Monday 21 January 2019

Daniel McDonnell: 'If United are serious about change, these eight players need to be shown door'

Romelu Lukaku: His touch and record in the big matches suggests he is just a notch below the very highest level. Photo: Action Images via Reuters
Romelu Lukaku: His touch and record in the big matches suggests he is just a notch below the very highest level. Photo: Action Images via Reuters
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Time was up for Jose Mourinho. For a club in crisis, the manager is always the first to depart.

It's the easiest solution, regardless of the substantial pay-off attached, because the alternative is a complete clear-out of the dressing room. That can prove a much more complicated endeavour. The hope for the hierarchy is that a new man can come in and galvanise a group and bring them to new heights.

Mourinho had to go. He was the wrong fit for the job, and the theatre surrounding him has long since become tedious. Boredom levels were soaring and that's a bad look for a club that is supposed to be about more than commercial strength.

That doesn't mean that players are absolved from responsibility, however, much as there is a dispute over where the blame lies for the mediocre recruitment.

The next full-time manager will have a fair bit of restructuring to do; it's unlikely that a caretaker will be given the freedom to oversee that process. Therefore, it's possible that the squad will be on trial over the next six months to show they deserve a future at Old Trafford.

A good number of the group are on borrowed time, however. There's an obvious temptation to include Paul Pogba in this contingent given his dubious social media activity and questionable attitude.

But it's only six months since he took on a leadership role in a World Cup final and it would be madness to write off the Frenchman's Old Trafford future on the basis of his struggles in a dysfunctional regime. He is an elite player that should be part of any rebuilding process.

Others should be surplus to requirements.

(1) Romelu Lukaku

This is a major issue facing the next man in. Lukaku is a high-class player, but he's not an accomplished enough all-round front man to spearhead a challenge for the title.

There is an argument that a more progressive approach would bring more out of the 25-year-old yet his touch and record in the biggest matches suggests that he is just a notch below the very highest level.

Granted, he could function as an adequate squad player but that's unlikely to please the Belgian.

(2) Alexis Sanchez

 It would take a bit of work to shift a player earning £500,000 a week once bonuses and image rights are factored in although there's always Paris or China.

The 29-year-old looks jaded and completely out of sorts and well-sourced reports have claimed that he is keen on an exit strategy having failed to settle in the area.

Again, it could be argued that a fresh voice could spark a revival. But his age profile and pay packet is an obstacle to coherent progress. There has to be a way to cut losses or possibly even take a hit on some form of loan arrangement.

(3) Marouane Fellaini

The obvious whipping boy but the truth was that he was quite effective for Mourinho at times when he favoured the direct route or a slightly more combative approach.

Similar to Lukaku, Fellaini is undoubtedly a very good Premier League option without really meeting the criteria for Manchester United and title-chasing level.

Fellaini thanked Mourinho for showing faith in him when a new two-year contract was arranged last summer. If United are to evolve, they need to find a better class of midfielder.

(4) Ander Herrera

The Spaniard suffered at Anfield on Sunday and after four years at Old Trafford his limitations are clear. He's only won two caps for his country because they have better ball players in that department and, while he did actually have some good spells under Mourinho, the 29-year-old is not a viable option for a longer-term plan.

(5) Ashley Young

An obvious candidate for the exit door. It's impressive how Young has managed to prolong his career and adapt to a full-back role but it's an important role in the modern game and his time has passed.

(6) Marcus Rojo

 Victor Lindelof is a popular target for criticism and the Swede endured a grim Sunday against Liverpool with aimless moments backing the view that he is out of his depth. But the 24-year-old is still only in his second season at the club and showed some promise in the summer's World Cup. By contrast, Rojo has been around the block since 2014 and has dropped out of favour without it causing much of a ripple. He's taking up space.

(7) Phil Jones

Chris Smalling has received a contract extension but there should be no rush to resolve Jones' future. It would be optimistic to believe that he can improve beyond his current level.

(8) Nemanja Matic

The Serb looks like a beaten docket now, a slow 30-year-old that cannot provide a power-packed service in his vital area. There's a big contrast between what United are getting from him and what Fernandinho is doing for Manchester City.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport