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Transfer Talk

Transfers between United and Arsenal

Added by Philip Meese on 14 Jan 2018 15:41

Amid reports that Manchester United are on the verge of signing Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal, we look at the ten players to have previously transferred between the two clubs.

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By Philip Meese, Chief Editor

With Alexis Sanchez having been left out of Arsenal’s squad to face Bournemouth, the rumour mill on social media has gone into overdrive over what seems like an imminent departure from the Emirates. It seems like it will a straight fight between the two Manchester clubs for his signature, with some reports claiming that City are ready to walk away.

If Sanchez does move to Old Trafford, he will be the eleventh player to transfer directly between the two clubs. Despite a healthy, and sometimes unhealthy, rivalry between the two sides down the years, it has clearly never affected negotiations when it came to transfers.


David Herd

The first player to move directly between the two clubs was David Herd, in 1961. As Matt Busby continued his rebuilding of Manchester United following the Munich Air Disaster, a fee of £35,000 was agreed for the Scottish international centre-forward. After an initial bedding-in period, Herd became a hit with the Old Trafford faithful, and when Busby signed Denis Law a year later, they would form one of the most fearful strike partnerships in England.

Herd scored 145 goals in 265 games for United over a period of seven years, which included two goals in the 1963 F.A. Cup Final against Leicester City. At the time of writing, he is at number thirteen on the club’s all-time top scorers list. He died in October 2016, aged 82.

Ian Ure

As the only major signing made by Matt Busby’s successor, Wilf McGuinness, Ian Ure became a parody of how mismanaged the club was following the great man’s retirement. Although he had been a good defender in his days at Dundee, and his first season at Arsenal, by August 1969 he was approaching the age of 30, with a chequered injury record.

He played two seasons at Old Trafford following an £80,000, making 47 appearances, before returning north of the border to join St. Mirren in 1971. His luck with injuries didn’t improve as he made just three appearances in two years, before retiring completely.

George Graham

A man more famous for his exploits as a manager, George Graham was also a more than half-decent player. Equally adept as either an attacking midfielder or centre-forward, he had won numerous trophies at Arsenal, including being an integral part of their 1971 League and Cup Double. As Tommy Docherty tried to find the right blend to stop United’s inevitable slump towards the Second Division, he spent £120,000 to add Graham to his squad in December 1972.

Graham left United in 1974 following their relegation, but it was at Old Trafford that he was reunited with former Chelsea teammate Stewart Houston, who was United’s left-back at the time. Houston would later become Graham’s assistant manager at Highbury during the early 1990’s.

Frank Stapleton

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In a situation that is slightly reminiscent of the Paul Pogba scenario, Republic of Ireland striker Frank Stapleton had been on United’s as a teenager, but was released at the age of 17. He subsequently joined Arsenal, making his debut in 1975. He came back to bite United in the 1979 F.A. Cup Final, scoring Arsenal’s second goal in a 3-2 win.

When Ron Atkinson took over from Dave Sexton in 1981, Stapleton was out of contract at Highbury. In the days before the Bosman ruling, free agents still commanded a fee for any transfer. With United and Arsenal unable to agree terms, a tribunal set the fee at £900,000. Although it proved to be good value for a player who led United’s attack for six years, the Red Devils could have had him for nothing a decade earlier. He left United to join Ajax in 1987.

Viv Anderson

Alex Ferguson first opened the United chequebook in the summer of 1987, and once again it was for an out of contract Arsenal player. Right-back Viv Anderson, previously a League title and double European Cup winner with Nottingham Forest, seemed like exactly the sort of experienced head United needed in the dressing room. Despite being a few weeks short of his 31st birthday, the fee was set at £250,000, and initially it seemed like good value as Anderson made the right-back berth his own.

Although he made 38 appearances in his first season, as United finished runners-up to Liverpool, he made less than that over the next three years. Having been practically injury-free for his entire career, most of his time at Old Trafford was spent on the treatment table. Ironically, after leaving United in 1991, he barely missed a game during the final three years of his career during spells with Sheffield Wednesday and Barnsley.

Robin van Persie

After Viv Anderson’s transfer, it took 25 years before United bought another player from Arsenal, who had now moved to the Emirates. But what a transfer. Dutch striker Robin van Persie was the hottest property in the Premier League when he announced that he would not be renewing his contract with the North London club. In 2012, Ferguson made him the last of a long line of high profile strikers that he had signed during his time as United boss. Van Persie’s impact at Old Trafford was immediate, as the 20th league title United won ensured that the initial fee of £22.5 million rose to £24 million, based on the terms of the transfer agreement. Thirty goals in his first season ensured that the Premier League title returned to the red side of Manchester.

Following Ferguson’s retirement, it all went a bit flat for the Dutchman. Rumours were that new manager David Moyes had disregarded the carefully prepared training regime that had kept van Persie injury free for over two years. In spite of missing around a third of the season, he still contributed 18 goals. Louis van Gaal’s appointment in 2014 was anticipated by fans to get van Persie firing again, as the two had worked so well together at that summer’s World Cup. It didn’t work out that way, however, and following another injury-hit campaign which saw him register just ten goals, van Gaal decided a clear-out of Old Trafford was required. Van Persie was sold, along with Nani, to Turkish giants Fenerbahçe in 2015.


Jimmy Rimmer

If you weren’t a regular on the Stretford End in the 1970’s, there’s a good chance you won’t be familiar with the name Jimmy Rimmer, but he actually had a very successful career. He was the goalkeeper who came through Manchester United’s academy, but spent most of his time at the club as understudy to Alex Stepney. He did, however, win a European Cup medal as he was United’s named substitute during their 1968 victory over Benfica at Wembley.

He played just 46 times for United, before Arsenal bought him for £40,000 in 1974 to replace the retiring club legend Bob Wilson. After three seasons as undisputed number one at Highbury, Rimmer transferred to Aston Villa, where he won a League title and another European Cup.

Brian Kidd

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Another academy product, a born and bred Mancunian, the young striker wrote his name into United folklore by scoring in the 1968 European Cup Final against Benfica, which happened to be on his 19th birthday. In terms of trophies, this was as good as it got for Kidd, as United went into an alarming decline over the next six years, which culminated with their relegation in 1974. Following their demotion, United sold Kidd to Arsenal for £110,000.

Following a three year spell at Highbury, his career took him to Manchester City, Everton, Bolton Wanderers, and several teams in the USA. Kidd later returned to Old Trafford as part of the coaching staff. He became Alex Ferguson’s assistant in 1991 and remained in the position until taking the manager’s job at Blackburn Rovers in 1998. It later transpired that Kidd and Ferguson had fallen out towards the end of their working relationship, and it was United who relegated Kidd’s Blackburn side in 1999. Brian Kidd is now part of the coaching staff at cross-town rivals City, and it almost feels like he has forgotten the affinity he has with United.

Mikaël Silvestre

Following United’s Champions League triumph over Chelsea in 2008, Mikaël Silvestre left Old Trafford after nine years and 361 appearances. He had been a regular in that period, at both left-back and centre-half, but had found his playing time restricted following the success of Nemanja Vidić and Patrice Evra in those positions. It was something of a surprise when Arsenal snapped up the French international for a cut-price fee of £750,000, making him the first United player to join the Gunners for 34 years.

Silvestre played for two seasons at the Emirates, playing 43 games in total, and even scoring against Tottenham in his first North London derby. He later joined Werder Bremen, and had spells in the USA and India before hanging up his boots in 2014.

Danny Welbeck

A popular figure at Old Trafford, having come through United’s academy to become a first team squad player, Danny Welbeck was deemed surplus to requirements by new manager Louis van Gaal upon his arrival. Following United’s loan move for Colombian striker Radamel Falcao, Welbeck joined Arsenal in a £16 million move on 2nd September 2014, as the transfer deadline was about to close.

Within a month of moving to the Emirates, Welbeck scored the first hat-trick of his career, in a Champions League game against Galatasaray. Later that season, he scored the goal that knocked his old club out of the F.A. Cup, which Arsenal went on to win. Unfortunately for Welbeck, the injury curse that has dogged much of his Arsenal career meant that he missed the final itself. Although he started in the Wembley showpiece last season, in which the Gunners beat Chelsea, he is now one of several players that are down to the last eighteen months of their contract. This is a problem which has seen Arsenal pretty much resigned to losing Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Özil, and looks like it will be an issue next year

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Thanks, and Free Plug

There are two others who deserve a mention, one of them being goalkeeper Jim Leighton. Following his exclusion from the 1990 F.A. Cup Final Replay, his replacement Les Sealey became the number one goalkeeper at Old Trafford. During the 1990-91 season, Leighton was loaned to Arsenal as cover, but never actually played a game for the Gunners.


The other one is a centre-back called Matt Wicks, who started as a youth player at Arsenal, before moving to United in 1995 at the age of 16. A year later, he returned to Arsenal who released him in 1998. It wasn’t until he joined Crewe Alexandra that he finally made his first senior appearance. Despite being a very promising player, he retired at the age of 25 after a career in the lower leagues at clubs such as Peterborough United, Brighton & Hove Albion and Hull City.

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