When Sir Alex Ferguson announced his retirement from football, at least in a managerial sense, back in May 2013, there was always going to be changes aplenty to Manchester United. Many may not have expected the fact that United are now into their third manager post-Ferguson, fourth if you include Ryan Giggs’ interim stint, but that is one of the changes we have seen over the last four years. Many expected the squad to change as it was becoming old and tired, needing young blood and talent to fill it. This summer, after a season under Jose Mourinho, changes will happen once again as the Portuguese manager looks to set his team up for the Premier League next season, where he and his team will be expected to challenge for the league title. United last lifted the Premier League at the end of the 2012/13 season, Ferguson’s last and since then have sat out the battle to reign supreme.
Mourinho has had a season with his Manchester United side, bringing in Eric Bailly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba, saying goodbye to the likes of Nick Powell, Victor Valdes, Will Keane, Tyler Blackett, Paddy McNair, Morgan Schneiderlin, Memphis Depay and most recently, Bastian Schweinsteiger. This summer could see more players leave the club for pastures new, in a bid for Mourinho to give those talented younger players a chance, and bring in players he feels would assist United in a Premier League title charge next season. Since United last won the league, Manchester City, Leicester City, and Chelsea have won the league, with the latter currently topping the table, but with Tottenham Hotspur hot on their heels. United will be looking for that challenge, ending the last three season’s of discontent with United failing to reach the UEFA Champions League twice; under David Moyes/Ryan Giggs and the second season under Louis van Gaal.
Here I will talk about six first team players who I feel will leave the club this summer, in bids to give youth a chance, and bring in players more suited to the Mourinho way, which needs to evolve further this summer.
Currently, on loan with Championship side Aston Villa, Sam Johnstone has not yet made his competitive debut at Manchester United. With David De Gea, Sergio Romero and Joel Pereira at the Old Trafford club, Johnstone is unlikely to content them for the number one shirt at the club, even if David De Gea did leave for Real Madrid in the summer. Johnstone recently signed a new contract, keeping him at the Theatre of Dreams until the summer of 2018, with the option of a further year to be added. Perhaps Mourinho and United will push for another loan spell. presumably with Villa again as former Red Devil Steve Bruce is the manager, which could see Johnstone still belong to United, but get first team action in the Championship. where he will be able to continue his development. Perhaps a clean break from United will rid him of the fact he’s not yet been able to play for his club, allowing him to continue his career unhampered?
Once tipped as the best defender at the club by former manager Louis van Gaal, Chris Smalling has fallen down the pecking order this season. The partnership of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo, then Eric Bailly and Rojo seems to be the main thing keeping Smalling out of action, that and injury of which has kept him out since the international break in March. Smalling is likely to be fit before the end of the season, which may be too late to secure his future, with clubs seemingly interested in the England international this summer. Jose Mourinho and Manchester United should be striving for much better things from their defence, and the mere fact that Bailly and Rojo seem to be keeping Smalling and Phil Jones out of action. could suggest that one, or even both will be surplus to requirements, especially is Axel Tuanzebe breaks through into the first team next season and Mourinho brings in at least one new face in the centre of defence.
The Italian right-back was another Louis van Gaal signing who just does not seem to be fitting in at this moment in time. At the start of his debut season, Matteo Darmian was compared to a young Gary Neville, looking to cement his place in the starting XI and rise United back to where they once were, but quickly, Darmian lost his place, his confidence and is seemingly on his way out of the club. A return to Italy could be on the cards, but one thing that could suggest he still has a chance to remain at United under Mourinho is the fact he can play in a three-man defence, which has been utilised by Mourinho this season, more recently in the 2-0 victory over Chelsea in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon. Darmian played well, doing what was needed, which could even see him replace Smalling in the back three. Given the fact that Antonio Valencia seems to have made the right-back position his own this season, that position will be out of the window for the Italian, but at left-back, a position he has been utilised in with Luke Shaw gaining confidence, Darmian may have a chance, if a back four is the way Mourinho decides to play next season.
A move to China, or even another Premier League team could have been on the cards for Ashley Young during the January transfer window, but Jose Mourinho suggested he wanted the 31-year-old to remain at United, which he had done. Playing a utilitarian role at the club, Young has played in his preferred winger role, also fortifying both the left and right-back positions, even playing in a three-man midfield. Young seems to be a player Mourinho trusts, be the role he has been playing has not seen him feature all that often, which could be reduced even further this summer with more playing coming to the club and youth being blooded into the first team in line with United’s development of youth. Young is a player who may not be the best at what he does, but he does what he does for the club and does his best. He’s had a good career at United since signing under Ferguson in 2011, having that great 8-2 victory over Arsenal as one of his better matches. I don’t see him taking the money and playing in China. Watford were after him in January, and with a new manager on the horizon for them, they could well be interested again.
The Belgian was the only ‘marquee’ signing in David Moyes’ first season at Manchester United, paying £27.5 million for a place who was priced £4 million cheaper earlier that summer. Moyes seemed to be promised high-profile players, none of them coming true, so a deadline day swoop on former club Everton saw Marouane Fellaini move to the Theatre of Dreams. United needed a midfielder at the time, but it just did not work out for the best. Fellaini was trusted by Louis van Gaal during his two-year stint at United, and again by Mourinho, who has utilised the player in a midfield role, also as a number ten later in matches, trying to get something from the games. Fellaini is a player I admire, as no matter what the supporters say, he does what he is asked to do, most of the time at least, and does not moan about the hate, booing and discontent coming from sections of the club’s supporters – most of which comes from social media, which should be ignored. Fellaini is reportedly selling his house this summer, which could suggest that he is either leaving the club or moving to a new house. Many expected him to leave United last summer, or even in January, seemingly staying for the remainder of the season.
The captain may be United and England’s top scorer, but as far as offering something goes, Wayne Rooney is not the player he once was. Of course, he has his devoted supporters fighting his corner, but the Wayne Rooney of old is no longer here. This season, Rooney has been shown up by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a player nearly five years his senior. Gone are the days where Rooney was the first name on the team sheet and the player that could turn defeats or draws into victories for United. Rooney seems to have lost his instinct. Instead of striking towards goal, he seems to pass to his left or right, not getting that shot on goal which could have made a difference, instead, seeing United lose possession and fail to get the result needed. Rooney has been linked with a return to Everton this summer, also big money moves to China or the MLS. Last summer many expected Rooney to leave the club, but Jose Mourinho had other ideas. Keep the player at the club, give him enough rope to hang himself, then the bother cause by letting the player leave the following summer, would be a lot less. Problem solved. Maybe you don’t agree, but no player should be kept at United based on what they achieved in the past. If the player is no longer cutting it, he’s no longer needed at Manchester United.