Jose Mourinho’s opening press conference at Manchester United dazzled the Old Trafford faithful and undoubtedly filled them with excitement for the upcoming season. Mourinho was honest, assertive and not afraid to disagree with the media representatives as he did his best to preview the adventures that could lie ahead for United in the coming seasons. Mourinho also all-but revealed that United had signed Henrikh Mkhitaryan before he was officially announced yesterday.
The arrivals of Mkhitaryan, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Eric Bailly to boost United’s attacking and defensive ranks have thrilled United fans, but with purchases usually comes sales, and there probably isn’t room for everyone currently at Manchester United anymore. With many players being outperformed by the likes of Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Marcus Rashford, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and Jesse Lingard last season, plus the new signings, we could be bidding farewell to more than a few players this season. Here are the five players I believe are most likely to leave Manchester United this summer (in no particular order).
Players Who Are Definitely, Probably Staying
There are a few players who are definitely safe at Manchester United this summer. Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, Marcus Rashford, and Michael Carrick signed new contracts to add to Ibrahimovic, Mkhitaryan, and Bailly on the definitely staying list. As for the players probably staying, Chris Smalling, Anthony Martial, and Luke Shaw are staples on the team sheet, Mourinho stated his intent to use Wayne Rooney as a forward and David De Gea will stay at Old Trafford as long as he wants to. One just gets the feeling Morgan Schneiderlin still has too much to offer to leave, and he’s an archetypal Mourinho player.
Arguably the most obvious of the five potential departures this summer, Mata’s honest, adored tenure at United is likely over. Mourinho’s decision to make him second-choice at Chelsea made him want to leave the club, and the same could happen at United. The announcement of Mourinho’s appointment probably had Mata looking at his options.
Though Mata is adored at United, it may be time for him to leave United. He’s a remarkable leader and a brilliant professional who brings so much to United, but he doesn’t reflect what United is likely to do on the pitch. He’d be the star figure to build a better future at his most linked club, Everton, where he’d undoubtedly be a top player. I think Everton is the perfect destination for one of the most universally loved footballers on the planet.
Once again, Marouane Fellaini does have the quality to play for a high-level side and be a key outlet in the air, but he’s not the type of player United or Jose Mourinho typically looks to in attacking positions. He may very well be kept as a Plan B when United needs somewhat of a battering ram to force the ball into the net, but he’s already been linked with many clubs in Serie A and it makes sense for Fellaini to move on. In addition, he is the current man highlighted on United’s list of scapegoats, and everyone on that list besides Wayne Rooney has left the club.
Sir Alex Ferguson once said that Phil Jones could be the best player in United’s history when he joined the club. However, injuries have stagnated and arguably regressed Jones’ progress, and he missed 75% of United’s last season through injury. The signing of Eric Bailly pushes Jones half way out the door, and, at 24, there would be many Premier League clubs who would take a bet on a player who still has great potential.
Marcos Rojo is another centre-back who will likely be pushed out by the signing of Eric Bailly. Depending on Mourinho’s opinion on using Daley Blind, who significantly outperformed both Jones and Rojo, in the centre of defence, one of the two could survive the cut. However, even Timothy Fosu-Mensah outperformed Rojo last season, which stacks onto the list of players who could replace him.
Rojo’s inability to join up with the United squad on time after the Copa America didn’t impress anyone and raised questions as to whether or not he had the discipline to play for Manchester United on a regular basis. Rojo flashed world class potential in his first season at United, but he spent most of the second season at left-back after Luke Shaw’s injury and Blind’s emergence. Rojo had an injury-prone, mistake-prone season that did nothing to boost his services. In my opinion, players should be given three seasons at a club before their chance is over, and Rojo has only been at the club for two seasons, but Mourinho looks likely to sell the Argentinean on this summer.
This last one disappoints me and probably most of United’s fan base, but it seems likely to me. James Wilson is an incredibly talented striker, as he’s shown by being one of the best under-21 league players in the world and on his debut under Ryan Giggs, where he scored two goals. The young poacher could be a gem in the future, but he’s behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Wayne Rooney and even Memphis in the pecking order.
Young striker Ashley Fletcher has already left the club after refusing a new contract, and Wilson finds himself in a similar situation. Does he try and make it at his home club or does he search for football elsewhere? Wilson may not leave the club permanently, but it is almost guaranteed that he will go out on loan.
Unless Wilson is deemed good enough to start for a Premier League side for a whole season, there are massive doubts as to whether he’ll ever find his first full season at United. As aforementioned, these are exciting times at the club, and Mourinho is making the talent pool so large that players will not make it unless they are of the highest quality.
Mourinho is trying to elevate the talent pool to where United was when they last won the Champions League in 2008- with the youthfulness of Bailly, the experience of Ibrahimovic and the raw skill of Mkhitaryan, Mourinho’s three statement transfers have already given us indicators of so much going on at the club right now- the players staying, the players leaving, and the unmatched ambition Mourinho has to win at Manchester United.