Champions League Reinforces Need For Man United To Clear Deadwood

FC Barcelona and Lionel Messi, in particular, gave Manchester United a footballing lesson as they dumped The Red Devils out of the Champions League this week.

It’s true that Man Utd have progressed under new boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and that he’s turned things around since his arrival in December, with United at a low ebb under former gaffer Jose Mourinho.

But on Tuesday night it was clear to everyone that Man United are still far from being major challengers on the European stage.

After the game, Solskjaer warned his squad (Source -BBC Sport):

“Most of the players have really impressed me with their attitude,” 

“But of course there are some that need to get a reality check on where they’re at.”

A big thing that needs to happen, in my opinion, is that Ole needs to overhaul the squad and in particular the manager needs to clear out the deadwood that currently reside in the Old Trafford dressing room.

When I look at the Red Devils squad, I feel that they need to concentrate mainly on rebuilding the defence and bring in new midfield faces. The team needs a new spine and foundation to build from.

If they can tie down David de Gea and keep Sergio Romero happy staying as a number two, then I wouldn’t change the goalkeeping department.

In defence, I’d only keep Chris Smalling, Luke Young, Diogo Dalot, Victor Lindelof and Ashley Young.

Veteran Young would be used mainly as a back-up full-back. He would be a bridge between the current era and the successful Sir Alex Ferguson period. He’s still smart enough to play in that role and will always give 100% but players like Dalot, Shaw and a new right-back are the future and should be the ones that get more first team opportunities over Ashley.

This season has kind of shown us that club captain Antonio Valencia no longer seems to be physically up to the challenge of being at a top club that play two games a week for most of the season. The Ecuadoran deserves a swan-song at Old Trafford before the season ends but he doesn’t merit a new deal.

Italian defender Matteo Darmian seems to be a player that wants desperately to be back in his homeland.  The full-back hasn’t been a regular starter since his debut season in 2015-16 and must be frustrated by his lack of first team opportunities.

I’m still scratching my head as to why United gave Phil Jones a new contract lasting up to 2023, according to Jones has never truly fulfilled his potential and has since become too injury prone. He looked very much out of his depth against Barca and has become a liability when he starts in the backline in big games.

When talking about injuries, Marcos Rojo is another defender that United simply can’t rely on. The Argentine international has made just 13 Premier League appearances in the last two seasons. Even when fit, he’s a player that struggles to really get to grips with one position and seems like a player that doesn’t know if he’s better as a centre-half or as a left-back. Probably time for him to go.

I really hoped that Eric Bailly would’ve turned a corner, like Lindelof has, when Ole took over the reigns at Old Trafford. But alas the Ivorian’s confidence looks shot and the weight of expectation to perform to a certain high standard seems to weigh down on him at United. More mistakes seem to be creeping into his game and he’s another one that seems ready to pick up a new injury at the drop of a hat.  He could still be a very good defender but I think he needs a clean start elsewhere to stand a chance of showing us how good he can be.

So if Manchester United were to get rid of all those players, I think they’ll want two or three centre-backs as well as a strong right-back to come in.

In midfield, they also have issues.

Paul Pogba, I’d definitely keep but only on the basis that the Frenchman’s committed to Man United’s cause. The player wasn’t good enough against PSG or in the 2nd leg of the game at the Camp Nou but he has been sensational in the most part this season and has a great scoring and assist record this term too.

I think defensive midfielder Nemanja Matic still has more in the tank and should still be a Red Devils beyond this season. He’s a player that gives the team defensive balance and experience.

It makes a lot of sense to me for the club to keep young midfielders Scott McTominay and Andreas Pereira. Both have plenty to offer and can be fine squad players. McTominay was a star in his team’s 2nd leg win over PSG and equipped himself well against Barcelona in the first game against them too.

I wouldn’t necessarily call Juan Mata or Ander Herrera deadwood but I don’t think either are worth new bumper contracts. Both have deals that run out in the summer and it might be best to let the Spaniards depart. Mata isn’t fast enough for what Solskjaer’s looking for in his team and Herrera can be replaced with a hungrier, younger model (in my opinion).

Brazilian midfielder Fred is a funny one and to be honest I’m still unsure. I do believe that there’s a player in there and he has a lot of good attributes. I think a lot of his issues stem from getting adjusted to the English game and rebuilding his confidence. Unfortunately he has also made some strange mistakes and how long can United give him to bed in? If I were Solsjkaer I’d be hoping for a much more effective Fred to turn up at preseason.

In attack, I think Man United are at their strongest.

I think the opportunity is there to have Anthony Martial, Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford really compete with each other to see who will finish next season as the club’s top scorer.

Jesse Lingard is a player who will give everything for the badge and his work ethic is huge in big games.

I would only offload Alexis Sanchez at this stage. The Chilean has been a costly error in United’s recent transfer strategy. He hasn’t been anywhere as good at Old Trafford as he was with Arsenal. He doesn’t create enough for others and he also doesn’t get enough goals either. If they can get someone to take on his wage, then I’d bite their hand off and drive him to the airport.

I also hope that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer brings through Mason Greenwood, Angel Gomes and Tahiti Chong and gives the youngsters more first team opportunities next term.

It could and should be a huge summer for Manchester United. They need to bring in top talent that can hopefully get them challenging for major titles next season.

But a big part of that could also be down to Man United being able to sell off the deadwood that has kept them back in recent years.


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