Manchester United are at a crucial moment of the squad rebuild that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer started when he was appointed manager on a permanent basis in 2019.
The team has clearly vastly improved over the last 12 months but is equally not the finished product and still requires targeted additions to strengthen – notably a centre-back, right winger and striker.
Arrivals in central midfield and at right-back would also be good, perhaps even a new goalkeeper depending on what decision is made on the future of David de Gea, but the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic still makes it questionable if the budget this summer will stretch to cover the three priority positions, let alone further new faces.
An equally important part of rebuilding is knowing when to get rid of deadwood and when certain players have filled their purpose and can give no more to the cause.
David de Gea (SELL): Aside from occasional flashes of his former self, De Gea’s dip in form since 2018 hasn’t showed long-term signs of improvement and now, after a decade of loyal service, could be the time to cash in – as gut wrenching as it may be. He now has a child in Spain and a return home should Atletico Madrid be in the market for a new goalkeeper might suit all parties.
Dean Henderson (KEEP): If De Gea goes, the ideal scenario is that Henderson is promoted to number one, although he still has plenty to prove at the very highest level. It would be a tremendous show of faith, with United not having had a home-grown regular number one in 70 years.
Sergio Romero (RELEASE): Out of contract in the summer and with no future in Manchester after being treated quite poorly by the club last year, Romero will leave as a free agent.
Lee Grant (RELEASE): Grant’s future could all depend on how United play out the situation with De Gea and Henderson. At 38, it would not come as a surprise if he retired this summer and is kept on in some form of coaching capacity.
Nathan Bishop (KEEP): It was telling how popular Bishop is within the squad when he signed a new contract in January by the reaction from his teammates. He is a full-time member of the first-team for training purposes, rather than an Under-23 player.
Joel Castro Pereira (RELEASE): Soon to be 25, out of contract in June, and unable to establish himself at a string of loan clubs over the past few seasons, the time has come to bid farewell to Pereira.
Harry Maguire (KEEP): Needs a new long-term partner to bring the best out of him and complement his skillset, but Maguire is a tremendously important piece of this developing team. United have narrowed down the search to Jules Kounde or Pau Torres.
Victor Lindelof (KEEP): Even though he won’t be a regular starter any longer if a new centre-back arrives at expected, Lindelof is still a valuable asset to have in the squad.
Eric Bailly (SELL): Time is probably up for Bailly at United and it is a real shame that it never quite worked out for him. Injuries stopped a clearly talented defender from fulfilling his potential and with only a year left on his contract this summer, selling is the best option.
Axel Tuanzebe (KEEP): Tuanzebe probably hasn’t played as much this season as he, Solskjaer or fans, would have hoped – especially after pocketing Kylian Mbappe in the Champions League back in October. Next season could be his last chance to prove himself.
Phil Jones (SELL): If he can get fit, United should be able to sell Jones this summer because Newcastle, West Ham, Leicester, Southampton, Crystal Palace, Burnley, Sheffield United and Celtic were showing interest in him as recently as December 2020.
Teden Mengi (KEEP): Teenage centre-back Mengi is incredibly highly rated by United and has spent the second half of this season gaining invaluable experience on loan at Derby. Another loan would be possible, but there could be an opportunity to establish himself as the fourth centre-back.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka (KEEP): There are aspects of his game that need work, notably his awareness and man-marking in the penalty area, but Wan-Bissaka is arguably the best one-on-one defender in the Premier League, perhaps in Europe, and is still only 23.
Luke Shaw (KEEP): It has been remarkable how Shaw has resurrected his United career this season and is playing perhaps the best football of his life. He looks fit and sharp and has even played his way back into the England squad.
Alex Telles (KEEP): A good signing last autumn, if even just for the impact his arrival had on Shaw in terms of creating genuine competition for places. Telles is still an invaluable rotation option.
Brandon Williams (LOAN): His second season in the first-team has been much tougher than his first as a result of increased competition for places and some off-field problems. Needs regular football and a loan at a middling Premier League could offer that.
Diogo Dalot (KEEP): It wasn’t entirely clear why Dalot was frozen out by Solskjaer last season and his form for AC Milan on loan has shown that he still has potential to be a top player. United could end up lacking full-back depth in 2021/22, so bringing him back would make a lot of sense.
Paul Pogba (KEEP): It will either be a new long-term contract or a transfer for Pogba this summer as his current deal runs out in 2022. With the market depressed, a new contract is the more likely of those two options. But the important thing is that Pogba looks much happier than he was in 2019 because he is finally playing in a good United team that stands a chance of matching his ambitions.
Scott McTominay (KEEP): It is easy to see McTominay becoming a vice-captain in the future, having worn the armband for the first time in January and increasing his leadership role in the squad. He’s now 24 and this has been his best season by far.
Fred (KEEP): Probably won’t be a long-term regular starter if United are able to add extra quality to central midfield, whether in 2021 or 2022 depending on budgets, but Fred has again shown his worth this season and will remain a valuable part of the squad.
Nemanja Matic (SELL): Matic has increasingly been a bit-part player this season and, even though he has a contract until 2023, could move on this summer. His name has been brought up in conversations with West Ham relating to a possible Declan Rice approach.
James Garner (KEEP): Solskjaer is a big fan of Garner, having likened the youngster to Michael Carrick in the past, and could be ready to hand the 20-year-old some more opportunities after a season of regular first-team football on loan at Watford and Nottingham Forest.
Andreas Pereira (SELL): United certainly won’t get the €27m (£23.4m) option to buy written into Pereira’s loan deal with Lazio as nearly all of his Serie A appearances have been off the bench. But there is no future for him at Old Trafford.
Bruno Fernandes (KEEP): More than 20 goals this season on top of 12 last season tells its own story. Fernandes hasn’t just brought his own quality to United, he has lifted the whole squad and is demanding more of his teammates than they were previously giving.
Donny van de Beek (KEEP): United haven’t seen the best of Van de Beek this season and the Dutchman has had even less of a chance as time has gone on. There would be no point selling him for a cash loss so soon, although the club is willing to explore the possibility of at least using him as a makeweight in potential transfer dealings, specifically with Borussia Dortmund.
Juan Mata (SELL): United have an option to trigger a one-year extension of Mata’s contract, which is currently due to expire this summer. That would allow the club to command a small transfer fee for the 32-year-old, who is expected to return home to Spain.
Jesse Lingard (SELL): The right thing to do by Lingard is to sell him. He has thrived on loan at West Ham and would be back to square one if he returned to Old Trafford because it could only ever be as a squad player at best. At least he has created a decent market for himself.
Marcus Rashford (KEEP): Rashford has answered his ‘stick to the football’ critics by scoring 20 goals in all competitions for the second season in a row and there are suggestions that he hasn’t even been fully fit for some time. Should reach 100 United goals next season.
Anthony Martial (KEEP): If United are successful in landing a new striker this summer, and it remains an if because of the uncertainties in the market, next season could prove to be Martial’s last because his starting place would almost certainly be gone. He has been poor in 2020/21 after a breakout campaign last year and needs to prove himself all over again.
Mason Greenwood (KEEP): Greenwood will learn from his experiences this season, both on and off the pitch, and can use what has been a tough campaign to grow and develop. Getting back among the goals will be his primary focus for 2021/22.
Edinson Cavani (RELEASE): If United can land a new ‘number nine’ for the long-term, Cavani will have served his purpose and would be allowed to leave. He looks close to joining Boca Juniors.
Daniel James (KEEP): To put it bluntly, James played far too much during his debut season because of a lack of better options. He was never intended to feature so often and has looked more effective as a rotation player in his second year.
Amad Diallo (KEEP): United fans will want to see more of Amad next season after catching a few glimpses of the talented teenager in his first few months at the club.
Shola Shoretire (KEEP): If Shoretire plays in 10 or 15 first-team games next season, bearing in mind he won’t turn 18 until February, it would be a successful year and will aid his development.
Anthony Elanga (KEEP): Elanga is the latest promising academy graduate to link up with the first-team squad on a matchday and will be hopeful of a few chances in 2021/22.
Facundo Pellistri (KEEP): The young Uruguayan winger was unlucky that he contracted coronavirus around the same time as he might have been in line for a first-team debut. Pellistri ended up joining Alaves on loan and has been starting in La Liga since early March.
Tahith Chong (SELL): Time is up for Chong. The Dutch winger hasn’t looked good enough to command more chances when he has played for United, couldn’t establish himself on loan at Werder Bremen in the first half of the season and has found his level in Belgium.
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