Rio Ferdinand with the shirt.

The six times United broke the British transfer record

Friday 31 July 2020 07:00

When it comes to breaking the British transfer record, Manchester United have done it six times.

This is if you count all deals involving an English or Scottish club, and not just incoming moves.

For example, the sale of Mark Hughes to Barcelona in 1986 eclipsed the previous record, as did Cristiano Ronaldo's switch to Real Madrid in the summer of 2009.

If you need to know more about Denis Law, look no further.

The list of stellar names begins in the early sixties and is brought up to date with a current United star...

DENIS LAW (Torino to United in 1962 - £115,000)

The Scotland international was one of the most feared strikers in Europe and, when his move to Italy wasn't working out, there was a fight for his signature. Matt Busby was determined to get his man and buck the trend of the previous three record transfers being paid by Serie A clubs (Eddie Firmani, John Charles and Gerry Hitchens). "It was a big signing and there was pressure," Denis told us. "That type of money was not often bandied about, even if some of them earn that in a week in today's game. I was very fortunate as I knew Sir Matt and he knew what type of player I was. But it was nerve wracking to begin with until, once I settled in, I felt confident."

The King of the Stretford End had two statues at Old Trafford and is third on the all-time scorers list with 237 goals.

BRYAN ROBSON (West Brom to United in 1981 - £1.5 million)

It took over 19 years for United to set a new benchmark figure and it arrived with our first seven-figure arrival in the England midfielder. "It's not even a risk, you know," said Reds boss Ron Atkinson. "This lad is pure gold." Ron knew Robbo from their time at West Brom and had targeted the brilliant leader ever since getting the Old Trafford job. It was not an easy deal to pull off, with Liverpool, the dominant club at the time, also in the hunt for his services. 

“I knew that, once the clubs had reached agreement on the transfer, United would not have much of a problem persuading me to sign," Robson told us. "They were prepared to pay a record fee, so I was sure the personal terms would be satisfactory. When we arrived at Old Trafford, I wasn’t disappointed. Martin Edwards offered me more than I had hoped for – £2,000 a week. The financial details were tied up and there were no hitches with the medical. It was a pity we missed the five o’clock deadline for me to be eligible to play that Saturday, but I was relieved all the wrangling had finished."

He signed on the pitch before the game against Wolves, to great fanfare, and became one of the club's greatest-ever captains.

Bryan Robson discusses being the subject of a record move on UTD Podcast.

ANDY COLE (Newcastle to United in 1995 - £7 million)

Transfers fees had moved on by the mid-1990s and this deal was a bolt out of the blue that nobody saw coming until it was over the line. Keith Gillespie went the other way and was valued around £1million and this was a stunning deal in every sense of the word. Newcastle boss Kevin Keegan was forced to defend the sale to angry supporters at St James' Park as the Magpies' top scorer was allowed to join United at a time when most reports were linking the club with Nottingham Forest's Stan Collymore.

It smashed the previous record by £1.5million (Paul Gascoigne's switch to Lazio in 1992) and piled the pressure on Cole to perform but he asserted: "I never set the fee. I've been bought for my football and not to worry about the price tag." Cole had started the season with 14 goals in 17 games but a shin-splints operation had halted his progress and he was on a barren run of nine games prior to the big-money switch.

One of his 121 goals for the club was the title-winning lob against Tottenham at Old Trafford in 1999.

JUAN SEBASTIAN VERON (Lazio to United in 2001 - £28.1 million)

By the time the 21st Century was in full swing, the market had snowballed and this was a deal that showed United meant business on the global stage. Veron's father had scored against the Reds for Estudiantes in 1968 so the cultured midfielder had an affinity with the Reds. Real Madrid had also been keen on the Argentina international but the transfer would trump the record fee paid by the Spanish giants for Nicolas Anelka a couple of years earlier. 

"I never thought the day would arrive when I spent this much money on one player,” confessed Sir Alex Ferguson, as he presented his new arrival. “It is a measure of the way things have escalated over the years and there is not much you can do about it. Thanks to the determination of Peter Kenyon and David Gill, they have made it possible for us to sign one of the world’s best players. It is the kind of thing Manchester United should do.”

Veron commented: "I know I am going to make an impact and no-one should worry about how I will adapt to United’s style and whether I will cope with the physical demands of English football." However, he spent only two seasons at Old Trafford, winning the 2002/03 Premier League, before joining Chelsea but nobody ever doubted his quality.

Watch Andy Cole's top 10 goals for the Reds.

RIO FERDINAND (Leeds to United in 2002 - £29.1 million)

A year after splashing out on Veron, Sir Alex was at it again as he pulled off the capture of the classy England centre-back who, along with our own Nicky Butt, had been one of his country's stand-out players at the World Cup in the Far East. It would prove difficult to do a deal with Leeds, given their antipathy towards United, with manager David O'Leary admitting: "I want to keep him. I particularly don't want to sell him to Manchester United." Yet the Irishman left the job shortly before a move was brokered with the Elland Road outfit in need of the cash injection.

Inter Milan and Juventus were also admirers of the defender but he was heading across the Pennines after not boarding the flight for Leeds' pre-season tour. As for the size of the fee, United's chief executive Peter Kenyon explained: "Rio is a deal people will be looking at in 10 or 12 years, when he's finished with his career with us. That's what we're investing in." He was right, as Sir Alex probably was when commenting at the press conference: "We know he will mature here and develop into the best centre-half in the world. His assets - the physical presence and ability on the ball - are there for all to see."

Rio won six Premier League titles and the 2008 Champions League with the club.

Watch Paul Pogba discuss leaving - and returning - to Manchester.

PAUL POGBA (Juventus to United in 2016 - £89million*)

A transfer that displaced Gareth Bale's move to Real Madrid as the biggest in world football, until Philippe Coutinho joined Barcelona from Liverpool in 2018, this was a blockbuster in every sense of the word. The France international had learned his trade in United's Academy, only to grow frustrated with a lack of first-team action and set up a switch to Juventus, where he proved his outstanding ability. He told us that there was unfinished business at Old Trafford and he always hoped he would return, and that was the case despite all of the world's top clubs coveting his signature.

“When I came back, I was really happy to come back," he said on UTD Podcast. "I left it and didn’t finish. I started something but I didn’t finish, I just went somewhere else. Obviously, coming back to where I started was, for me, why I was really happy. Now, I was ready to come as a confirmed player, not a youth player.”

The World Cup winner scored the opening goal in the 2017 Europa League final victory but missed much of the first half of this season, before returning to help the side clinch Champions League football in 2020/21.

* = Fee not officially disclosed by Manchester United.