Shinji Kagawa may be the first Japanese player to join United, but the country's growing football profile (ranked 23 in the world – up from 43 in 2009) means there's a fair chance others will follow in the future. Even so, it will take Japan a long time to catch up with those who have provided the most foreign Reds.
Here, we take a look at the top five providers of overseas United talent...
FRANCE (10 players)
From the five-year majesty of Eric Cantona to the familiar sight of Patrice Evra, via the short-lived 1995 trial of William Prunier, there has been a Gallic flavour to United’s squad for 20 years. King Eric’s achievements hardly need recounting: 82 goals in 185 appearances, the catalyst for a long-awaited title, inspirational and supremely talented; his legacy lives on. Current deputy captain Evra has been a mainstay at left-back for half-a-dozen years and he’s accompanied by talented youngster Paul Pogba in today’s squad. Versatile defender Mikael Silvestre made more than 350 appearances over a decade and centre-back Laurent Blanc still exuded class when he arrived in 2001 at the age of 35. Fleet-footed noughties widemen David Bellion and Gabriel Obertan never quite broke through, while striker Louis Saha’s four-year spell lurched from unplayable highs to maddening injury lows. And we'll never forget the entertainment provided at the turn of the millennium by showman goalkeeper Fabien Barthez.
Total appearances: 1111 Total goals: 148
Going Dutch in the transfer market has been a hugely profitable business for United. Arnold Muhren was the first Netherlands export to arrive at Old Trafford, via Ipswich, and the gifted little wand-waver injected some Total Football into United’s play under Ron Atkinson. A dose of double Dutch followed in 1996 when Jordi Cruyff and Raimond van der Gouw arrived, but it was the signature of hulking central defender Jaap Stam that coincided with the greatest season in United’s history in 1998/99. Just two years after the Reds’ unparalleled Treble campaign, Ruud van Nistelrooy joined his compatriot in M16, even though their alliance lasted just two games before Stam was sold. Ruud soon had another cohort, however, when Edwin van der Sar arrived in 2005, and the veteran goalkeeper went on to set a British record for successive clean sheets, as well as sealing the Reds’ 2008 Champions League triumph.
Total appearances: 828 Total goals: 177