April 23, 2021

Man Utd

News

Manchester United need to resolve 11 players’ futures before transfer window

5 min read

Of the 13 players signed on Louis van Gaal’s watch there are two survivors at Manchester United: Luke Shaw and Anthony Martial, teenagers at their times of arrival 14 months apart.

Van Gaal had the luxury of welcoming six players in each of his summers (Victor Valdes was a winter inhabitant at The Lowry) and still United were left short in the frenzied 2015 transfer window. Van Gaal craved a centre-back and a centre forward, preferably Sergio Ramos and Robert Lewandowski. Martial was the closest United got to a nine and swiftly switched to the flank.

The argument for half-a-dozen incomings at United this summer is a reasonable one: back-up goalkeeper, centre-back, right-back, midfielder, forward, and striker. They will deem it a success if they occupy half of those roles.

United are keeping their cards as close to their chest as Paul Newman in The Sting and clammed up following Borussia Dortmund’s apparent receptiveness to selling Jadon Sancho. So much has happened since United prioritised Sancho last year he is no longer their priority and they have invested £37million in a promising right-sided forward in Amad. Lest we forget Facundo Pellistri.


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Centre-back and centre forward are the pressing areas to be addressed, especially the latter. United’s improved defensive record in recent months has coincided with impotence up the other end. Edinson Cavani has not scored since February 6, Anthony Martial is injured and has two goals in his last 18 games, Mason Greenwood struck his first Premier League goal in four months against Brighton and Marcus Rashford’s numbers mask his shortcomings.

Bruno Fernandes has looked largely forlorn without Paul Pogba, is without a goal from open play since Valentine’s Day and in danger of wilting like a bunch of roses. Fernandes and Rashford have been overplayed.

The clocks have gone forward and Cavani is about to clock out at United, which has given them ample time to belatedly line up a long-term replacement for Romelu Lukaku. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the inaugural football director John Murtough have mutually agreed Erling Haaland is their striker priority.

Real Madrid are open to selling Raphael Varane, a target Ed Woodward was prepared to sanction a £100million offer for three years ago. Varane, 27, is valued significantly lower than that now and one of the finest fits to complement Harry Maguire.

Maguire has already played as many times for United as Eric Bailly even though the Ivorian joined the club three years and two months earlier. Bailly’s contract situation and glass frame make him sellable, although it would be a travesty to cut losses with him ahead of the permanently broken Phil Jones.

Haaland and Varane would set United back the best part of £200m and they have never broken the £150m barrier in a summer window for permanent additions. Their spending in up front fees following the pandemic nosedived from £140m in 2019 to £76.6m.



Varane has won four Champions Leagues and the World Cup
Varane has won four Champions Leagues and the World Cup

The de facto £150m budget of yesteryear no longer suffices, as United discovered in 2019 when they ended the window devoid of a midfielder and an external successor to Lukaku.

The dilemma heading into this summer’s window is there are too many question marks over too many players’ futures. Thirty-five players are listed in the first-team section on the United website and only two are current certainties to be released (Sergio Romero and Joel Pereira).


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Sources at United accept one of David de Gea and Dean Henderson will have to go in the summer, more likely the former, yet few clubs are in the market for an outstanding goalkeeper. Juventus, saddled with the erratic Wojciech Szczesny, is the standout option, although De Gea is not going to have them over a barrel like he did with United, where he is the highest earner on £375,000-a-week.

Paul Pogba has not indicated any desire to stay as he approaches the final year of his contract and the financial side-effects of the pandemic mean United can hardly countenance letting a prized asset leave without obtaining a fee. The personal tragedy of Juan Mata’s mother’s death has left his professional future up in the air, with no decision made on the one-year option on his deal.

Jesse Lingard’s race was run at United before he Milly Rocked up in London and his fabulous form for West Ham has sent his value north again, with his contract up next year. Pogba, Bailly and Lingard could realistically fetch the best part of £100m.

Brandon Williams, a fringe player without a single league start all season, has provided back-up for Aaron Wan-Bissaka yet is in need of a loan and was open to one in January. Diogo Dalot, another right-back, will soon be back from AC Milan, so how can United justify moving for Kieran Trippier with three right-footed full-backs?

Even a midfielder as inconsequential as Andreas Pereira is still a recognised first-team squad member on an enviable wage, fattening up a bloated squad and difficult to cut off cleanly, a consequence of Matt Judge’s infamous contract negotiations. Tahith Chong received a renewal more recently and has been superseded by Shola Shoretire.



An unresolved XI
An unresolved XI

James Garner and Teden Mengi’s development needs to continue in the upper echelons of the Championship, at the very least. Darren Fletcher, the technical director, was present for United’s FA Youth Cup defeat to Liverpool on Saturday and part of his remit is mapping out career plans for the academy talents.

Shoretire, a starter at Leigh Sports Village, was deemed too raw for a loan by the Under-23 coach Neil Wood and was then suddenly promoted to the first-team squad. Van Gaal used to do that, too.

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