Manchester United’s signing of 33-year-old Edinson Cavani went against the club’s traditional reputation of building teams around youthful endeavour.
But it’s not the first time the club famous for the Busby Babes and Class of 92 have dipped into the thirty-something market to give their squad balance.
Some experiments like Teddy Sheringham and Zlatan Ibrahimovic been successful, others such as Bastian Schweinsteiger not so much.
Sportsmail takes a look at United’s record in bringing in golden oldies.
Manchester United announced the signing of veteran forward Edinson Cavani on Monday
RAIMOND VAN DER GOUW (1996-2002)
Aged 33 when he signed from Vitesse Arnhem.
Sir Alex Ferguson liked a particular type of understudy goalkeeper; experienced, selfless and able to cope with sitting on the bench most weeks.
He sited Van der Gouw as the best example he signed. The Dutchman stayed for six years. He was a tremendous support to Peter Schmeichel and important in the years after the great Dane left in providing stability as Fergie looked for a successor.
It’s often forgotten that he played eight times in United’s 1999 Treble season – and was on the winning side in seven of them.
Raimond Van de Gouw was important for United in the years after Peter Schmeichel left
TEDDY SHERINGHAM (1997-2001)
Aged 31 when he signed from Tottenham.
It was unheard for Ferguson to sign a striker of Sheringham’s vintage but he made the decision after checking out the player’s Dad and noticing that even in middle age, Sheringham Snr ‘didn’t have a pick of fat on him’.
It proved an astute move. Sheringham never relied on his pace but his ability on the ball as a No 10 made him a perfect foil for Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Sheringham was teased on the terraces for failing to win a trophy at United in his first season but that all changed in 1999 when he scored in the FA Cup and Champions League finals within four days of each other.
His equaliser in the European final against Bayern Munich before flicking on the winner for Solskjaer is part of United’s history and he named his home Camp Nou in memory of the stadium where it all happened
Teddy Sheringham, celebrating against Bayern Munich in the Nou Camp in 1999, was an astute move for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side given their Treble success that year
LAURENT BLANC (2001-03)
Aged 35 when he signed from Inter Milan.
The Frenchman was dubbed ‘Larry White’ by the Stretford End and was seen as a big help to Rio Ferdinand when he first arrived at United.
But despite that, and being loyally defended by Ferguson, Blanc’s performances were those of a centre-half who was over the hill. His legs had gone and United looked shaky at the back when he played.
A one-time great with Barcelona, Marseille and France, Blanc won honours at United but had to be thankful the team had strong firepower at the other end. The results against Newcastle in his final season, 5-3 and 6-2 wins, underlined their strengths and weaknesses.
Frenchman Laurent Blanc’s performances were those of a centre-half who was over the hill
EDWIN VAN DER SAR (2005-11)
Aged 34 when he signed from Fulham.
It’s still a mystery how a goalkeeper of Van der Sar’s quality – he won the Champions League with Ajax and reached World Cup semi-finals for Holland – had been allowed to spend four years at Fulham without a bigger club coming in for him.
Ferguson finally took the plunge in 2005 after trying a series of goalkeepers to replace Schmeichel and the calming effect on United’s defence was immediate.
Van der Sar runs Schmeichel close as the greatest keeper in the club’s history and his save from Chelsea’s Nicolas Anelka enabled United to win the 2008 Champions League in a penalty shootout.
‘That penalty save elevated Edwin alongside Peter,’ said United goalkeeping coach Eric Steele.
The calming effect that keeper Edwin van der Sar brought to United’s defence was immediate – he saved this penalty from Nicolas Anelka as United won the 2008 Champions League
HENRIK LARSSON (2007)
Aged 35 when he signed on loan from Helsingborgs.
Left it late to play in the Premier League but played a wonderful cameo for two months during the Swedish off-season, helping United win the title.
Larsson scored three goals in 13 games but it was his partnership in getting the best out of Wayne Rooney that was really memorable.
While celebrated for his goalscoring at Celtic and Barcelona, it was his unselfish team play that made him popular in the United dressing-room. And he left in style, heading a goal against Lille on his final Old Trafford appearance in March to put United into the Champions League quarter-finals.
Henrik Larsson played a wonderful two-month cameo to help United to win the Premier League
BASTIAN SCHWEINSTEIGER (2015-17)
Aged 30 when he signed from Bayern Munich.
Once the powerhouse of Champions League and World Cup-winning teams, Schweinsteiger had slowed alarmingly when he was signed by Louis van Gaal in the summer of 2015.
He’d just turned 31 when he made his United debut against Tottenham but made only 13 Premier League starts in the nearly two years he spent at Old Trafford before moving to the MLS.
United tried to sell the German almost the moment Jose Mourinho walked in the door. The tempo the midfielder wanted to play at was not suitable to the Premier League.
When they couldn’t he was ordered to train with the Under 23s. Mourinho later admitted he regretted what had happened to someone of Schweinsteiger’s standing.
‘He is in the category of players I feel sorry for something that I did to him,’ said Mourinho.
The tempo Bastian Schweinsteiger wanted to play at was not suitable to the Premier League
VICTOR VALDES (2015-16)
Aged 33 when he signed from Barcelona.
One of the most-decorated goalkeepers in the world when he arrived, Valdes never shifted David de Gea from the No 1 spot at United and fell out with Louis van Gaal as a result.
After 12 months he was sent on loan to Standard Liege and six months after that he joined Middlesbrough with his only two appearances for United ending in draws.
Having been sometimes forced to train on his own at United, he couldn’t resist a little dig at Van Gaal after he left. ‘I feel like a professional footballer again,’ he said.
Both strong-minded personalities, a clash with the manager was always on the cards once Valdes failed to get into the first team. It wasn’t going to work for someone who’d won multiple Champions League titles at the Nou Camp.
Victor Valdes never shifted David de Gea from the No 1 spot and fell out with Louis van Gaal
ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC (2016-18)
Aged 34 when he joined from PSG.
Like Eric Cantona, the Old Trafford stage fitted his ego and temperament perfectly, not to mention his outstanding ability.
For Ibrahimovic to score 28 goals in his only full season at United was a remarkable achievement, particularly as Mourinho’s team were not the finished article by any means.
The Swede practically won the 2017 League Cup final against Southampton on his own, scoring twice in a 3-2 United victory – the first with a rifling free-kick.
It’s just a shame he suffered a serious knee injury towards the end of the campaign that effectively ended his time at Old Trafford. ‘I am a lion, not a human,’ said the notoriously immodest Swede with a glint in his eye. At United, he walked the walk as well.
The Old Trafford stage fitted Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s ego, temperament and ability perfectly
ODION IGHALO (2020)
Aged 30 when he joined on loan from Shanghai Shenhua.
Like with Cavani, there were eyebrows raised when United turned to China to snap up the former Watford striker as a short-term solution to an injury crisis they were facing at the start of 2020.
The Nigerian has never started or scored in a Premier League game but did well in knockout competitions, scoring five goals in the FA Cup and Europa League and showing he is still a good finisher.
The signing of Cavani means he will return to his parent club in January.
Odion Ighalo did well for United in knockout competitions following his surprise arrival
*Understudy goalkeepers Tony Coton, Andy Goram, Ricardo and Lee Grant are the other players United have signed over the age of 30 during the Premier League era. Strikers Robin van Persie (hit) and Michael Owen (miss) were 29 when they were signed. Falcao (miss) was 28.