Who Should Stay & Who Should Go? Part 1 18 Apr 2019 20:46

The first of a two part article on which players should leave Old Trafford this summer, and which ones probably will.

By Philip Meese

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It’s coming to the business end of the season, with the media filled with stories about which players will be making big money moves this summer. Naturally, Manchester United dominate a lot of these headlines in any transfer window, but with a clear overhaul needed at Old Trafford the speculation is in overdrive this year.

The Champions League exit to Barcelona showed that United have a lot catching up to do, in order to get back to the level that a club of their size should be competing at. Despite a bright start in the Nou Camp, two perfectly avoidable errors gifted their opponents a lead they were never going to lose. What is clear is that the United team that starts the first game of next season will most likely have a very different look to it than the current one. Some players are just simply not good enough, others have outstayed their welcome.

This is my prediction, looking at the current first team squad, as to which ones should stay or go, and which ones actually will. One thing is certain, Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s first spending spree will be the one that shapes his managerial career in M16. But which ones will still be here next season?

Part one of this article focuses on the defence and goalkeeping departments and part two, which will be published tomorrow, will look at the midfield and attack. If Solskjær sees things in the same way as me, the majority of this overpaid, underperforming squad won’t be United players much longer.

David De Gea

The Spanish goalkeeper is probably the best shot stopper in the world right now, his clanger in the Nou Camp aside, and is coming into the last year of his contract. He has made his intentions to the board; he wants to be the best paid player at the club. Considering he is the only undisputed world class player in the squad this is not an unreasonable request, given that United’s current highest earner has done little to justify his salary so far in his eighteen-month spell at Old Trafford.

United face a dilemma here as they have the option to sell him for anything up to £100 million, or risk letting him run down the last year of his contract, in the hope that he will sign a new deal, and potentially lose him for nothing next summer. Make no mistake, United should move heaven and earth to keep him, but it wouldn’t be the first time they have proved their incompetence in these situations. Ask Ander Herrera.

Opinion: Keep at all Costs.  Prediction: Stay.

Sergio Romero

If De Gea does go, at least United have a more than decent back up for him. Sure, he is not in the same league as the Spaniard, but not many are, but it’s doubtful that any club in the world has better goalkeeper as number two. On the plus side, if De Gea stays, Romero seems perfectly content with his role as back up, so it would be a surprise to see him leave.

Opinion: Keep.  Prediction: Stay.

Lee Grant

The third-choice goalkeeper was brought in on a free transfer from Stoke City last summer, and has only featured once for the first team so far. It’s hard to see him getting past De Gea and Romero, but the fact that he knew his position before joining, plus the fact that he still has a year left on his contract suggests that he will probably be at Old Trafford next season, unless he pushes for a move.

Opinion: Keep.  Prediction: Stay.

Antonio Valencia

It seems almost pointless putting the current United captain on here, as Solskjær has confirmed that he will be going in the summer. The fact remains, however, that given how the current board deal with problems, it would surprise nobody if they offered him a new contract now that the option to trigger his one-year extension has expired. The reality is that this won’t happen, as Solskjaer quickly identified that Valencia is years past his peak. A far cry from the explosive winger who Real Madrid were once interested in, he has become a converted full back who seems to have developed a fear of crossing. Unfortunately, in spite of a decade of loyal service, he won’t be missed when he leaves,

Opinion: Get rid. Prediction: Leave.

Ashley Young

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The decline in the former England winger’s form in recent weeks has been alarming. Young was one of the few players to seemingly improve under both Louis van Gaal and José Mourinho, especially after being converted to a full-back, and was regarded as possibly the best crosser at the club. Unfortunately, in both games against Barcelona, and in several others leading up to that, it is quite clear he is no longer cut out for this level. He has a year left on his contract so he will probably stay as a squad player, but if anyone expresses an interest in buying him, only United’s haters would be upset to see him leave.

Opinion: Get rid. Prediction: Stay.

Chris Smalling

The centre of defence is where United really need to splash the cash this summer. The club are so short of reliable options in that position, it’s not even funny. With Smalling recently given a new contract, it is hard to see United selling, especially when they are likely to be moving other defenders on but sell him they should. In recent weeks, he seems to have become part of United’s first choice centre back, along with Victor Lindelof, but it’s not like he is keeping world class centre backs out of the team.

The harsh reality is that after nine years in a Red shirt, Smalling still doesn’t look like a United quality player. He lacks concentration and focus at key moments, he isn’t the quickest and his distribution from the back is questionable. Compare him to some of the United centre backs from the past, would he have kept the likes of Jaap Stam, Gary Pallister, Nemanja Vidi?, Steve Bruce, Rio Ferdinand, Ronny Johnson, even David May or Mikaël Silvestre out of the team? No, he isn’t just not in their league, in fact he’s barely even playing the same sport. He’ll probably stay, but they should sell him if possible. After all, if he isn’t good enough for England, why is he good enough for United?

Opinion: Get rid. Prediction: Stay.

Phil Jones

Another one who was recently given a long contract, Jones’s career looks like it will be a case of what could have been. There is a quality player in there, but the man cannot stay fit long enough for that player to develop. With that in mind, it’s questionable whether any club would want to spend the kind of money it would probably cost to sign someone who can’t be relied on to play 25 games a season. It’s also unlikely that Solskjær would let both Smalling and Jones go in one transfer window, especially when so many others are likely to leave. As Smalling is the one most likely to stay fit, it would point to Jones being the more likely of the two to depart Old Trafford.

Opinion: Get rid. Prediction: Leave.

Marcos Rojo

Five years after his arrival from Sporting Lisbon, it is still hard to see what it was that “enchanted” Louis van Gaal about the Argentina international. He is far from being a United player, from his limited pace, his rash tackling, and the fact that he clearly likes his food more than his football, which probably contributes to his inability to stay fit. What sense there was in giving Rojo a new five-year contract last year is anybody’s guess, especially when he has played more times for his country in that time than the club who pays him. If United can find a club to take him off their hands, they should jettison him out of Old Trafford as quickly as possible.

Opinion: Get rid. Prediction: Leave.

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Matteo Darmian

It’s hard not to feel a little bit sorry for the Italian full back. He looked like a real bargain in the first couple of months after his arrival, but it all went downhill after a 3-0 defeat to Arsenal at the Emirates. Darmian never recovered from that and has struggled for game time in the last couple of seasons. He doesn’t seem particularly well suited to the Premier League, with his lack of pace well exposed on several occasions. With his contract down to the final year in the summer, it looks like Darmian will be saying arrivederci to Old Trafford. This is providing that his stock hasn’t fallen so far that nobody wants him. 

Opinion: Get rid. Prediction: Leave.

Luke Shaw

This time last year, it looked as though the young left back would be very likely heading out of the Old Trafford exit. Fast forward a year and he is one of the few defenders that seems an absolute certainty to stay. Despite harsh criticism in the past from both van Gaal and Mourinho, Shaw has battled back from a career threatening double leg break to make the left back spot his own. He was without doubt United’s standout performer of the first three months of the season, and though that isn’t saying much, it’s unlikely he will be moving on in the summer.

Opinion: Keep.  Prediction: Stay.

Eric Bailly

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When the Ivory Coast international first signed in 2016, it genuinely looked like United had stumbled upon a gem of a defender. Strong, athletic, fast and a tough tackler, finally it seemed they had a proper leader at the back. Three years on and it looks like the defender will be one of the first to be sacrificed this summer. While he has had his fitness issues, he also seems to be suffering from a lack of confidence as well. Given that he is into the last year of his contract, it might best for United to cash in now and let the player make a fresh start, given that he doesn’t appear to be in Solskjær’s plans.

Opinion: Get rid. Prediction: Leave

Victor Lindelöf

Probably the only centre-back that most United fans are convinced can be a part of the club’s long-term future, possibly even a future captain. Like Shaw, twelve months ago it looked like Lindelöf could be on his way out after an underwhelming first year at Old Trafford. This season has seen him turn a corner and become a leader at the back, and with a real quality centre half beside him he could form part of a solid partnership going forward. United just need to find him a top class partner, the kind he currently lacks.

Opinion: Keep.  Prediction: Stay.

Diogo Dalot

One of the few real success stories from United’s season. The young Portuguese full back looks a quality player, fast, fearless and with fantastic crossing ability. Given that he has four years left on his contract and seems to be a major part of Solskjær’s plans, it would be a major surprise if he was playing anywhere else next season.

Opinion: Keep.  Prediction: Stay.


In my opinion, out of these thirteen players that have featured this season, only six of them have any business being there next term. The sad thing about that is that three of them are goalkeepers, two of which are merely back up. Ten outfield defenders, and only three of them good enough to wear that red shirt.

The back line is the main area where Manchester United need to do some serious surgery in the summer. It has been well publicised that four of United’s back five that started in the Nou Camp (De Gea, Smalling, Jones and Young), also lined up in their defeat to Basel in 2011. That’s one of the main reasons a change is badly needed. They have been in an environment where mediocrity is acceptable for too long, with De Gea the only one of that quartet who deserves to wear the shirt.

Anyone who rates the players I believe should be gotten rid of might want to ask themselves one very simple question. How many of them would get near the squads of Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham, or even Chelsea or Arsenal?

Even some of the ones I believe still have a future at Old Trafford probably wouldn’t, either.


For Part Two of the Article click here.

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