0 17 min 4 weeks

Manchester United enjoyed their joint-best league placing since Sir Alex Ferguson retired as manager in 2013, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team ending second in the Premier League and also having a chance to win the Europa League against Villarreal.

Despite progress being made on the pitch at Old Trafford, United still finished with a 12-point deficit behind champions Manchester City. A group-stage exit from the Champions League and failure to make it to a domestic cup final underline the ongoing issues that Solskjaer needs to address.

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– Ogden: De Gea or Henderson? Man United’s No. 1 spot must be settled

Having cleared out a number of under-performing high-earners in recent summers, including Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez and Chris Smalling, United now have a younger, leaner squad.

But there is still work to be done before United can be regarded as challengers for Premier League and Champions League success again and, with that in mind, we have performed a player-by-player assessment of the squad, attempting to bring clarity to United’s squad-strengthening options. Where you see a simple “Keep,” you can assume we agreed and there wasn’t much to talk about. Otherwise, we weighed in with our comments.

It’s not just about performance, either. It’s about age, wages, character and contract length (we went with Transfermarkt for contract expiry dates for consistency). And there will be moving parts, too: departures or arrivals that cause chain reactions, sometimes unexpected.

Note: Several United players have contracts that include the option of a further year on expiry. For consistency, all contracts below relate to the primary year of expiration.

Jump to: Defenders | Midfielders | Forwards | Overall assessment

GOALKEEPERS

David de Gea (30 years old, contract expires in 2023)

OGDEN: De Gea has been in decline since the 2018 World Cup and has made too many costly mistakes to be trusted as United’s No. 1. He is still capable of incredible saves, but they don’t outweigh the errors, so United need to offload. With his huge wages (over £300,000-a-week) and contact situation, a loan is the most likely option this summer as finding a club to sign him permanently will be virtually impossible due to the financial impact of the pandemic, so they need to wait until things improve before moving him on.

DAWSON: He is on massive wages, but Henderson has taken his place so there is no sense or value in keeping him to sit on the bench.

Verdict: Dump or loan (estimated fee for permanent deal: £20m)

Dean Henderson (24, 2025)

DAWSON: No need to extend his contract, but United must sign a back-up keeper to challenge him properly next season and ensure complacency doesn’t set in.

OGDEN: He appears to be winning his battle with De Gea to be United’s No. 1 but he has a long contract already. Henderson is not the finished article by any means, so see how he progresses before considering a new deal.

Verdict: Keep

Sergio Romero (34, 2021)

DAWSON: Out of contract in the summer and hasn’t played all season, so let him go.

OGDEN: Should have been allowed to leave last summer when United had offers, but poor decision-making saw them hold out for too high a fee and ended up having to pay a non-playing keeper 12 months of wages.

Verdict: Dump (End of contract – free transfer)

Lee Grant (38, 2021)

DAWSON: His playing contract is up and he may move onto the coaching staff.

Verdict: Dump (End of contract – free transfer)

DEFENDERS

Aaron Wan-Bissaka (23, 2024)

OGDEN: He still needs to work on his game, especially his distribution and concentration, but he is clearly United’s first-choice right-back. If he continues his development, extend his contract in 12 months’ time.

DAWSON: Keep him, obviously, but no need to renew his contract just yet.

Verdict: Keep

Brandon Williams (20, 2024)

DAWSON: He needs games, so a loan move would be the best option for him next season.

Verdict: Keep (but send on loan)

Harry Maguire (28, 2025)

OGDEN: His contract expires when he is 32, so United are covered for the long-term with their captain. But his recent injury has highlighted his importance to the team, so he may need to be rewarded with a new deal in a year’s time.

Verdict: Keep

Victor Lindelof (26, 2024)

OGDEN: He was lucky to get a four-year deal in 2020 after an unimpressive first three years at United and his presence in the team is down to the lack of suitable alternatives in the squad. In an ideal world, you would let him go and reinvest in a better defender but, realistically, Lindelof is the least-worst option to partner Maguire, so he will stay.

DAWSON: United gave him a long contract last year when they didn’t need to, so they can’t do anything but keep him.

Verdict: Keep

Eric Bailly (27, 2024)

DAWSON: He has just signed a new contract, so he stays. But needs to stay fit now.

OGDEN: I like Bailly. He has pace and tenacity, but he is also injury prone and can make some inexplicable decisions on the pitch. His new deal makes sense, but also suggests United won’t be in the market for a much-needed new centre-back this summer.

Verdict: Keep

Phil Jones (29, 2023)

DAWSON: Move him on, if you can.

OGDEN: He hasn’t played since January 2020, but still has two years, plus the option of another 12 months, on his contract. Jones has been a good servant for 10 years and unlucky with injuries, but United should cut their losses and let him go on a free because it’s impossible to imagine any club paying a fee for him.

Verdict: Dump – Release (estimated fee for permanent deal: £5m)

Axel Tuanzebe (23, 2022)

DAWSON: Tough one. He needs games, but you can’t loan him out in the final year of his contract. United should take a risk and give him the chance to earn a new contract. If he doesn’t, try and move him on in January.

OGDEN: Tuanzebe is not a kid anymore. If he hasn’t made it yet, he never will.

Verdict: Split Keep and assess / Dump (estimated fee: £12m)

Luke Shaw (25, 2023)

OGDEN: If any player has earned a new contract this season, it is Shaw. He has responded well to the signing of Alex Telles and has been the best left-back in the Premier League for the past 12 months.

DAWSON: Start talking over a new deal.

Verdict: Keep and extend

Alex Telles (28, 2024)

DAWSON: Good competition for Shaw.

Verdict: Keep

Diogo Dalot (22, 2023)

OGDEN: United’s problem in recent years has been giving too many chances (and new contracts) to players who clearly aren’t good enough. Dalot isn’t good enough, so move him on.

DAWSON: He’s spent the year on loan at AC Milan and has impressed coach Stefano Pioli, so bring him back as his versatility means he can cover for both full-back positions. That would enable Williams to go out on loan.

Verdict: Split Dump / Keep (estimated fee: £12m)

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1:00

Mark Ogden contemplates Paul Pogba’s best position for Man United as questions surrounding his future continue.

MIDFIELDERS

Nemanja Matic (32, 2023)

DAWSON: United are stuck with him, having handed him a new contract he hadn’t earned. They won’t be able to get a decent fee for him, so they’ll keep him.

OGDEN: I think his experience is important, especially alongside Scott McTominay. He isn’t particularly mobile these days, but he’s a useful player to have in the squad.

Verdict: Keep

Fred (28, 2023)

OGDEN: I’d try and move him on, because his passing his poor, he isn’t a particularly good tackler and doesn’t score goals. But he has played almost 50 games this season, so Solskjaer must see something in him. If you could get £20m and use the money for a better player, I’d do it.

DAWSON: Don’t give him a new deal, let him go.

Verdict: Dump (estimated fee: £20m)

Paul Pogba (28, 2022)

DAWSON: Try to extend his contract, but if they can’t then move him on in the summer to get some transfer fee. At the moment, no club seems to have the kind of money that United want.

OGDEN: United need to be imaginative with Pogba. With no obvious destination and neither party particularly keen on the idea of a new contract, United should look to use him in a swap deal. Offer him to Juventus in exchange for Cristiano Ronaldo; or try to get Real Madrid to offer up Casemiro, Toni Kroos or Raphael Varane. But don’t give him a new contract.

Verdict: Split Extend / Dump (estimated fee: £60m)

Scott McTominay (24, 2025)

OGDEN: He brings good energy to the team and can still develop his passing game.

Verdict: Keep

Donny van de Beek (24, 2025)

DAWSON: Persevere with him and decide on what to do in a year if he hasn’t impressed.

OGDEN: Solskjaer clearly doesn’t rate him, so why waste everyone’s time by prolonging the situation for another year? United will make a loss, having signed him for £35m last summer, but the fans have already starting to call him “Donny van de Bench,” so that tells you the impact he has made at Old Trafford.

Verdict: Split Keep / Dump (estimated fee: £20m)

Juan Mata (33, 2021)

DAWSON: United have an option to extend his contract for a year, but it’s time for him to go.

OGDEN: Mata has been a model professional in his seven years at United — and they have been a tough seven years for the club — but he should now move on and enjoy some playing time elsewhere.

Verdict: Dump

Bruno Fernandes (26, 2025)

OGDEN: Give him a new contract. Forget about the four years he has to run on his existing deal, Fernandes has carried United since arriving from Sporting CP in January 2020, so they should reward him by making him the best-paid player at the club.

DAWSON: I agree. Give him a pay rise and do everything to show how important he is.

Verdict: Keep and extend

Jesse Lingard (28, 2023)

DAWSON: He has done enough on loan at West Ham to earn a new deal, but it’s unlikely he’ll want to come back as cover for Fernandes.

OGDEN: A move would suit United and Lingard. He needs to play and United can get a transfer fee in the region of £25m on the back of his West Ham performances. Solskjaer displayed a lack of faith in Lingard by rarely using him prior to his loan move, so it doesn’t reflect well on the manager that the midfielder has done so well elsewhere.

Verdict: Dump (estimated fee: £25m)

Andreas Pereira (25, 2023)

OGDEN: Another example of United lacking ruthlessness when it comes to offloading players who aren’t good enough. Pereira should have been moved on at least two years ago.

DAWSON: He’s been on loan at Lazio all season and has done little to warrant a return to United, so get rid of him if you can.

Verdict: Dump (estimated fee: £10m)

James Garner (20, 2022)

DAWSON: He has done well on loan at Nottingham Forest, so extend his contract and loan him out again next season.

Verdict: Keep and extend

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1:43

Steve Nicol feels Manchester United’s habit of falling behind in games could haunt them in bigger matches if not solved.

FORWARDS

Marcus Rashford (23, 2023)

DAWSON: United need to start talking about a new deal because they are entering the final two years of his contract. If they don’t, they could have to let him go next summer, especially if the team fails to show signs they will win a big trophy.

OGDEN: You can sense trouble ahead with Rashford. He will want to see United stepping up to challenge for the top honours but, equally, he needs to take his own game to another level by becoming more consistent. If he doesn’t sign a new contract. United will have a big problem next summer.

Verdict: Keep and extend

Daniel James (23, 2024)

OGDEN: His big asset is his pace, but opponents have worked out how to deal with that now, so he offers very little to United beyond honest endeavour. And that isn’t enough for a team with aspirations of winning big trophies.

DAWSON: Keep, but don’t extend.

Verdict: Split Keep / Dump (estimated fee: £20m)

Mason Greenwood (19, 2025)

DAWSON: One of the best young players around. He signed a new deal this season, so no need to extend again just yet.

Verdict: Keep

Amad Diallo (18, 2025)

DAWSON: He needs to play, but he isn’t ready to be involved on a consistent basis at United so should go on loan.

Verdict: Keep and loan

Anthony Martial (25, 2024)

DAWSON: United should be open to offers because he is too inconsistent, but they are likely to keep him.

OGDEN: After six years at united, he has a strike rate of a goal every 3.3 games, which isn’t enough for a player of his talent. But the need to offload other players ensures that he is likely to survive by default for another year.

Verdict: Keep

Edinson Cavani (34, 2022)

OGDEN: After almost joining Boca Juniors, he extended his contract for another 12 months. The Uruguay international has been a crucial addition to the squad with over 15 goals this season and gives United time to find a younger, long-term solution to their centre-forward search.

Verdict: Keep

Tahith Chong (21, 2022)

DAWSON: Not good enough and his form at Club Brugge on loan this season hasn’t suggested he has a future at United.

Verdict: Dump (estimated fee: £4m)

Facundo Pellistri (19 2025)

OGDEN: Only just signed and one for the future. Has been on loan at Alaves in Spain.

Verdict: Keep

OVERALL ASSESSMENT

United have shown they have a strong first team this season, but they continue to lack depth and quality beyond their starting XI. The problem they have is that many of those players who fall short of the required standards will have to stay this summer because no club can realistically get rid of 10 squad members and replace them all in one window.

With the transfer market likely to be hit hard by the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be tough to find clubs who can sign the likes of De Gea, Fred, Van de Beek, Pogba, Lindelof, James and Martial. But if a deal for Pogba is struck in the region of £80m, United could take advantage of the fact some players will be available for a knock-down fee.

United remain in the hunt for Borussia Dortmund‘s Jadon Sancho, who will cost at least £80m to sign, but a move for the England winger will eat up the club’s summer budget.

If they are to go further and sign a centre-forward such as Tottenham’s Harry Kane or Dortmund’s Erling Haaland (both of whom would command a fee of over £120m), they will have to move on Pogba and De Gea to raise funds and get their combined £600,000-a-week off the wage bill. That will be easier said than done, so expect another frustrating summer of transfer dealings at Old Trafford.

syndicated from ESPN

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