Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

United's free transfer signings

Saturday 16 July 2022 07:00

Every pre-season game, including Tuesday's match against Crystal Palace, will be shown live in the Man Utd App and on ManUtd.com.

Manchester United confirmed the signing of Christian Eriksen on a free transfer on Friday, with the Dane agreeing a three-year contract.

The midfielder's short-term deal with Brentford expired in the summer.

Although the landscape changed with the advent of the Bosman ruling in 1995, meaning players can move freely if not tied down to a deal at their clubs, there have not been that many instances of first-team recruits at Old Trafford on this basis.

We decided to take a look at our high-profile free captures in that time...

Laurent Blanc finally joined United from Internazionale.


The stylish France international had been on United's radar for so long, even after appearing against Alex Ferguson's team for Montpellier during our successful European Cup Winners' Cup run in 1991. Although at the veteran stage of his career by the time his Internazionale stint came to a close, the centre-back was still earmarked to effectively replace Jaap Stam, following the Dutchman's shock move to Lazio. Ferguson admitted to failing on four occasions to land the World Cup winner, including in 1995, but the defender was reunited with international colleague Fabien Barthez, whose forehead he used to kiss for good luck before games. "Forget about his age," declared Sir Alex. "I don't know why people make an issue of that." Blanc played 75 times for the Reds and helped the team win the Premier League title in 2002/03.


A rare Bosman raid secured the signature of our former keeper in 1999, who had actually made his debut for the club nine years earlier. Now established as one of the top keepers in the Premier League after his work with Aston Villa, the Australian was introduced as Peter Schmeichel's replacement. The Dane's were big shoes to fill but Ferguson was convinced in the new man after agreeing a four-year contract. "We were desperate to get him when Peter left because he was here when he was a lad but couldn't get a work permit," said the boss. "Now he is back and I'm more than confident he will do the job. I regard Mark as the best goalkeeper in England." Bosnich made 38 appearances but was sold to Chelsea, despite winning the Intercontinental Cup in 1999 and the Premier League in the following year.


Bought late in the summer window of 2020, after deciding to end his successful stay at Paris Saint-Germain, the centre-forward was always going to bring quality and experience to the party. The Uruguay idol was unfortunate that the timing of the switch meant he often played in empty stadiums, but the United fans made their affection for him clear when allowed back inside. After being granted the no.7 shirt, his attitude on the pitch was endearing and he had a successful first term before extending his stay. However, injuries hampered his second campaign and he left this summer, with 19 goals in 59 matches to his name.


There have been back-up keepers signed on free transfers, including Lee Grant, but the former Academy graduate came with a view to pushing for first-team inclusion and did make a long-awaited senior debut in the Champions League tie with Young Boys at Old Trafford last season. Heaton's contract had expired at Aston Villa and he had a choice of several clubs before opting to return to his boyhood team. With Dean Henderson loaned to Nottingham Forest for the 2022/23 campaign, he could be hoping for more first-team exposure this term.


Another who was well into this thirties when arriving at Old Trafford, in a move he announced himself in characteristically bold fashion. Fortunately, his output matched his ego and his signing proved a masterstroke, as he led the line superbly under Jose Mourinho. Like Cavani, he had left PSG and wanted to taste English football for the first time. The big-game player was instrumental in helping United win the Community Shield, against Leicester City, and the EFL Cup, versus Southampton. His goals also fired us towards Europa League success in 2017, but injury denied him a starring role in the latter stages, and an emotional outing in Stockholm for the final against his former club Ajax. The knee injury did not prevent him ultimately staying on with the Reds but he did leave, for LA Galaxy, in March of 2018.

Watch Michael Owen's famous goal against Manchester City.


The late Irish midfielder, who sadly passed away in 2018, failed to renew his contract with Celtic and signed a pre-agreement instead with United in January 2004, as was permitted under the Bosman ruling. The decision disappointed Bhoys boss Martin O'Neill but Sir Alex had been impressed with somebody who caught his eye when he was believed to be scouting Vincent Kompany during a Champions League tie with Anderlecht at Parkhead. "Our relationship with Celtic has always been a good one," stressed Ferguson. "We took Brian McClair in exactly the same end-of-contract circumstances before the Bosman ruling came in. It went to a tribunal and they got £850,000 for him and we got great service from Brian.” Miller only spent two seasons at Old Trafford, scoring twice in 22 appearances.


The striker was expected to go elsewhere when leaving Newcastle United, following their relegation from the top flight. Much debate was had about his future but Sir Alex made a decisive move for a player who had grown up with the enemy at Liverpool. The fact he took on Cristiano Ronaldo's no.7 jersey showed the manager was not worried about any of that, saying: "He'll give us experience in the penalty box. We tried to get Karim Benzema but, as soon as that dropped through, we went for Michael." That was evident early in his Reds career, when he scored a memorable injury-time winner in the Manchester derby, and he finished with 17 goals in 52 outings, including a strike in the League Cup final against Aston Villa. He also helped United win the league in 2010/11, something he had failed to manage at Anfield.


The much-decorated keeper had been out of action for a little while since his deal at Barcelona expired and a move to Monaco collapsed. Louis van Gaal knew him well from their time at the Nou Camp and, after a spell training to recover from a knee injury, he put pen-to-paper on an 18-month contract in January 2015 to act as an experienced deputy to David De Gea. A first-team debut came when he replaced the Spaniard during a home match with Arsenal and he played against Hull City a week later, keeping a clean sheet. However, he was later allowed to join Middlesbrough on a free transfer.

Every pre-season game, including Tuesday's match against Crystal Palace, will be shown live in the Man Utd App and on ManUtd.com.