diego Forlan, Solskjaer decided to sign him from Uruguayan side Penarol in October 2020.
The 19-year-old winger made a few appearances for United’s Under-23s before joining Spanish side Alaves on loan in search of regular first-team football.
12. Odion Ighalo
Eyebrows were raised when United signed Ighalo on an initial six-month loan deal from Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua in January 2020.
“I never thought this was going to happen, but dreams do come true, so I’m very happy to be here and this is going to be a big and good challenge for me in my career,” Ighalo told MUTV after joining the club he supports.
The former Watford striker did the job required of him and came close to achieving cult hero status at Old Trafford, scoring five goals in 11 cup games.
Ighalo was eventually deemed surplus to requirements, but he’ll always have that goal against LASK…
Manchester United have a 5-0 lead going into the second leg of their match with LASK 💪
— GOAL (@goal) August 5, 2020
11. Donny van de Beek
Having played a key role in the Ajax side that reached the 2019 Champions League semi-finals, expectations were high when Van de Beek completed a £36million move to United in 2020.
Despite scoring on his Premier League debut, he failed to earn Solskjaer’s trust and surprisingly started just 17 games under the Norwegian.
While the Netherlands international could finally get a chance to prove himself under the new manager, it’s impossible to rank him any higher at this stage.
10. Alex Telles
After four years at Porto, Telles joined United in a £13.6million deal in 2020 and was expected to establish himself as their first-choice left-back.
But his arrival at Old Trafford seemed to spark an upturn in form for Luke Shaw, who enjoyed his best ever season in 2020-21.
He has subsequently struggled for regular opportunities at United but that Paul Scholes-esque goal against Villarreal has pumped him up a few places.
9. Daniel James
James became Solskjaer’s first signing at United in the summer of 2019, joining from Championship side Swansea City in a £15million deal.
The Wales international got off to a brilliant start with three goals in his first four Premier League appearances but failed to maintain that form.
His pace and work ethic made him a useful squad player until United decided to cash in, selling the winger to Leeds in a £25million deal in 2021.
8. Amad Diallo
Admittedly, it may seem strange to have a player who has made just eight United appearances in eighth place on this list.
But Amad, who joined United for an initial £17million in January 2021, is regarded as the next big thing at Old Trafford and his arrival could eventually go down as one of the biggest successes of Solskjaer’s reign.
The 19-year-old opened his United account with a brilliant goal against AC Milan in March 2021 and continues to showcase his skills with United’s Under-23s.
Official: Amad’s brilliant header against AC Milan has won #mufc‘s March Goal of the Month award!
🤩 What a header it was! pic.twitter.com/bvtpeSivnw
— UtdDistrict (@UtdDistrict) April 3, 2021
7. Aaron Wan-Bissaka
After just one full Premier League season as Crystal Palace’s starting right-back, Wan-Bissaka then completed a £50million move to United in 2019.
The 23-year-old has since established himself as one of the best one-v-one defenders in the world, producing brilliant performances against the likes of Raheem Sterling and Kylian Mbappe.
But in an era when full-backs are expected to charge down the flanks and create opportunities for the forwards, his offensive play can often leave a lot to be desired.
“Wan-Bissaka – I don’t even think Palace would take him back,” former United captain Roy Keane said in October 2021. “He’s not good enough for Manchester United. No feel for the ball [or] decision making.”
6. Jadon Sancho
During his four years at Borussia Dortmund, Sancho developed into one of the best and most exciting young players in world football.
His form made him a top target for Solskjaer and United, who finally landed him in the summer at the second time of asking in a £73million deal.
The 21-year-old hasn’t hit the ground running at Old Trafford but time is on his side and any new manager would be foolish not to build the team around him.
5. Raphael Varane
Varane arrived at United with some serious pedigree, having won three La Liga titles, four Champions Leagues during his 10 years at Real Madrid.
The centre-back, who also won the 2018 World Cup with France, was snapped up at a bargain price of just £36million in the summer of 2021 and received a rapturous welcome at Old Trafford.
His first few months at United have been derailed by a couple of injury problems but this still looks like a brilliant piece of business.
4. Cristiano Ronaldo
Ronaldo will probably be top of this list in the near future but will have to settle for fourth place at the moment.
The 36-year-old completed a fairytale return to Old Trafford earlier this year and has already scored some important goals in his second spell, including dramatic late winners against Villarreal and Atalanta in the Champions League group stage.
However, his arrival has coincided with a downturn in United’s fortunes and the next manager may need to make adaptations to accommodate the forward.
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) October 21, 2021
3. Edinson Cavani
Cavani joined United as a 33-year-old free agent amid doubts from some whether he could make an impact on the Premier League.
The Uruguay international silenced his critics and quickly became a fan favourite at Old Trafford, scoring 17 goals in 39 appearances in all competitions in his debut season.
He also helped break the curse of the iconic No.7 shirt before handing it over to Ronaldo in 2021.
2. Harry Maguire
After Jose Mourinho tried to sign Maguire from Leicester City in 2018, Solskjaer renewed their interest a year later and United completed an £80million deal.
The England international helped shore up their defence and kept a total of 26 Premier League clean sheets during his first two seasons at United, more than any other outfield player in that period.
An ankle injury at the end of the 2020-21 season showed his importance to the side as he was sorely missed in their Europa League final defeat to Villarreal.
But Maguire’s disastrous form in Solskjaer’s final months in charge means that he’s a distant second behind…
1. Bruno Fernandes
There was only ever going to be one winner.
Since joining United from Sporting Lisbon in January 2020, Fernandes has a remarkable record of 44 goals and 33 assists in 97 appearances in all competitions.
If it wasn’t for the Portugal international and his transformative impact, Solskjaer probably would’ve been dismissed a lot earlier than November 2021.