Jose Mourinho is becoming more familiar with his Manchester United squad as the weeks go by and the sore thumbs of the team are starting to become clearer. Five players are reportedly facing a fight for their future at the club as the manager ponders rotating his side for Thursday night’s UEFA Europa League tie against FC Zorya Luhansk.
Despite falling short in Rotterdam in the first fixture of the tournament against Feyenoord, United’s Portuguese boss is set to make several changes to the side that defeated Leicester City 4-1 on Saturday, which will give the players in the danger zone at Old Trafford a chance to showcase their talent.
It is clear some members of the squad are unable to perform to the levels expected by United fan’s on a regular basis and the 53-year-old manager is also starting to identify that. While most of the Red Devil’s faithful have their daggers out for many players in the firing line, there is certainly a lot of love for one in particular.
On his day, Morgan Schneiderlin is one of the best central defensive midfielders in the Barclay’s Premier League and when Mourinho penned his contract at the club many thought the two were a match made in heaven. Throughout his career, the Portugal-born boss has tended to play the 4-2-3-1 formation leaving a perfect slot for the 26-year-old to sweep up in front of the defence. Although, at this moment in time Ander Herrera, Michael Carrick, and Marouane Fellaini all seem to be ahead in the pecking order, which resulted in the former Southampton man not even making the matchday squad at the weekend.
There is a lot of love for Schneiderlin within the Manchester United fanbase, with many crying out for him to be included in the eleven. However, with Herrera’s current form and Mourinho’s preference towards Fellaini, because of his height, Schneiderlin really does have a lot to prove to the manager and his staff. Any chance the France-born holding midfielder gets, he really must grab with both hands. Perhaps Schneiderlin is too good to not even be making the match day squad, so should this continue he may well be weighing up his options elsewhere.
When you think of this Dutch winger one of the first things that springs to mind is potential. A tricky first season in England resulted in him not living up to the heights expected when he was bought from PSV Eindhoven. However, he is still just 22-years-old, so you must be certain he is not going to excel elsewhere and become a world beater before you let go, especially given the money United spent to get him to the club. But, with the likes of Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial all being preferred on the flanks ahead of him it is difficult to see where his breakthrough may come from.
Like Morgan Schneiderlin, when Depay’s chance to impress comes along, he must make the most of it. Should he play and put in a strong performance against Zorya on Thursday the Dutchman may well be in contention to get a chance at the weekend against Stoke City, with Anthony Martial expected to still be out injured. For now, Memphis Depay must remain patient as some United fans are still optimistic when it comes to the winger.
As Gary Neville suggested on Saturday, it is important the Manchester United captain starts to make some important decisions regarding his career soon. A number of Red Devil’s supporters turning on him is an incredible amount, although admittedly, given his current form you cannot really argue against it. It is the truth, even though he is captain of the club, he would not feature in the Mourinho’s best eleven available to him.
The Englishman was dropped at the weekend with Juan Mata starting in that number 10 role, the Spaniard took that opportunity with both hands by producing a fine performance with an assist and getting his name on the scoresheet. In fact, the game against the Foxes was perhaps United’s best performance for quite some time. With the 30-year-old barely included at the weekend, other than a 10-minute cameo, he may be facing an uphill battle to get back into a starting spot. Given that and the fresh blood of Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford who can comfortably perform in either of Rooney’s preferred positions, it may well be best for the forward to call it a day on what has certainly been an illustrious Manchester United career.
It is clear that the full-back who can play on either side is not part of Mourinho’s preferred line-up, even with Luke Shaw injured. The only time the Italian has featured this season is in the Europa League defeat against Feyenoord. Darmian faces a battle with Antonio Valencia, Marcos Rojo, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Luke Shaw and Daley Blind should he get into the eleven. Many United fans actually rate the 26-year-old with plenty calling out for him to be second choice left-back, to cancel out Marcos Rojo.
However, despite Shaw being out at the weekend with a groin injury the former Torino man could not even make the bench. Admittedly, ever since Alexis Sanchez gave the defender a tough time at The Emirates last season he has never really been the same since. Reportedly interest from Darmian’s home nation, Italy, is high – therefore a move back to the Serie A could be on the cards if he does not make a fine impression with any minutes he grasps on the field soon.
Just below Rooney, this player is perhaps the second most criticised squad member. A large number of fans are eager to see the back of the Argentinian after several poor performances in a row. Rojo, who can play at the heart of the defence but often plays on the left, faces a similar battle to Darmian should he get into the starting eleven. Rojo, however, appears to be slightly more favoured than the Italian given the fact he has made the bench more often.
The Argentina international seemingly does not have the credentials to play as a Manchester United full-back as he gets caught out of position too often, not only that, he does not offer the quality in attacking positions that Blind and Shaw have portrayed when playing in that position recently. Like some of the others supposedly in danger, Rojo does not have the same backing from the supporters, it seems he have more haters than lovers, so there’d be very few teary eyed reds should he depart the club.
The five aforementioned players will for sure be feeling the pressure and most definitely all have a point to prove, therefore, determined performances is a must from each and every one of them. We keep hearing from Old Trafford about the togetherness with several players constantly labelling it as ‘squad game’, well now comes the test as to whether Mourinho can keep that attitude among the squad as some fear for their futures and continuously keep getting left out.