Neymar, Sneijder and Gaitan: The Never-Ending Manchester United Rumour Mill

Remember the Lampard-to-United rumours? How about the proposed Gareth Bale transfer?
15:00, 24 May 2023

Manchester United have been linked with the signing of Neymar this week. In among the slightly more sensible rumours surrounding Chelsea’s Mason Mount and Kim Min-jae of Napoli possibly moving to Old Trafford, the Brazilian provides the inevitable glitzy, box office saga for this summer.

Will it happen? Almost certainly not. United more than any other club attract these wild, A-list whirlwinds when the transfer window swings open. The combination of their size and stature in the game and a click-generating player creates these media frenzies like clockwork every summer and winter.


Here is a rundown of just a few of the most memorable and ridiculous United transfer sagas. For the purposes of this piece we will not be including sagas where the player joined at a later date, as with Jadon Sancho, Cristiano Ronaldo and Ander Herrera. We have also omitted Frenkie de Jong as, despite the fact it didn’t happen, the transfer was at least a credible possibility insofar as it was being directly negotiated between the two clubs for a long period.


Let’s start with the most recent, as Paris Saint-Germain superstar Neymar has wound up on the club’s radar. The likes of transfer doyen Fabrizio Romano and ESPN’s Mark Ogden have reported there is nothing in it, at least under the current regime. But the 31-year-old has been linked with a United switch before and he is one of those players who never seems truly satisfied at his club. If the club is bought in the coming weeks and months perhaps the new owners will aim to pacify the fanbase by making this baseless rumour a reality.

Wesley Sneijder

This entry and the one that follows are still used as shorthand for a United transfer rumour with no basis. The Netherlands winger was linked with a move to Old Trafford seemingly every summer, as he dazzled at Inter Milan and Real Madrid. Despite the flying Dutchman’s obvious talents, which nearly netted him a Ballon d’Or in 2010, Sir Alex Ferguson told the official club podcast in 2021 that United never actually pursued the player. That doesn’t stop sarcastic Reds asking the club to sign him despite the fact he is 38 and hasn’t played a professional game in three years. 

Nicolas Gaitan

In another universe, there would be a statue of Gaitan outside Old Trafford. Somewhere out there he is embedded within United folklore, a winner of multiple titles as a marauding wing presence. But in this reality, the move never came about. Despite constantly being tipped to switch Benfica for the Red Devils, he actually left Portugal for Atletico Madrid in 2016. He didn’t quite take off in La Liga and enjoyed journeyman spells with Dalian Yifang and Chicago Fire before landing back in Liga Portugal. He is now 35 and still turns out for Pacos de Ferreira.


Paulo Dybala

A recurring link that you can still find being touted as recently as February of this year, the Dybala rumours first gained steam when he was tipped for a swap deal with Romelu Lukaku in 2019. The Argentina international has been reported as weighing up a United move on multiple occasions, including this past summer when he opted for a loan move to Jose Mourinho’s Roma. With his Juventus contract expiring at the end of the season, expect to see a bit of United talk before he inevitably goes somewhere else. 

Frank Lampard

Now to a rumoured signing that often gets forgotten. When Paul Scholes was set to retire for the second time at the end of 2012/13 season, it happened to line up with the expiration of Frank Lampard’s Chelsea deal. When it was made public that the midfielder would not be re-signing with the west London club, overexcited editors started publishing stories on Lampard pulling on the famous red shirt. As it happens, Lampard did ply his trade in Manchester. But it was Manchester City he ended up signing for as part of a complicated deal that also involved their MLS affiliates, New York City.

Gareth Bale

A rumour that will finally quieten this summer, given the fact Gareth Bale retired in January. First touted as a replacement for Ryan Giggs while still at Tottenham Hotspur, Bale was frequently linked with a move to Old Trafford. His regular fall-outs with the Real Madrid hierarchy meant there was always considerable mileage in stories about him coming back to the Premier League. But when he did it was back at Spurs for a decent if unspectacular loan spell rather than a move to United that once felt like destiny.

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