Manchester United's best January signings - ranked

Max Parsons
Patrice Evra was signed by Manchester United in January 2006
Patrice Evra was signed by Manchester United in January 2006 / AFP/GettyImages

January is one of the most exciting times in the footballing calendar; clubs scramble during a blistering 30-day period of business to plug gaps and get big deals over the line.

With the stature, grandeur and draw that Manchester United boast, it's no surprise that some big names have packed their bags and arrived at Old Trafford midway through a season. Some inevitably turned out sub-standard, but others became icons (and some are still striving to become icons) at the club.

Below, 90min ranks Manchester United's five best January signings of all time.

5. Juan Mata

Juan Mata
Juan Mata waved goodbye to United after nearly nine years at the club this summer / James Gill - Danehouse/GettyImages

Throughout his time at the club, Juan Mata may not have been the sensational spectacle that Manchester United fans could have hoped for upon his arrival from Chelsea halfway through the 2013/14 campaign; he was, however, a consistent performer and, importantly, a steady presence throughout a turbulent period for the club.

The Spaniard's eight-and-a-half-year spell with the Red Devils came to an end in 2022, as he joined Galatasaray after netting 51 times and notching 47 assists in 285 appearances for the Old Trafford club, understandably receiving a brilliant reception when waving goodbye.

4. Andy Cole

Andy Cole
Andy Cole proved an excellent purchase for Manchester United / Mike Hewitt/GettyImages

It's rare that January signings adapt seamlessly and become heroes within weeks of their arrival, but Andy Cole managed it after joining United in a famously sudden transfer from Newcastle in 1995, becoming the most expensive British player in history in the process.

In his first few games for the club, the iconic striker scored the only goal as his side beat Aston Villa as well as assisting and scoring in a 3-0 win over Manchester City the day after. Soon after, he became the first player to net five in one match as United thumped Ipswich 9-0.

Cole would go on to score 12 Premier League goals in 18 appearances in the second half of the 1995/96 season, the first of his 121 in total for the club.

3. Patrice Evra

Patrice Evra
Patrice Evra loves this game / Mike Hewitt/GettyImages

Patrice Evra was undoubtedly one of the best left-backs in the world during his career. Athletic, creative, dangerous and strong, the Frenchman held down his position in one of Manchester United's most illustrious sides for the best part of a decade.

Following his arrival in January 2006 for around £5.5m, Evra went on to play 379 times for the Red Devils, enshrining himself into club legend and becoming a firm favourite among the Old Trafford faithful.

A winner of five Premier League titles, three League Cups and a Champions League crown, the left-back is quite clearly one of United's greatest January signings.

2. Bruno Fernandes

Bruno Fernandes
Fernandes has been crucial for United since arriving / Stu Forster/GettyImages

While he isn't as decorated, nor as established in the club's history, Bruno Fernandes is a massively influential and central part of Manchester United.

The Portuguese star arrived midway through the 2019/20 season and immediately assumed talismanic responsibility at the heart of the team. By the end of the 2021/22 campaign, the midfielder had racked up 60 goal involvements in 87 Premier League appearances as he injected fireworks into consistently below-par collective performances and provided a light at the end of the tunnel.

He may be somewhat of an acquired taste for many non-Man United supporters, but his exceptional talent and presence are undeniable. As he continued to assert his influence and importance within the side and the club, he continues to prove one of the Red Devils' greatest ever January acquisitions.

1. Nemanja Vidic

Nemanja Vidic
Nemanja Vidic is a Manchester United icon / Alex Livesey/GettyImages

Only one man can take the crown in this list, however. In what turned out to be a momentously impressive January 2006, Nemanja Vidic joined Evra in arriving at Old Trafford for just £7m.

The Serbian went on to be regarded as one of the Premier League's greats, winning five titles in nearly nine years at the club. Playing a total of 300 times for United, the central defender also lifted three League Cup trophies as well as the Champions League in 2008.

A true icon of England's top flight, Vidic was an impenetrable wall at the heart of one of Manchester United's most successful eras, understandably becoming a favourite of the fans and writing his name down in club folklore.

An absolute bargain that went on to prove to be a serial-winning, world-class warrior and a leading figure in one of the greatest sides Old Trafford - and the world - has seen.