As we enter the last few weeks off the decade we have been privy to numerous pieces naming a Best XI, be it Premier League, Champions League or club by club. My colleague Dale O’Donnell recently published his best United XI of the decade. But whilst looking back in this way is fun, I want to take a different trip down memory lane and look at the worst players to have featured for United in the last ten years.
Goalkeeper: Anders Lindegaard
It may seem a little harsh to name the man who kept De Gea out of the team for a number of months in a worst XI but if we stop and look at the options he’s really the only choice. It seems unfair to pick Lee Grant who was signed as purely an experienced third keeper and will only play his first game for the club against Astana on Thursday. So if we limited ourselves to goalkeepers who have made a league start for the club and exclude De Gea since he’s in our best XI then our options are: Anders Lindegaard, Victor Valdes and Sergio Romero. It certainly isn’t Romero who has generally been great when called upon. So we are left with two options. Valdes only started one game before he fell out with Louis van Gaal so that leaves Lindegaard as the only real choice.
Right-back: Guillermo Varela
Signed in 2013, Varela was supposed to be the next big South American full-back following the Da Silva twins. Sadly, however, he wasn’t. He made just four appearances in four years and spent more time on loan then he did at United which puts in just ahead of Paddy McNair.
Centre-backs: Michael Keane and Tyler Blackett
There were a few options here, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo maybe even Chris Smalling. But in the end, I settled for one player who never recovered from the MK Dons debacle and one who was never quite up to the job he was thrust into. One-half of the Keane twins Michael never managed to shake off this game at United and was eventually sold to Burnley. He now finds himself on the bench in a struggling Everton team.
An academy product handed his debut by Louis van Gaal, Blackett was sadly not ready for the test he was handed. He was an early starter in van Gaal’s debut season but was sent off in the infamous game at Leicester City and was rarely seen again afterwards. He’s now at Championship side Reading.
Left-back: Cameron Borthwick-Jackson
Another academy product handed his debut by van Gaal, Borthwick-Jackson is incredibly still officially on United’s books although his loan moves have seen him progress down the divisions. Handed his debut at the back-end of 2015, he made 10 appearances in 2015/16 but has yet to make another since and is currently on loan at Tranmere.
The only other option in this position was the Dutchman Alexander Buttner, but he at least offered something in attack.
Right-wing: Gabriel Obertan
One of a number signings brought in following the departure of Ronaldo, no one understood the signing of Obertan then and no one understands it now. A limited winger, Obertan made 19 appearances for United in an injury-hit spell scoring once and registering one assist.
Do I actually need to say anything here? No one had heard of him when he signed, no one remembers anything about him apart from a couple of awful crosses. His name is basically synonymous with awful buys.
Central Midfield: Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin
Signed within hours of each other in 2014, we had high hopes for our ‘Schmidfield.’ Sadly it just wasn’t to be. Schweinsteiger proved the rule that Bayern don’t sell a player that still has usefulness (Toni Kroos being the exception). He spent more time injured than on the pitch and looked a shadow of the player that had run the Bayern midfield at Old Trafford a year earlier. High wages, high expectations, poor returns
Personally, I had much higher hopes for Schneiderlin. He looked impressive at Southampton, even dominating Yaya Toure. But he never seemed quite the same player at United. It could well have been a combination of factors. Could he cope with the step up? He often seemed inhibited by Van Gaal’s use of him (he often didn’t seem to cross the halfway line) and he was in and out of the side. A move to Everton has never really worked out either. Van Gall might have broken him.
Other players I considered for this spot include Tom Cleverley and Darron Gibson.
Attacking Midfield: Nick Powell
Once voted Crewe’s greatest ever player as a teenager hopes were high for Sir Alex’s penultimate signing. Sadly they weren’t met. The current Sunderland and former Wigan man is best remembered as the man who came on for Juan Mata as United chased a crucial goal in a Champions League game at Wolfsburg. It’s perhaps a bit unfair on Powell that this is what he remembered for. I mean it was hardly his fault and what was he supposed to do, refuse to come on? But that’s about the extent of Powell’s United career as questions surfaced around his attitude and commitment.
Forward: Alexis Sanchez
He had to be in this team, didn’t he? Has anyone signing ever got United fans so excited only to so spectacularly disappoint. Sanchez at Arsenal was, for the most part, an unstoppable force of nature. Goals, assists, free kicks, dribbles, Sanchez had everything. Then he downed tools (or lost them) and never seemed to find them again. He had the odd moment (the Derby comeback, the FA Cup semi) but they were so few and far between that they almost get lost in amongst the mediocrity. Huge wages and a huge pile of…