Star players Manchester United should let go and some they could sign

Pogba, Mata and Martial heading for the exit, while Frenkie De Jong is admired at Old Trafford

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Erik ten Hag's Manchester United reign is underway, and it will inevitably lead to comings and goings at Old Trafford.

As the speculation peaks in the build-up to the transfer window opening on June 10, Andy Mitten cuts through the chatter to give an inside view on what might happen between now and September.

OUT

Anthony Martial

A flop on loan at Sevilla, where he was injured and scored only one goal from January to May, the Frenchman still has a contract until 2024 – he’s one of the biggest earners in the squad too. Given how low his stock has fallen and how much he earns, he’ll be hard to get off the books. Another loan could be the best option – if United can find a club who will pay a significant portion of his wages.

Dean Henderson

The goalkeeper wants to play first team football. Can you blame him? He’s a Premier League class goalkeeper who is too good to be No 2 to David de Gea and he’s also the best opportunity for United to raise funds from a sale.

Jesse Lingard

A waste of a season for the player who did so well on loan at West Ham in 2021. A 2011 Youth Cup winner with Paul Pogba, he didn’t go quietly and he felt he deserved more chances to play this season. Another for whom it’s best for all parties that he’s moving on.

Juan Mata

Great guy and a very good player who was a European champion with Chelsea, but the time is right for him to move on, as he will. He’s 34 and feels that he can still play every week.

Edinson Cavani

Despite the smiley tone of his departure message this week, his second season in Manchester was awful. That was a shame after the way his finished his first so strongly. The Uruguayan, 35, leaves fans with mixed memories of his stay. When asked about his future plans before United’s final game of the season, one he actually played in at Crystal Palace, he replied: “we shall see”.

Paul Pogba

The world’s most expensive player when he arrived from Juventus in 2016, the Parisian had six mostly underwhelming seasons at Old Trafford. All but his first season ended without a trophy.

Injuries and managerial changes didn’t help, nor did poor communication with fans, but he struggled to fit into several systems at United. That he was allowed to leave for free for a second time shows how disappointing the World Cup winner was at Old Trafford.

Frenkie de Jong is admired by new manager Erik ten Hag having worked together at Ajax. EPA

IN

The transfer window isn’t even open until June 10 and it stays open until September, but United have been linked with scores of players as usual. Transfer speculation sells. United’s priority is in the forward and midfield positions. They have a sizeable budget but it’s finite and would be supplemented by any sales. United feel that they support every manager and invest strongly in the team, but do so in a way which is financially disciplined.

Frenkie De Jong, 25, is a player Erik ten Hag admires and Barcelona can raise serious money for the midfielder. They paid €75 million ($80.4m) for him, but he’s happy in Catalonia and looking forward to playing Champions League football next season. His form has been mixed at Camp Nou and Barca have the luxury of several emerging top-class midfielders, including Gavi, Pedri and Nico. De Jong has been best when played alongside the veteran Sergio Busquets.

There has been initial contact between United and Barca about a possible transfer, but his coach Xavi wants him. However, Xavi might be pressured to sanction a sale given the club’s financial situation. That will be a hard sell. Money will help with their debts, but Barca can’t reinvest any money since they have to remain compliant with league rules. There are also conflicting messages from within Barca, with some officials stating that they haven’t budgeted for any player sales.

Benfica forward Darwin Nunez could be of interest to Manchester United but much of the current speculation is being driven by agents. AFP

United have a lot of potential targets. Some have been offered to them, others scouted and watched by the club. Ten Hag had meetings with John Murtough, a power decision maker at Old Trafford, in Amsterdam to discuss specific players. The pair will work together. Some players have been made public via their agents, others have not.

It’s not inaccurate to say that United admire players like Ajax defender Jurrien Timber, 20, and Benfica’s Uruguayan forward Darwin Nunez, 22, but much of the talk is being driven by agents at present. It can be in their interests to get their clients’ name trending online and they want their cut from transfers. The business model of Benfica is to sell players, many of them recruited from South America, on to richer leagues, so they’re not unhappy with publicity either.

United talk with many agents about players which fuels speculation, but only some advance to firm negotiations. United don’t believe they need ten new recruits and consider that there is still a lot of quality in the squad with potential to perform better than last season. There are good youngsters coming through, too. James Garner was excellent at promoted Nottingham Forest last season.

United also feel that their squad has been too big in recent years and they are comfortable with out of contract players leaving without direct replacements.

Man United 2021/22 season ratings

Updated: June 05, 2022, 7:50 AM
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