Larsson, Ronaldo & co: Reds' veteran Premier League signings

Friday 07 January 2022 07:00

Manchester United have made a number of experienced additions to the squad since the inception of the Premier League in 1992 so we decided to take a closer look at them.

First of all, it is probably worth clarifying that veteran status is not a clearly defined term and some may even view it as slightly derogatory about the individual concerned.

Footballers are playing well into their thirties and anyone reaching that landmark birthday is probably no longer considered a veteran. It is also worth stressing that goalkeepers and outfield players are very different when it comes to age and that is why we have separated them in this particular article.

Goal of the Day: Larsson v Lille Video

Goal of the Day: Larsson v Lille

It’s 15 years to the day since Henrik Larsson began a fruitful loan stint at United. Here’s how he signed out…

Henrik Larsson is often viewed as one of our oldest signings, after he joined on loan from Helsingborgs at the start of 2007 at the age of 35.

The former Celtic striker arrived at Old Trafford for a short spell after earning Sir Alex Ferguson's respect for his performances in Scotland. He made his debut in the FA Cup tie against Aston Villa, on this day 15 years ago. However, the Swede was younger than Laurent Blanc by around eight months, when comparing the start date of the France international.

The classy defender had long been on Sir Alex's radar and performed against the Reds with Montpellier during the successful European Cup Winners' Cup run in 1991.

Ferguson said at the time: “I have tried to sign Laurent maybe four times now – as recently as last season and when he was at Auxerre, Barcelona and Inter Milan. It was always the wrong time. We have followed him around the world and now we have got him. Forget about his age. I don’t know why people make an issue of that. Players these days take care of themselves so well that their careers are extended for much longer than you’d think and Laurent is one of those cases."

Of course, current star Cristiano Ronaldo beat their record when rejoining the Reds at the age of 36 last summer. It is worth noting Larsson spoke about his delight at being able to play with "world-class talents" in Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney when coming over from Scandinavia and he was born back in 1971.

The fact Ronaldo is still in prime fitness is testament to his dedication and professionalism and we believe he is the second-oldest signing in the Premier League era, although more on that to come.

First, other players who deserve a mention include Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was 34 and and almost nine months when leaving Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer and enjoying a memorable spell spearheading the United attack under Jose Mourinho.

Laurent Blanc was long pursued by Sir Alex Ferguson.

Edinson Cavani was 33 when coming to Old Trafford, also from PSG, and the Uruguayan continues to show his class in the Premier League.

Teddy Sheringham (31) and Odion Ighalo (31) are other strikers who linked up with the Reds in their thirties but Michael Owen and Robin van Persie were short of the landmark when they arrived.

Bastian Schweinsteiger was an experienced World Cup-winner who was bought from Bayern Munich around a month shy of his 31st birthday.

Andy Goram keeps goal for United against Coventry City.

So, moving on to goalkeepers, and this is where, by our reckoning, we find the oldest signing made by the club in the Premier League era. Andy Goram was approaching 37 when he signed from Motherwell in 2001.

Although pondering retirement at the time of the call from Sir Alex, the former Scotland no.1 jumped at the move when UEFA granted the club special dispensation to sign a keeper after the deadline due to fitness concerns over Fabien Barthez and Raimond van der Gouw. He did not end up playing in the match with Bayern Munich but did make two appearances - against Coventry City and Southampton.

Tom Heaton re-signed for the Reds last year at the age of 35 and finally made his long-awaited debut after coming through the Academy ranks during the Champions League draw with Young Boys at Old Trafford. Another current member of the squad, Lee Grant, was the same age when arriving from Stoke City in 2018.

Tom Heaton and Lee Grant with youngster Nathan Bishop in the background.

Other veteran keepers are headed by Edwin van der Sar, surely one of our best in the position of all time, who was 34 when he traded Fulham for Manchester, with Tony Coton similarly aged when making the short switch from neighbours City in early 1996, to act as cover for Peter Schmeichel.

Van der Gouw, whom we have previously mentioned, was 33 when snapped up from Vitesse Arnhem and Victor Valdes was closing in on that figure when he left Barcelona for Old Trafford.