Sunday 18 February 2018

The 10 players fighting for their future at Manchester United

Who is in danger of being surplus to requirements at Old Trafford?
Who is in danger of being surplus to requirements at Old Trafford?

Mark Critchley

What with all the uncertainty circling around Old Trafford this season, there are few Manchester United players who are assured of their place in the squad next year.

The likes of Chris Smalling, Anthony Martial and break-out star Marcus Rashford should be safe, Luke Shaw will be given a chance to recover from his double leg fracture and David De Gea will certainly not be going anywhere - provided he wants to stay, of course.

There is, however, at least a small question mark hanging over the head of almost every other player.

Some, like club captain Wayne Rooney, should be staying put despite their under-par performances. Others, like Ander Herrera, may find their place dependent on who’s in the dugout.

More still have a point to prove whether Louis van Gaal stays or goes and face a crucial few weeks.

Here are 10 players who should be concerned:

1. Michael Carrick

The Old Trafford career of Manchester United’s second longest-serving player is coming to an end. Last year’s decision to hand him a one-year extension was questionable, this year it would be unjustified. It’s time to call it a day.

Carrick captained United at the Etihad Stadium and produced an impressive performance to help keep alive their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League. Photo: Getty

2. Marcos Rojo

One of the quieter disappointments of Louis van Gaal’s tenure. Rojo has rarely, if ever, put in an above-average performance and cost his team too often. A tournament-inspired signing if ever there was one and likely to go out the door with his manager, who has also disappointed after an eye-catching World Cup.

Marcos Rojo has had a shoulder operation

3. Memphis Depay

His season has been, to put it in the kindest terms, ‘mercurial’. Brief, perhaps very brief, glimpses at his talent have been outweighed by truly anaemic, gutless performances. His youth should be enough to dissuade the club’s hierarchy from cashing in but Depay will need to show a serious volte-face in his second season to turn his Old Trafford fortunes around.

Manchester United's Memphis Depay

4.  Juan Mata

In truth, if Jose Mourinho takes over at Old Trafford as expected, there may be little that the Spaniard can do to convince his new manager that he should be kept on. His fate, in that sense, may be sealed. Nevertheless, Mata can hardly claim to have fully established himself at Old Trafford and still has a number of doubters. A few weeks in his preferred no. 10 role could do him a world of good.

Juan Mata is confident Manchester United will overcome their "complicated moments"

5. Marouane Fellaini

Quite easily the most unpopular man at Old Trafford on any given matchday and this season, that’s saying something. He wants to do well, that’s clear, but he simply does not have the requisite technical quality and tries to make up for it by elbowing people. His time’s up.

Marouane Fellaini is a divisive figure at Manchester United and beyond

6. Paddy McNair

Alongside Tyler Blackett, McNair provides the stand-out argument against those who uncritically praise Van Gaal’s promotion of youth. Sadly he, nor Blackett, are good enough and should not have been relied upon so much at points during the Dutchman’s first season. In truth, both may have already made their last appearances for United.

Organisers hoped Northern Ireland defender Paddy McNair would make the Milk Cup draw on Tuesday

7.  Cameron Borthwick-Jackson

Surprisingly, the young full-back still has not been tied down to a long-term contract, despite his impressive performances since breaking into the side. Talks are understood to have begun but Borthwick-Jackson’s contract expires in June and his future won’t be certain until the dotted line is signed.

Left-back Cameron Borthwick-Jackson (pictured) was praised by Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal after the draw at Chelsea

8. Antonio Valencia

His brilliant 2011/12 campaign established him as a firm favourite among supporters but his surrender of the no. 7 shirt the year after marked him as a player who sometimes struggles with a weight of expectation on his shoulders. Ever since, he’s been a figure on the fringes and only on the odd occasions that he’s fit. Sell up before his contract expires next year.

Antonio Valencia looks set for a long lay-off with his foot injury

9. Adnan Januzaj

Packed off on loan to Borussia Dortmund, sent back early after starting just three times and just two substitute appearances since his return. It’s all a far cry from having three football associations fight over your international allegiance. Where Januzaj goes next is unclear but he acts a forewarning to the likes of Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford – consistency, not just youthful exuberance, is needed to prosper at United.

Adnan Januzaj has to work his way back to fitness

10. Andreas Pereira

The Belgian-born Brazilian has shown his talent at times but, like Januzaj, seems to be another academy product who’s stalling in the reserves while others prosper. He needs with a loan move to gain competitive minutes, perhaps on the continent, or he risks complete stagnation.

Andreas Pereira marked his first Manchester United start with a goal in the Capital One Cup in September

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