Who Should Stay & Who Should Go? Part 2 19 Apr 2019 10:17

Part two of our article ask the same question of Manchester United’s midfield and attacking options.

By Philip Meese

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In Part One of this article, we looked at Manchester United’s defence and goalkeeping departments, and assed the likelihood of each player being at Old Trafford next season. Now we focus on the midfield and attack, the players who are brought in to generally excite the fans. So which players deserve to be at United next season, and which will ones actually will be?

Juan Mata

Possibly the nicest guy at Old Trafford, but probably not for much longer. When Mata signed for the club during David Moyes’ one and only turbulent season, much was expected of the two-time Chelsea player of the year. Although the Spain international clearly loves the club, the truth is that he has never shone on a consistent basis. The reason for this may be that United have mostly used him in a wide role, rather than his preferred number 10. With his contract due to expire this summer, United’s reluctance to offer him more than a one-year extension speaks volumes of his importance to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s plans. Maybe it’s best for him to make a fresh start, as he deserves better than to be a bit part player.

Opinion: Get rid. Prediction: Leave.

Nemanja Mati?

The Serbian was one of United’s best outfield players last season, but this year he has been largely poor. He looks like he has lost a yard of pace (something he wasn’t particularly blessed with in the first place) and seems a shadow of the player who protected Chelsea’s defence in their last two title triumphs. Although his contract expires next year, the club have the option to extend it by a further twelve months. With so many potential comings and goings this summer, it’s possible that Mati? won’t be one of them, but at this stage of what seems to be a declining career, he wouldn’t be a huge loss. If United want to get back to the pinnacle of English and European football, they’ll need a better anchor-man than him.

Opinion: Get Rid. Prediction: Leave

Ander Herrera

Another Spanish international whose time at the club appears to be drawing to a close, and the cause of much unrest among the fans. Herrera’s passion for the club is not in question, never has been, but United have been so far unwilling to match his wage demands. As a result, rumours that he has signed a pre-contract with Paris Saint-Germain have surfaced in recent weeks. Given how United have wasted money over the last few years, if he is a part of Solskjaer’s plans then they should pay it. After all, what he is asking for (reportedly in the region of £170,000 per week), is a fraction of what some less deserving players are earning.

Herrera is a quality player, sure he isn’t world class and he’s never going to be. Then again, neither were Darren Fletcher or Phil Neville, but look how successful they were at Old Trafford. Players like that who give their all can be an asset to any team. If some of United’s more talented players had had his work rate and attitude over the last few years, they might not have fallen as far as they have. Given that it would probably cost at least £40 million to replace him, why would you let a player like that go for free?

Opinion: Keep.  Prediction: Leave.

Andreas Pereira

The talented Brazilian’s future is still up in the air and is unusual because the one-year option in his contract has to be agreed by both player and club before it can be triggered. Under José Mourinho, Pereira was sidelined for the first half of the campaign but has worked his way into Solskjaer’s plans in recent weeks. Having been much touted as one for the future throughout his early career, Pereira has still yet to completely show what all the fuss is about. With so many players possibly leaving this year, it could be his chance to finally do that.

Opinion: Keep (for now).  Prediction: Stay.


The other Brazilian in United’s midfield has had a troubled campaign, but in recent weeks has started to show why United paid Shakhtar Donetsk £52 million for him, and why Pep Guardiola was interested at one stage. He was immense in Paris, and probably United’s best player in the home defeat to Barcelona. At one stage it looked like he might be on his way after just one season, but he has probably shown enough in recent weeks to suggest he is worth persevering with for at least another year.

Opinion: Keep (for now).  Prediction: Stay.

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Scott McTominay

Another player who has changed many fans’ opinions over the last few weeks, mine included. When Mati? pulled out of the Liverpool game, the young Scotland midfielder was drafted in his place. McTominay put in one hell of a shift against United’s biggest rivals and did the same against PSG ten days later. He recently scored his first goal in the defeat to Wolves and was one of the few players to emerge from the Barcelona catastrophe with any credit at all. Even if United sign another defensive midfielder this summer, it’s hard to imagine McTominay being among those shipped out. Could have a bright future if given the chance. He certainly seems to have the right attitude.

Opinion: Keep.  Prediction: Stay.

Paul Pogba

Supposedly the jewel in United’s crown, it might be time to get rid of the World Cup winner while they can still make a profit from him. There is no doubting Pogba’s talent, but that alone doesn’t make a player great. The application and desire to be the best, like Cristiano Ronaldo has shown throughout his entire career, must be there as well. For every world class through ball Pogba makes, there is a performance where he looks disinterested. After his showing in Barcelona, his ambition to win the Balon d’Or has never looked further away.

Apparently United have told Real Madrid, who he flirted with lately in a press conference, that they must pay £130 million to sign Pogba. Given their financial problems, it would be surprising if he moved there this year, but would it really be the worst thing in the world if they stumped up the cash? Added to what will already be a sizeable transfer budget, maybe Solskjaer can use that money to build a team full of young hungry players, rather than the kind who are more interested in personal glory than being a team player.

On the flip side, Solskjaer has maintained that he sees Pogba going nowhere, and is keen to build a side around him. If he can do this, maybe United fans will see exactly why the club paid a world record fee for him in the first place. Given that he has two years, with the option of a third, still on his contract, United are under no pressure to sell him this summer. They should probably give him one more year to prove he is among the best in Europe. Next season could be make or break for Pogba.

Opinion: Keep (for now). Prediction: Stay.

Jesse Lingard

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Having come through the academy, Jesse Lingard will always be given more of a break by the fans than someone who was brought in for big money. On his day he can be fantastic, but it’s fair to say that this comes in patches, rather than with any consistency throughout the season. He has scored some important goals, two of them in cup finals, which suggests he is a big game player, but often goes missing in others. With so many players likely to be on the move, it is unlikely he will be going anywhere just yet. But if Solskjaer does get it right, and gets the team challenging again for the big trophies, the question needs to be asked; is Lingard good enough for that level? For me, the jury is still out on that, but he’ll be going nowhere this summer, and nor should he.

Opinion: Keep.  Prediction: Stay.

Romelu Lukaku

Few players who have a strike rate of almost a goal every two games divide opinion quite like the big Belgian. Like Lingard, his best form seems to come in streaks rather than consistently, and his ability to trouble the big teams is still in question. He hasn’t scored since his double in Paris, and there are not only rumours that Juventus are admirers of him, but that the interest is mutual according to his agent. It’s hard to imagine Europe’s top defenders, or even the Premier League’s, being terrified of him. If United get a decent offer for him in the summer, based on the fact that Solskjaer seems to prefer Marcus Rashford up top, a move might be best for both parties. It doesn’t seem like too many clubs are queuing up to sign him, though.

Opinion: Get rid. Prediction: Stay.

Alexis Sánchez

In danger of being one of United’s most high-profile flops of all time. The Chilean has scored five goals in fifteen months since his move from Arsenal, and the fact that he is the club’s highest earner has ruffled a few feathers in the dressing room. This is understandable when a lot of players who have contributed far more receive a fraction of his salary. Sánchez has a big month ahead of him, all that is now left of United’s season, to convince his manager that he can be a part of the club’s future. 

The rumours are that Solskjaer wants him out, but the problem is finding someone who will pay his wages based on his recent form. None of Europe’s big clubs would want him, and the smaller clubs wouldn’t be able to afford him. Unless he is willing to accept a move to China, expect him to still be at United next season.

Opinion: Get rid. Prediction: Stay.

Marcus Rashford

Without a doubt, one of the most improved players under Solskjaer. The confidence that his new manager instilled in him, just by playing him in his favoured central striking role, paid dividends in the opening weeks of his reign. Rashford has struggled since the Liverpool game, where he played most of the match injured after receiving a kick on the ankle. In that time, the team have lost the momentum they had six or seven weeks ago but, make no mistake, this is one player who neither the fans nor the manager want to leave.

He is coming to the last year of his contract, but United can extend that by a year, which they no doubt will. Barcelona have reportedly been sniffing around him in recent weeks, believing him to be a good potential replacement for Luis Suárez, but it is widely expected that Rashford will sign a new deal soon. He’s a born and bred Mancunian, a lifelong United fan and has not expressed a desire to leave. He is one of the few players in the squad who can benefit the club in the long term going forward.

Opinion: Keep at all costs. Prediction: Stay.

Anthony Martial

A player who was in danger of leaving under Mourinho now looks like the least likely of all to go anytime soon. Earlier this season, shortly after Solskjaer took over, he penned a new long term deal which seems to have put paid to any rumours of him departing.

Martial is hugely talented, yet inconsistent, but with plenty of years to develop into the player United fans hope he can become. With a better selection of players around him next season, he is expected to become a major part of the Red Devils’ attack for years to come.

Opinion: Keep. Prediction: Stay.

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Final Thought

In most circumstances, ripping up a squad and starting from scratch is a bad idea. When Alex Ferguson finished second in the league in his first full season as manager, this is exactly what he did and it initially looked like a mistake. United finished 11th and 13th in the following two seasons, before the glory days of the 1990’s kicked in. It is usually best to do it gradually, so that there aren’t too many players struggling to settle in. The problem with this is that United have been doing this for years, and too many average ones have remained. This squad needs a complete overhaul.

Of the 25 players I have assessed over the course of this two part article, there are only 14 that I believe should have any type of future at Old Trafford, be it long or short term. Two of that group are backup goalkeepers, and three outfield players, one of whom is Pogba, are in the last chance saloon as far as I’m concerned. This means that only nine of them are players that I can see being important to United going forward – and one of them is Ander Herrera, who seems certain to leave anyway. If these wishes came true, United would need to sign around ten new players in the summer.

What Manchester United currently have is a squad that bears various hallmarks of their last four managers. Some of them have outstayed their welcome, others were never good enough in the first place. Whatever your opinion, most of them have had more than enough chances to prove their worth to the club and have failed.

One of the true tests of how good the current squad is will be in the summer transfer talk. Almost every one of them will be linked with a move away in the summer. The types of club that are reportedly interested in them will tell the story of how good they are. Pogba, Rashford, De Gea and possibly Lukaku (if the Juventus rumours are correct) will interest the elite clubs like Barcelona and Madrid. Herrera and Mata possibly will because they are out of contract, and maybe there will be interest in Martial. The rest of them will be linked with moves to clubs with a profile nowhere near that of United. This is because most of the squad don’t deserve to be there. They aren’t good enough for the level that United expect, and are expected, to be at.

That is the harsh reality of it.

For Part One of the Article click here.

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