squad dissection - https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/sport/manchester-uniteds-rebuilding-job-who-should-stay-and-who-should-go-q7x68fk5d
Manchester United are facing a rebuilding job this summer after they were soundly beaten by Barcelona in the quarter-finals of the Champions League on Tuesday, when the gulf in class was emphasised by the 4-0 aggregate score. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said after the game that “there’s work to be done” when it comes to revamping the squad and that “the next few years are going to be massive” for the club. “We’ve got a rebuilding job but it starts with the coaches and players, and of course one or two additions to the squad will happen in the summer,” the manager said.
So what are the problems? Who needs to stay? And who should United let go?
Overpaid and unwanted
Alexis Sánchez, Marcos Rojo, Matteo Darmian
Ed Woodward, the executive vice-chairman, has made poor calls when it comes to contract renewals and United are paying the price as they have a lot of overpaid dead wood in their squad.
The decision to give Rojo, 29, a new £160,000-a-week three-year deal last April appears barmy given his injury record and that he is a second-rate defender who has not played consistently well for the best part of five years. Sergio Romero, United’s back-up goalkeeper, has started more games than the Argentina defender in the past two seasons. Woodward thought that the three-year contract would protect his asset in the hope of selling him on for a fee, but instead he has committed at least £25 million to keeping a player who is not good enough and will be difficult to sell because of his wages.
The same applies to Sánchez, who earns more than £350,000 a week. The 30-year-old Chile forward causes Solskjaer problems in two respects: because his wages are so high, other players such as David De Gea, 28, and Paul Pogba, 26, will want parity; other clubs, meanwhile, are unable to match his wages, meaning that United will probably have to give him a big payoff to move him on.
Woodward also extended Matteo Darmian’s contract by one year last summer but could not move the Italy full back, 29, on despite interest from both Milan clubs, with his £4 million salary putting them off. Being unable to move on unwanted squad players was one of the many things that infuriated José Mourinho. “United’s inability to sell players is amazing,” a source close to Mourinho said.
Do not fit the style of play
Romelu Lukaku, Ashley Young, Nemanja Matic
Nothing summed up the gulf in quality between the teams at the Nou Camp quite like the mismatch down United’s left flank. Young turns 34 in July, he is not a full back and on Tuesday he was given the task of shackling Lionel Messi, possibly the greatest player of all time. There was only ever going to be one winner.
Young has been a good servant to United during his eight years at the club but his lack of pace has been exposed in the past few weeks. He does not protect United’s centre backs and he offers little in attack either. He is club captain and recently signed a one-year contract extension though so he is going nowhere. Solskjaer vowed to reprogram Lukaku, 25, as a striker who played side on and was able to beat players for pace but he is too bulky to do that and often reverts to his default position of playing with his back to goal
Matic, meanwhile, is often ponderous in possession and slows down the transition from defence to attack. The 30-year-old from Serbia is a completely different player from someone such as Frenkie De Jong, who has been key to Ajax’s run to the semi-finals. It is embarrassing for United’s scouting system and for Woodward that the club were not even in the running for De Jong, 21, who is joining Barcelona for £65 million this summer.
Paul Pogba, David De Gea, Ander Herrera
When United head off to Australia for the first leg of their pre-season tour in July, Solskjaer needs to have been assured that De Gea and Pogba will stay. De Gea may have made a big gaffe in Barcelona but United cannot afford to lose him. The latest indications are that he is no closer to being given the £350,000-a-week contract that he is demanding. Woodward should give it to him. Woodward would also earn a lot of credit if he persuaded Pogba to commit his future to the club.
Herrera has given Solskjaer a dilemma. He has agreed to join Paris Saint-Germain when his contract expires in June, but United are not flush with midfield options so Solskjaer may think about welcoming him back for what is left of the season.
Anthony Martial, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Fred
Martial has scored only twice in the ten matches that he has played since signing a new contract at the end of January. United desperately need him to get back to form quickly as when he is on song, he is perfectly suited to the enterprising attacking play that Solskjaer wants to play.
Jones and Smalling are unable to perform consistently. They were outstanding against Watford, and then played poorly against Wolverhampton Wanderers three days later. On Tuesday they lacked composure and leadership up against a very good attack. United have invested poorly in the centre-back area in recent years. They have spent £76.9 million on Rojo, Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, which equates to roughly one Virgil van Dijk. Lindelof is the only dependable centre half in the squad. United were not in for Van Dijk or Aymeric Laporte, who joined City for £57 million, and it reflects poorly on their recruitment department.
The players set for the exit
Expected to leave
Antonio Valencia, contracted until June 2019, £90,000 per week
Ander Herrera, 2019, £80k
Juan Mata, 2019, £160k
Marcos Rojo, 2021, £160k
Matteo Darmian, 2020, £80k
Alexis Sánchez, 2022, £350k
Eric Bailly, June 2020 (option to extend by two years), £90k