Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Bruno Fernandes and Edinson Cavani - the players who could and should leave Manchester United
Reports over the last week have suggested that there are up to 17 players who are unhappy at Manchester United, and with the winter transfer window upon us, and many players soon out of contract, we've gone through the players who are most likely to leave Old Trafford, and also those who the club should hope to sell.
Manchester United are facing a wave of dissent and unhappiness in their squad if recent reports are to be believed. We look at the top 10 players who might want a fresh start, and those who could need it.
The Mirror reported that 11 players are unhappy, with the Mail raising the stakes on Wednesday to 17. There are plenty at Old Trafford who might be weighing up a move on under Ralf Rangnick, a manager who asks his players to stay disciplined and work for the team.
Pogba’s contract is up at the end of the season and apart from a few brief weeks here and there, he has never seemed settled at Manchester United. The reason for that is probably because he and agent Mino Raiola are said to have an agreement that Old Trafford was a stepping stone to Real Madrid, and that plan hit the skids for a couple of reasons.
The financial impact of coronavirus put paid to any Real transfer activity, and the Frenchman’s form was so woeful for much of the last few years that Florentino Perez could not be persuaded to deal with Raiola’s demands. That could change if he doesn’t cost anything in transfer fees.
Of course, United will hope to tie Fernandes down to a new contract, and given he is on around £100,000 a week it won’t be tough to improve his deal markedly. If Pogba departs, he has a strong case to be bumped up to his wages of around £300,000 a week as his form and importance dictates.
Recently Fernandes has cut a disconsolate figure on the pitch as he sees his attitude is not matched by many of those around him. He is not a perfect player, and his form is sometimes inconsistent and underwhelming, but he might wonder if his application wouldn’t be better matched by other clubs. Paris Saint-Germain could be tempted, perhaps, and Real Madrid and Bayern Munich would suit his style.
Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United interacts with Bruno Fernandes of Manchester United during the UEFA Champions League group F match between Manchester United and Atalanta at Old Trafford on October 20, 2021 in Manchester, England
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Martial has told Rangnick that he wants to leave, and he has come close to the exit before. Jose Mourinho clocked that the French international was not going to make the most of his potential, but was reportedly blocked from binning him as he was apparently Joel Glazer’s favourite player.
Martial clearly has talent - he did when he arrived and bamboozled from the wings - but he has failed to establish himself as first-choice when other players have provided competition. The regular complaints about his body language were unfair, because he looked just as moody when he was in top form as when he was struggling, but the fact is, at 26, he has not reached the required level.
Sevilla have made an offer for him, and with the amount of players who can play up top at Old Trafford, getting him off the books on loan now and permanently in the summer helps the budget.
In many ways, Cavani is the player that Rangnick should be picking up front every week, but can’t because of Cristiano Ronaldo’s sui generis brilliance and the political ramifications of dropping the Portuguese.
Thankfully, the issue is going to be resolved shortly and it isn’t worth the hassle of forcing the issue. At 34 and with half a year left on his deal, he might be committed to the full-blooded effort that the interim boss demands, but he has rarely been fit enough to play every week since he turned 30, and he was half-tempted to quit last summer. Nothing about this season will have taken his mind off a move to Spain or perhaps back to South America for a more pleasant way of life.
Edinson Cavani and Donny van de Beek
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The 36-year-old striker has again proven he is ageing better than any other athlete in men’s football, and he could conceivably put in these numbers until he is 40 in the top flight. If Rangnick decides that he or a similar manager will come in at the end of the season then there might be a problem.
Ronaldo’s excellence is focused and limited to a small part of the pitch, and a modern approach to football might be better served by a number nine who can hustle defences from left to right. That’s not Ronaldo’s game and it is a waste of his talents to make him change. Better to cut his wages and let him move elsewhere, with Paris Saint-Germain always happy to pay up for a superstar, and to be honest, he might actually win stuff in France which he can’t with United.
The young right-back cost almost £50 million a couple of years ago and arrived able to execute impressive lunges and important interventions. In one-on-ones, he was a player who needed to be developed to show tactical awareness, and grow into the attacking role demanded of today’s full-backs.
Instead, opponents isolated him and targeted his poor positioning. By keeping their distance from him they negated his strengths and exploited his weaknesses. Whether coaches have failed him or he is incapable of learning lessons by himself, he should consider his position at risk and a less ambitious club might suit his style.
Henderson took a risk when he signed a new deal, exchanging job security in preference for an easier way to first team football. At the time, it was a reasonable gamble, with David de Gea looking shaky and Henderson rarely making a mistake.
However the Spaniard has rediscovered his consistency and given he is on a huge contract of his own, it is too much trouble to ease him out the door to make room for Henderson, who still has plenty to prove.
Rangnick has reportedly said he will not let Henderson leave midway through the season, which makes sense from the German’s point of view, but the England international is unlikely to have much patience when the summer window opens ahead of this year’s Qatar World Cup.
Dean Henderson of Manchester United
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Donny van de Beek
Donny van de Beek appeared to be just the kind of signing United should have been making in the coronavirus pandemic. Other teams were financially hamstrung, and Ajax needed the cash. By stepping in they had a young midfielder who had shown he could cut it in the Champions League and who could nail down a place in the middle of the pitch.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer responded by never picking him save for a few minutes here and there to crush his confidence. Spirit duly dismantled, he then had a move to Everton fall apart in the summer leading to a dispute with his past agent and his current one. Getting out of Old Trafford might be beyond the Dutch international this winter because of that, but he is wasting his life in Manchester, and his career.
A solid player who would have been a handy presence with more energy and technique around him, but he has no obvious complement alongside any of Pogba, Fernandes, Fred and Scott McTominay. He had suggested he wanted out under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer before a change of heart, but realistically there is no reason for him to prolong his Old Trafford career and his presumably sizeable wages could be better spent elsewhere.
Lingard’s brief impressive spell for West Ham appeared to convince him that he was in fact brilliant, and he did not wish to stay on at Manchester United. After failing to impress consistently save for the odd important goal and commitment to running when asked by Jose Mourinho, it was clear that he was an underwhelming 28-year-old who had exactly the same talents when he was a promising 22-year-old.
He seems like an amiable figure but United have been held back by too many players who have failed to adapt and learn. Lingard is one of those who should not be indulged any longer.
Eric Bailly, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire, Fred, Scott McTominay, Phil Jones, Fred, Alex Telles, Brandon Williams, Axel Tuanzebe, Andreas Pereira and Tahith Chong could also be sold without any real harm being done to the team, but there are only so many words the audience can read before they can draw the conclusion that this United squad has little going for it.