Manchester United have been flying since the appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as interim manager. The Red Devils look rejuvenated and are playing with flair, reigniting their quest for a top-four finish. The clamour for Solskjaer as a permanent manager is only increasing. Away wins at Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Leicester City prove that United are a much-improved team. The squad seems to be taking shape. Marouane Fellaini has left, while Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Luke Shaw and Anthony Martial have all signed new deals.
Deadwood at Manchester United: Who Ed Woodward Needs to Sell
Despite all the fanfare, there are several issues that still need to be addressed, especially with regards to squad depth. Irrespective of whoever gets the full-time job, there is a lot of spending required to seriously compete for the title next season. Several fringe players also need to leave and United need to strengthen the depth of the first team. Here are some players that executive chairman Ed Woodward would look to sell.
Antonio Valencia has started only one game under Solskjaer and is unlikely to nail down a regular place in future. He has served the club for over a decade but now looks like a spent force.
The 33-year-old captain is effectively the fourth choice right back, behind Ashley Young, Diogo Dalot and Matteo Darmian. The Ecuadorian is injury prone, defensively poor and predictable with his crossing.
He is out of contract in the summer and United are unlikely to offer him an extension. It is best for both parties to part ways in the summer.
Marcos Rojo’s new contract in March last year came as a major surprise, as the Argentine has been mainly on the fringes of the first team. Rojo’s United career has been hampered by injuries, with the 28-year-old spending more time in the treatment room at Carrington that on the training pitch. This season he has managed just 149 minutes of competitive football.
Signed from Sporting Lisbon by Louis van Gaal, he has been synonymous with horror tackles and hoofing aimless long passes. Rojo is not going to dislodge Luke Shaw at left back, while is down the pecking order at centre back. It is sensible for the Argentine to push for an exit in the summer.
Sergio Romero has served the club well, so it is harsh to categorize him as ‘deadwood’. The 31-year-old is the second choice to David de Gea and has won the League Cup and Europa League under Mourinho.
Romero, however, is a quality goalkeeper who deserves to be playing regularly. Secondly, United have several talented keepers in their youth ranks including Joel Pereira and Dean Henderson.
Selling Romero would create a gap that would allow these youngsters to play more often and reach their potential.
Signed from Villarreal in 2016 for £30 million, Eric Bailly has endured a mixed club career. Glimpses of brilliance have been marred by moments of rashness. The Ivorian also lacks sufficient composure to play out from the back.
Victor Lindelof has established himself as the first choice centre back and the Red Devils are likely to dip into the market for another. That, along with new deals for Smalling and Jones, means that Bailly is not likely to find much playing time.
Bailly will certainly not be short of potential suitors. The club can look to recoup most of the fee they spent on him.
An obvious one on the list, Matteo Darmian has endured a miserable career in England. Arriving with the reputation as one of the finest full-backs in Italy, he has struggled with the intensity and physicality of the league. Darmian looks set to return to his native Italy.
The 29-year-old is behind Young and Dalot for the right-back role and a transfer away would make sense for the Italian. Several Italian clubs, including AS Roma, were interested in Darmian last summer, yet failed to reach an agreement.
United’s highest paid player, Alexis Sanchez’ best performance for the club was on the piano during his unveiling. The signing of Sanchez was supposed to be a coup for the club, who had one-upped Manchester City in securing his services. Sadly though, he has managed just five goals in a red shirt and has failed to match the heights he achieved at Arsenal.
He is frustrating to watch and is guilty of conceding possession far too often. The fluid front three of Martial, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard are thriving under Solskjaer and Sanchez is unlikely to get ahead of them.
Sanchez is suited to a squad role at the club, but considering his wages, it would make more sense for United to sell him in the summer
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images