With at least two major signings required and Erik ten Hag eager to strengthen the squad, exiting players have to break double figures at Man United this summer.
David de Gea or Dean Henderson
With a contract renewal for David de Gea inevitable if not advisable, that has to signal the end for Henderson after 12 years at United. The club have kicked the goalkeeping can down the road year after year and provoking him further would seem illogical.
Henderson is 26 now, an academy graduate, Premier League-tested and probably the best English goalkeeper on ability. His groin injury, worse than initially expected, will affect his resale value unless he returns for the run-in to help Nottingham Forest stay in the Premier League.
Of all the possible departures, Henderson arguably has the highest worth, though it would be a wrench for United to sell a goalkeeper they groomed faultlessly through fulfilling loans from National League to Premier League. Henderson only stalled when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was still there.
As respectable a season as De Gea has had, change is needed in goal. The decisive act would be to release him, disarm Henderson by giving him one season to prove he is up to the task and, if he’s not, ship in another goalkeeper next year.
Erik ten Hag is keen on conscripting the right-back Jeremie Frimpong, so there has to be room for the Bayer Leverkusen defender. Selling Wan-Bissaka or Diogo Dalot is almost like tossing a coin.
Dalot enjoyed an excellent first four months of the season when he was continually present in the United squad and ousted Joao Cancelo from the Portugal national team during the World Cup. He has not been the same since he sustained a hamstring injury in their quarter-final defeat to Morocco.
Wan-Bissaka has performed marvelously well in the last four months and his handling of Kaoru Mitoma in the FA Cup semi-final was more impressive than his neutering of Allan Saint-Maximin in the League Cup final. “AWB is ridiculously good at one-on-one defending. Probably the best in the world bar none,” tweeted the Leicester talisman James Maddison. “So many wingers become clueless when playing directly against him.”
Wan-Bissaka also embarked on a spirited spring in the second half against Brighton yet Dalot is the more rounded right-back and Wan-Bissaka remains limited in the final third. In this era, United need forward-thinking full-backs and Wan-Bissaka is hardly a spring chicken at 25.
Having been unsellable last year, Wan-Bissaka’s stock has appreciated and he should enhance a great number of Premier League defences.
Maguire’s first season at United was a good one, second was decent, third was a nightmare and fourth is worse. Eight months on from his demotion, he hasn’t regained his place and likely never will as long as Ten Hag remains the manager.
United will have known when they parted with £80m for Maguire, 26 at the time he committed to a six-year contract, that there was no resale value. They would not have imagined a selling scenario two-thirds of the way into that contract but many things in football are unforeseeable.
With the European Championship only 14 months away, Maguire can hardly risk a fringe role for an entire season ahead of an international competition. Such is the anguish Maguire has received from a faction of United’s online following and the escapism he enjoys in the England camp would suggest he should seek a permanent escape route.
There are three certainties in life: death, taxes and Eric Bailly not hitting his appearance milestone. Had he done so, Marseille would be obliged to buy the haphazard centre back but Bailly is likely to return to Carrington this summer.
United could have released Bailly as far back as 2020, had they not overseen the two-year extension in his contract. He could have been released last year had he not been rewarded with a new contract, the most senseless since Phil Jones’s renewal.
Bailly averaged fewer than 20 appearances per season out of his six with United. He has played 19 times for Marseille.
This season has been a write-off for the 22-year-old, unavailable through injury for the first three months and then afforded one scene against Burnley in the League Cup. Williams, 22, has not started for United since May 2021 in what can be termed an unfulfilling season when he was also mismanaged by Solskjaer.
He has possibly overachieved in making 50 appearances for United but an unhappy end to his season-long loan with Norwich and a significant injury that sidelined him for five months suggest he will be of little value in the market.
Sevilla do not have an obligation to buy Telles, so strange in the United pre-season squad the left-back was played at centre-back.
Telles contract will expire next year and continues to be selected in the Brazil squad. Andreas Pereira is proof Brazil international status can inflate one’s value, though Telles is 30.
Donny van de Beek
When Van de Beek was mentioned to a colleague earlier this week, he admitted he had forgotten about him. Injury against Bournemouth on January 3 sidelined the Dutch man for the remainder of the season but Van de Beek’s reunion with Ten Hag, his old Ajax mentor, did nothing to prove the 26-year-old will ever be a United material.
In three years, Van de Beek has started four meaningful Premier League games for United. He is so peripheral his absence has not been remotely lamented.
Van de Beek’s knee injury and his underwhelming form before it, make him a hard sell, possibly unsellable. Ajax, sticklers for Premier League rejects, are worth a call.
Scott McTominay or Fred
Ten Hag covets a dynamic young midfielder with a world-class ceiling. To finance a move, a midfielder will likely have to make way.
McTominay is the most valuable: 26, a United academy graduate with international pedigree who endeared himself to Solskjaer, Mourinho, Rangnick and, to a lesser extent, Ten Hag. There is enough time on McTominay’s contract (a final expiration date of 2026) that maintains his resale value.
The caveat is McTominay is the only senior midfielder over 20 United have. Fred, 30, is out of contract next year and any interested clubs would be guarded to hang on for six more months and then see if a pre-contract agreement is doable.
As useful as McTominay is, if United receive an acceptable offer (£30m) it would be senseless to reject it.
United could end this season with their lowest goals tally since 2004-05 and they have a No.9 who does not live up to his number.
Martial has broken the 20-goal barrier in one of his eight seasons with United and he has not completed 90 minutes in the Premier League since January 2021. United are in the market for a new starting striker, Martial’s contract expires next year and he crumbles when competition arises.
Martial is rarely up to it
At 27, Martial is still likely to attract potential suitors of reasonable repute but United will make a loss on the £58m they invested in Martial back in 2015.
The only Ant(h)ony likely to be at United next season is the one without an ‘h’. Elanga has not scored for United since February 22 2022 and he has started just once for the past five months – against League One Charlton in the League Cup.
Another academy graduate with international experience and an impeccable personality, Elanga is still only 21 and United need to be more proactive in making more money out of their dream factory.
Phil Jones and Axel Tuanzebe are out of contract and due to be released.