Eight players facing exit door in United cull
Published 05/11/2016 | 02:30
Jose Mourinho wants to axe a minimum of eight players over the next two transfer windows as the constant transition in Manchester United's squad shows no signs of slowing.
United suffered their fifth defeat in 17 matches under Mourinho on Thursday night when they went down 2-1 against Fenerbahce in Istanbul to leave them with an uphill battle to qualify for the Europa League knockout stages.
Mourinho - who has now lost 18 of his past 42 matches as a manager dating back to his time at Chelsea - reacted to his team's latest setback by accusing his players of not being "mentally prepared", "not focused", "not concentrated" and of treating the game like a pre-season friendly.
United - who are seven points adrift of fourth place in the Premier League - face Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium tomorrow having won just one of their past seven league games. They have failed to score in their past three league fixtures.
Mourinho believes he has taken on a bigger job at Old Trafford than he originally thought and is ready to make extensive changes to the squad next year.
If there is a possibility of doing business in the January transfer window, both in terms of incomings and outgoings, the Portuguese will do so, although the bulk of United's activity will take place next summer.
Former United midfielder Paul Scholes claimed after the Fenerbahce result that United's team "in two years will be unrecognisable from what it is now" and Mourinho has plans to reshape a squad that has already undergone extensive overhaul in the past three years.
A total of 55 players have come or gone in the seven transfer windows since Alex Ferguson retired in May 2013 and more churn is on the horizon.
Defenders Marcos Rojo, Matteo Darmian and Phil Jones will be allowed to leave - as will midfielders Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin and Michael Carrick, who is the only senior player out of contract next summer, discounting striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has the option to extend his one-year deal by another 12 months.
Wingers Memphis Depay and Ashley Young are also surplus to requirements.
Schweinsteiger is expected to leave in January, despite Mourinho ending his two-month exile this week by allowing him to train with the first team squad again, and Darmian, who is interesting Inter Milan, could also go. Depay may leave on loan in the winter window.
Mourinho has concerns over other members of his squad, too, but accepts there will be a limit to the number of players he can move on and sign in any one transfer window.
Marouane Fellaini will enter the final 12 months of his contract next summer - as will captain Wayne Rooney, whom Mourinho has insisted remains part of his plans.
There is an option on Rooney's contract that would enable either the player or United to extend the deal until June 2019 but that seems unlikely to happen.
Mourinho has told Henrikh Mkhitaryan he has to raise his game, even though the Armenia captain has barely been given an opportunity to prove his worth since his £26.3million summer move from Borussia Dortmund, and the manager wants to see more from the likes of Chris Smalling, currently injured, Daley Blind and Anthony Martial.
It remains to be seen if Adnan Januzaj is given another chance to stake a first-team claim once the Belgium winger, presently sidelined through injury, returns from a loan spell with Sunderland at the end of the season.
Mourinho spent £145.7m in the summer on Ibrahimovic, Mkhitaryan, Eric Bailly and Paul Pogba, who cost a world-record £89m from Juventus, and offloaded six players - defenders Paddy McNair, Tyler Blackett and Donald Love, goalkeeper Victor Valdes and forwards Nick Powell and Will Keane.
There had been 28 senior departures in the previous six windows and 17 arrivals.
"It's been quite a painful three years." Scholes said on BT Sport. "And I think the next 18 months to two years could be very similar until this manager has three or four transfer windows to really get a team that he wants."
Meanwhile, Bailly is on course to hand Mourinho a much-needed boost by returning to action ahead of schedule next month following a knee ligament injury.
Bailly, 22, had been ruled out until the Christmas period by Mourinho after being injured during the 4-0 defeat against Chelsea at Stamford two weeks ago.
The loss of the Ivory Coast centre-half has proven to be a serious blow for United.
But it is understood that Bailly is making excellent progress in his rehabilitation and he is now hopeful of a return to fitness within the next month - potentially in time for the Premier League encounter with Tottenham Hotspur on December 11.
In Bailly's absence, and with Smalling also unavailable, Mourinho has been forced to deploy two left-backs - Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo - at centre-half in a makeshift defence that is also currently without broken wrist victim Antonio Valencia and Jones, who has only just returned to contention following a long-term injury lay-off.
Mourinho had planned to be without Bailly throughout January and early-February due to his international commitments with the Ivory Coast in the Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon. (© Daily Telegraph, London)