Ranking Jose Mourinho’s 11 signings for Man Utd from worst to best

·7-min read
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho with substitute Paul Pogba during their Premier League match against Watford at Old Trafford, Manchester, May 2018. Credit: PA Images
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho with substitute Paul Pogba during their Premier League match against Watford at Old Trafford, Manchester, May 2018. Credit: PA Images

Despite spending over £350million on new signings, Jose Mourinho failed to live up to expectations during his two and a half years at Manchester United. 

Mourinho won the Community Shield, EFL Cup and Europa League in 2016-17 but was then sacked after a disastrous start to his third season at Old Trafford.

We’ve taken a look at the 11 first-team signings he made at United and ranked them from worst to best.

11. Alexis Sanchez

The signing that came to define Mourinho’s reign at United, Sanchez was always going to be in last place here.

Despite reportedly earning £400,000 a week, he looked like a shadow of his former self at Old Trafford, scoring just five goals in 45 appearances. 

The Chile international was later shipped out on loan to Inter Milan and then made the move permanent in 2020, receiving a huge pay-off in the process.

Sure enough, he refound some form in Milan and proved a useful asset in the 2020-21 title win under Antonio Conte. Typical.

10. Lee Grant

Since joining United from Stoke City for £1.5million in 2018, Grant has acted as the back-up goalkeeper, making just two first-team appearances.

His most memorable moment at Old Trafford was almost certainly his surprise that Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t eat pudding. This may explain why Grant was released at the end of last season.

9. Eric Bailly

Mourinho’s first signing at United, Bailly became an immediate fan favourite and enjoyed a really promising debut season in 2016-17.

But a series of injury problems have seen him fall out of favour, restricting him to just a handful of Premier League appearances over the last four seasons.

The Ivory Coast international has fallen further down the pecking order since the arrival of Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez and is currently on loan at Marseille.

He’s not expected to return.

Manchester United defender Eric Bailly puts his hands on his head during the game against Chelsea. Old Trafford, April 2019. Credit: PA Images
Manchester United defender Eric Bailly puts his hands on his head during the game against Chelsea. Old Trafford, April 2019. Credit: PA Images

READ: 18 times Man Utd’s Eric Bailly was the funniest player in the world

8. Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Having won the Bundesliga Player of the Year award in 2015-16, expectations were high when Mkhitaryan completed a £26million move to United.

While the Armenia international played an integral role in their Europa League success in 2017, he struggled for consistency and failed to adapt to life in the Premier League.

The 33-year-old had another underwhelming spell at Arsenal before joining Serie A side Roma in 2020, where he is now reunited with Mourinho.

7. Romelu Lukaku

After Zlatan Ibrahimovic suffered a serious knee injury in 2017, Lukaku joined United in a £75million deal and spearheaded Mourinho’s attack.

The Belgium international scored a respectable 42 goals in 96 games during his two seasons at United, but 11 of those came in his first 10 games, making the drop-off notable.

He became a much-maligned figure at Old Trafford in 2018-19 and then decided to join Inter Milan, where he enjoyed the best spell of his career, before returning to Chelsea, where he became one of the Premier League’s biggest flops.

Lukaku is now back in his happy place in Milan.

6. Victor Lindelof

Brought in from Benfica in 2017, Lindelof showed glimpses of his talent but made a series of high-profile errors in his debut season at United.

The Sweden international turned things around under Solskjaer and formed a strong defensive partnership with Harry Maguire, although Mourinho revealed he’s not entirely convinced.

“Lindelof is very, very good in some aspects of the game,” Mourinho told Sky Sports in 2019. “But he can be bullied in the one-on-one in the box, he’s not especially good in the air and Maguire has that kind of presence and physicality that is very, very important.”

It now appears that Lindelof is behind Varane and Martinez in the United pecking order.

5. Diogo Dalot

Once regarded as one of the most promising young defenders in Europe, Dalot joined Mourinho at United in a £19million deal in 2018.

“I think he is one of the best coaches ever and for me, it is a dream come true to be alongside him and to learn from him. For me, it is very good,” Dalot said in December 2018.

And, after a difficult couple of years, Dalot is now established as United’s right-back.

Manchester United defender Diogo Dalot gesticulates during their Premier League win over Leicester City at King Power Stadium, Leicester, September 2022. Credit: PA Images
Manchester United defender Diogo Dalot gesticulates during their Premier League win over Leicester City at King Power Stadium, Leicester, September 2022. Credit: PA Images

READ: Diogo Dalot’s wild-man slide distilled Man Utd’s mentality shift

4. Nemanja Matic

After working with Matic at Chelsea, Mourinho decided to bring the Serbia international to United in a £40million deal in the summer of 2017.

He became a near ever-present in midfield during Moutinho’s final 18 months at Old Trafford but never really recaptured the form he had shown at Stamford Bridge.

Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the 32-year-old enjoyed an extended run in the side after lockdown but soon found himself on the fringes of the first team due to his lack of mobility in the middle of the park.

Matic was released at the end of last season and is now playing for Mourinho’s Roma.

3. Paul Pogba

Four years after leaving United for Juventus on a free transfer, Pogba made a highly-anticipated return to the club in 2016 in an £89million deal.

He won the League Cup and scored the opener in the Europa League final in 2016-17 before his relationship with Mourinho turned sour.

The public feud divided fans and pundits alike, but the France international recaptured his form to look one of the best midfielders in Europe for a spell under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Still, Pogba never lifted silverware at United since Mourinho departed, and – whether his own fault or not – was never quite able to deliver.

The club-record signing left for Juventus on a free, for a second time, over the summer. Given that, we’re sure many will disagree with placing him so high on this list, but few others on this list compare when he was on form.

Paul Pogba of Manchester United looks confused, Manchester, Old Trafford, 15 March 2022. Credit: PA Images
Paul Pogba of Manchester United looks confused, Manchester, Old Trafford, 15 March 2022. Credit: PA Images

READ: ‘Self-important tripe’: 10 of the most brutal reviews of Paul Pogba’s doc

2. Fred

Signed for £47million in 2018, Fred endured a disastrous debut season at United amid reports that Mourinho never really wanted him.

But he subsequently demonstrated flashes of quality under Solskjaer, Rangnick and now Ten Hag, finally showing why United were keen to spend so much to bring him in from Shakhtar.

The Brazil international is yet to fully convince on a consistent basis, but it’s not unthinkable that he could thrive in the right circumstances, becoming the player United need him to be week in, week out.

1. Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Ibrahimovic joined United as a 34-year-old free agent amid doubts from some whether he could make an impact on the Premier League.

The striker silenced his doubters and scored 28 goals in all competitions in 2016-17, including the winner in the Community Shield and a crucial brace in the League Cup final.

“I conquered England – it took three months,” the self-assured Ibrahimovic told United’s official website in January 2017.

While a serious knee injury in April 2017 ultimately curtailed his United career, he has still been one of their best signings in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era. Given he’s still banging in the goals at the age of 40 for AC Milan, they might’ve done well to keep him around longer than they did.

READ MORE: 13 players Jose Mourinho missed out on as Manchester United manager

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