Striker Brian McClair, 24 First Division goals for United in his first season at the club, and was the club's highest scorer in a single season since George Best some 20 years earlier. He had been purchased from Celtic for £850,000 - a considerable bargain, as he was originally valued at £2million.
Arthur Albiston, Peter Davenport and Kevin Moran were among the players to leave Old Trafford after the 1987-88 season.
United had expressed interest in signing the Newcastle United midfielder Paul Gascoigne, but the player was surprisingly sold to Tottenham instead. There had also been talk of signing the Rangers and England defender Terry Butcher early in the season, but Butcher was happy in Scotland and United signed Norwich's Steve Bruce instead.
The end of the 1988-89 season saw a further exodus of players. Gordon Strachan, the 31-year-old Scottish midfielder who had played in the 1985 F.A Cup winning side, decided that he needed a new challenge and accepted Leeds United's terms for a £300,000 move. Norman Whiteside, who had been instrumental in the two F.A Cup triumphs under Ron Atkinson but had endured a succession of injuries combined with a loss of form in recent times, was sold to Everton in a £600,000 deal. Paul McGrath, another player desiring a new challenge, opted for a £500,000 move to Aston Villa.
New signings were made in the summer as Alex Ferguson prepared to build a side which he felt was capable of winning trophies. He paid £2.3million for Middlesbrough's lanky centre-half Gary Pallister, £1.5million for Nottingham Forest's talented midfielder Neil Webb, and £1.8million for West Ham United's promising young midfielder Paul Ince.
Ferguson later revealed that the directors told him that they had never considered sacking him. Although naturally disappointed with the lack of progress in the league, they were pleased with the way he had reorganised the club. But Ferguson feared that if it had not been for the F.A Cup triumph, the pressure to sack him would have become irresistible and he would surely have been ousted.
The only major signing at Old Trafford during the summer of 1990 was Denis Irwin, a 24-year-old full-back recruited from Oldham Athletic in a £500,000 deal.
Also in 1991, United floated on the London Stock Exchange, with a valuation of £18 million. This move brought the club's finances into the public eye, and made it vulnerable to takeover speculation.
Desperate not to endure the same misery in the following season's new Premier League, Ferguson delved into the transfer market and was determined to sign a top striker. First he tried to sign David Hirst from Sheffield Wednesday then Alan Shearer from Southampton, but the player moved to Blackburn Rovers instead. Ferguson raised a few eyebrows when he shelled out £1million on a player with no top flight experience - Cambridge United striker Dion Dublin.
After the end of the season, United paid an English record fee of £3.75 million for Nottingham Forest's 22-year-old Irish midfielder Roy Keane. Alex Ferguson saw Keane as a long-term replacement for the aging Bryan Robson, who at 36 was no longer an automatic choice.
New striker Dion Dublin missed much of the season, due to a double leg fracture suffered against Crystal Palace when he fell victim to a reckless tackle from Eric Young. However he still gained a title medal.
Veteran striker Mark Hughes, fast approaching 30, had another strong season as he topped the club's goalscoring charts with 15 league goals.
Ferguson felt that his current squad were good enough to challenge on all fronts in the season which followed the double, and made only one close season signing, paying Blackburn Rovers £1.2million for 24-year-old defender David May. He signed May in the hope that he would develop into a suitable replacement for the ageing Steve Bruce.
Veterans Les Sealey, Clayton Blackmore, Bryan Robson and Mike Phelan all left United at the end of the 1993-94, after spending a collective total of 36 years at the club. Youngsters Colin McKee, Neil Whitworth, Brian Carey and Darren Ferguson all moved on to new clubs.
Eric Cantona was banned for 3 months initially by the club themselves, only for the FA to impose a further 5 month suspension, and ordered to serve 120 hours' community service for kicking Matthew Simmons, a Crystal Palace hooligan who had taunted him with racial epithets after being sent off in a January fixture at Selhurst Park. United were also without players like Paul Parker, Ryan Giggs and Andrei Kanchelskis for long periods of time due to injury.
On a brighter note, United broke the English transfer record again by paying £7million (£6million in cash plus £1million-rated winger Keith Gillespie) for Newcastle United's free-scoring striker Andy Cole. He had been signed just two weeks before the Cantona incident as an eventual replacement for Mark Hughes, but with Cantona suspended it was Hughes who ended up being Cole's partner for the rest of the season. Cole didn't take long to get amongst the goals, bagging five goals in a premiership record 9-0 trouncing of Ipswich FC at Old Trafford in 1995.
United almost made it three Premiership titles in a row, but just couldn't get the better of West Ham United who held them to a 1-1 away draw on the final day of the season. The disappointment was made all the more frustrating because champions Blackburn had lost their final game of the season to Liverpool (the former club of manager Kenny Dalglish) and a victory for United would have seen Alex Ferguson's side win the title. The FA Cup also slipped out of United's grasp when they lost 1-0 to unfancied Everton in the final at Wembley. This left United without a major trophy for the first time since 1989.
United raked in £2million in September when striker Dion Dublin was sold to Coventry City in a £2million deal. Dublin's chances of regular first team football had been sabotaged by a broken leg and the arrival of Eric Cantona, so he opted for a move to Highfield Road as he knew he would be virtually guaranteed a place in Phil Neal's team.
Alex Ferguson was expected to splash out a large sum of money on a world class player—Roberto Baggio, Marc Overmars, Darren Anderton, David Platt (who had been a United youth player in the mid 1980s) and Paul Gascoigne (who had snubbed the club in favour of Spurs in 1988) were all linked with moves to United. But United began the season without a major signing and a side made up of young players like David Beckham (20), Gary Neville (20), Philip Neville (18), Paul Scholes (21) and Nicky Butt (20) lost 3-1 at Aston Villa on the opening day of the season. Many pundits wrote United's title chances off and expected big spending clubs like Newcastle, Liverpool and Arsenal to win the season's honours. Alan Hansen's assessment "you'll never win anything with kids" on Match Of The Day on 19 August 1995 was the most memorable.
Alex Ferguson was defiant of the critics, and following the return of Eric Cantona in a 2-2 draw with Liverpool in early October, United went into overdrive. They chased Newcastle United for the top-of-the-table position and didn't give up hope even when trailing Kevin Keegan's side by 10 points at Christmas.
But as the season heated up Alex Ferguson entered into some mind games with Newcastle United manager Kevin Keegan claiming certain teams in the Premier League tried harder to beat Manchester United than any other team. Prompting a furious Keegan to respond with "I will love it if we beat them, love it".
United finally went top of the Premiership in mid-March, shortly after beating Newcastle at St James' Park, and their title success was confirmed with a 3-0 away win at Bryan Robson's Middlesbrough on the final day of the season. A week later United beat Liverpool 1-0 in the FA Cup final to become the first ever English club to win the league title/FA Cup double twice. Eric Cantona, who scored 19 goals in 1995-96 (including the FA Cup final winner), was voted Footballer of the Year by football journalists who were impressed at the way he had returned from his suspension. Cantona was made team captain following the departure of veteran Steve Bruce to Birmingham City.
Bruce was not the only player to walk out of the Old Trafford exit door in the summer of 1996. After five years at the club (the final two of which had been plagued by injury), full-back Paul Parker joined Derby County on a free transfer. Winger Lee Sharpe, frustrated with not appearing in as many games as a player of his calibre might expect, became the most expensive player to leave Old Trafford when he joined Leeds United for £4million.
1995-96 was one of the most successful seasons in the history of Manchester United, and the success was perhaps made even sweeter by the fact that so many people had written the club's chances off almost before the season began.
The club's most expensive acquisition in the summer of 1996 had been Karel Poborský, the 23-year-old Czech winger signed from Slavia Prague for £3.5million. But he was unable to claim the right-wing position from the brilliant young David Beckham and moved to Benfica after just 18 months at Old Trafford.
At the end of the season, Eric Cantona sent shock waves throughout the footballing world by announcing his retirement from football just a few days before his 31st birthday. Cantona explained his relatively early retirement by saying that he wanted to retire while still at his peak, and not wallow away into mediocrity. He was replaced by the respected England international Teddy Sheringham, a £3.5million signing from Tottenham who was initially disappointing but would later start to repay his fee in style.
The summer of 1998 saw the departure of the club's two longest-serving players. Brian McClair ended his 11-year association with United by returning to his first club Motherwell, while Gary Pallister returned to Middlesbrough after nine years at Old Trafford. Pallister had cost £2.3million on his arrival in 1989, and despite being in his 33rd year Bryan Robson had been prepared to pay £2.5million for his services - so United had made a £200,000 profit.