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End of The Road, or a Career Renewed...

Anthony Martial, Fred, Harry Maguire, and David De Gea...for the record there is no direct blame being solely placed on their shoulders, but it's come to a point as a collective where ignoring what's right in front of us can no longer be feasible if you intend to push for and enact much needed change at Manchester United. There is never a guarantee that the truth will always be pleasant to hear, but it is also one of the few things in our existence that has the ability to set you free when time for honesty dawns upon those who have to hear it...because of that, without a shadow of a doubt, there is nowhere to hide upon from the truth written on the wall when it comes to the futures of those four at least at Manchester United.

Anthony Martial - signed from AS Monaco in December of 2015 for 36 million pounds with add-ons that brought his price tag to a staggering 58 million pounds as long as the clauses are met, making him the most expensive signing of his age at that time and one of the most promising up and coming young French talents alongside Kylian Mbappe, hit the ground running in his debut season as a Red Devil in one of the most famous fixtures in world football, the Northwest Derby, on 12th of September when he bagged a goal in the 3-1 win over Liverpool...a true baptism by fire for any young player who dons the Manchester United badge for the very first time, so to speak. He didn't stop there when he performed yet again in his first Premier League match against Southampton with a brace that contributed to the 3-2 win, picked up a number of individual awards including the PFA Fans' Player of the Month and Premier League Player of the Month in September as well as the 2015/16 Golden Boy award, and ended the season as the club's top scorer in all competitions and picked up a winners' medal as part of the 2015/16 FA Cup winning team that marked him as one of the most exciting young prospects in world football. Bit by bit as Martial kept on picking up individual accolades and more silverware including the Community Shield, the EFL Cup, and the Europa League under Jose Mourinho in the 2016/17 season, no one could be blamed for thinking that his current achievements were only the beginning of a promising career as he began to forge his place as the leader of Manchester United's attacking line...but no one could have foreseen the instability and turbulence that later occurred around him within the club's internal structure and derailed his progression drastically. Injuries, lack of confidence, falling out with the manager on more than one occasion, and what seemed like a fear of competition for the no.9 role...very hard to accept that the Martial of today is a mere shadow of the player who many though could have a decent shout of the Ballon d'Or if he reached his full potential. Also, taking his current body language to consideration, it is very difficult to imagine that many believed that he was the same man who many believed could be the no.9 that every Manchester United fan hoped he could become, a painful truth that to this day is still not being taken well among the Old Trafford faithful who are yet to lose their faith in him...

Harry Maguire had a promising start to what seemed at the time a very interesting career at Manchester United and part of one of the strongest defensive partnerships in the Premier League alongside Victor Lindelof. It couldn't be denied that at one point there was a very good chance that Maguire could've forged himself a rather illustrious career at Manchester United as long as he remained consistent, but that chance long since dissipated with every underwhelming performance for the club that created a rather toxic environment around himself which never ceased to berate if not threaten the safety of himself and his family, a black mark in the Manchester United football community that has not sat well with many from the first moment it occurred. Signed from Leicester City for 80 million pounds in July of 2019, marking him as the most expensive defender in the world surpassing the 75 million that Liverpool paid for Virgil Van Djik in 2018, he was believed to be the answer to the revival of the Red Devils' defensive line at the time and to be honest he put in some rather impressive performances that gave the impression that he may have been worth the money spent as Manchester United finished third in his debut season with one of the strongest defensive records in the league that calendar year. Named club captain as well by Ole Gunnar Solksjaer not long after Ashley Young's departure to Inter Milan, which honestly was one of the most unexpected and eventually most tragic decisions made by the club to date, Harry Maguire went on to make himself one of the most trusted players in Ole's setup largely thanks to his ability to remain fit and keep himself available whenever he was needed and yet again became a part of one of the strongest defenses in the Premier League in his second season at the club. Managing to finish second behind eventual champions Manchester City, Maguire captained the team to an Europa League final against Villareal that he was unable to participate in due to an unfortunate injury with his absence incredibly felt in that matchup that ended with an unfortunate loss through a penalty shootout...and that, sadly, is where the honeymoon period came to a sudden halt for Harry Maguire and his career as a Red Devil. The hungrier the club became for progression and silverware, the more of the responsibility fell upon his shoulders as club captain to sail the ship as Ole's lieutenant on the pitch and guide his team to ending one of the club's longest trophy droughts since 1974...and that, unfortunately, is when the cracks began to show under his armour. It is no simple task wearing the armband for Manchester United, a reality that Maguire came to learn of the hard way when he began to be more inconsistent with his performances to the point that the fanbase eventually turned on him. Things became even more chaotic when more quality players were added to the team including the likes of Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane, and the legend himself in Cristiano Ronaldo when he finally made his return to Manchester United after leaving for Real Madrid in 2009, and in a matter of one transfer window Maguire was in a dressing room occupied by players whose credentials made him smaller than his almost 2 meter frame when it came to experience and increased the pressure around him to even more stressful levels. Compared to them his experience wasn't enough to command the respect he needed from every player to lead this team during the season, and it wasn't long before the instability behind the scenes reached boiling point and led to a clash of heads that came close to tearing the club apart from the inside out costing Solskjaer and eventually Ralf Rangnick their jobs as well as exposing the football world to the toxic environment the Glazers allowed to nurture and spread within the walls of Old Trafford. Even with the eventual departure of Ronaldo and the installation of Erik ten Hag as the new manager alongside the announcement of a possible sale of the club by the Glazer family, there was not much change in fortunes for Maguire when it came to him retaining his place in the starting eleven as he slowly but surely began to be phased out of the setup as a whole with Lisandro Martinez taking his place in the starting lineup. His presence on the field bred more uncertainty around his teammates as much as within the fanbase that no longer had faith in his leadership, and for what has been the story for most of the season it seems within the confines of the dressing room to say the least his status as club captain is longer recognized among the players with Bruno Fernandes unofficially taking his place, a fact that was very evident in the last humiliation of the club when they were knocked out of the Europa League quarter finals by Sevilla after being partly responsible for two of the goals the team conceded. A lack of confidence, self-awareness, arrogance, maybe's become an enigma to try to dissect what has gone so very wrong with Maguire's career at Manchester United, but the more his name barely appears in the starting XI the clearer it becomes that perhaps he is no longer trusted to lead this team any further. To those familiar with the character Itachi Uchiha from the Naruto series, there was a certain piece of wisdom he passed on to Naruto that explains Maguire's situation almost to a tee. In a moment when Naruto was becoming too reliant on his newfound abilities to the point he began to neglect the lessons of the journey that led him to his current state, Itachi calmly but in a firm tone brought him back down to earth and delivered one of the most important lines that literally defined Naruto's eventual destiny...'Becoming the Hokage doesn't mean people will acknowledge you, but when people acknowledge you that is when you can become Hokage...'

In a nutshell, only by the acknowledgement of those around you can anyone be truly recognized as a leader, and for a long time Harry Maguire has let the weight of the armband rob him of the self-awareness to realize what it actually means to bear the captain's armband for Manchester United. With every army comes a general that the troops look up to and trust with their lives when marching into battle, and unless Harry Maguire matures enough to the point that he can take on the responsibilities that come with the armband head on with more courage his time at Manchester United will eventually come to a premature end while another more capable is chosen to command the vacant captain's post.

Ah Fred, the one and only...chaos personified in one player who always finds a reason to make the everyday Manchester United fan lose their sanity during a match and in some unexpected moment of brilliance have the entire stadium lose their voices in celebration. 'Pastor Fred' to many within the community, he has been a character in that dressing room that has puzzled the Red Devils' community ever since he was signed from Shakhtar Donetsk for 47 million pounds and became one half of the famous midfield partnership dubbed as 'McFred' by the media and the general football fans alike. In almost what seems like a Jekyll and Hyde phase whenever it came to his overall performances, Fred has had his fair share of matches worth forgetting about during his time in Manchester and then out of nowhere deliver what could only be explained as masterstrokes against some of the best team setups in world football with the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Frenkie De Jong being victims of his monstrous performances that has seen Manchester United get the better of both Manchester City and Barcelona this season alone. That being said though, for a team that is looking to dominate midfield battles and be able to overwhelm their opponents, consistently is one of the most paramount factors required in every single member of a midfield setup in order to reach such a level, and for the past five years that Fred has played for Manchester United he has unfortunately failed to give any solid indication that he can be fully relied upon as a starter while raising some interesting questions as to whether he's good enough to warrant a squad role in Erik ten Hag's rebuild. His former midfield partner in Scott McTominay has also found himself down the pecking order after the inclusion of Eriksen and Casemiro into the team during the summer window along with the underrated rise of Kobbie Mainoo from the youth setup, and pending what is about to be the handing over of the keys to the crimson throne from the Glazers to a yet unknown new owner it seems we could be about to witness the end of the famed 'McFred' partnership at Manchester United for good with the much expected exit of either one of Fred or McTominay...if not both.

And finally, David De Gea Quintana, who is about to cement his second career golden glove this season as long as Manchester United's results remain positive by the way. As the last active member of the Manchester United team that won the club's last Premier League title in Sir Alex Ferguson's last season as manager in 2013, there are not enough words to convey how many times he has come through for his team under very difficult circumstances throughout his career as the club's no.1, making photo-worthy saves that at one point marked him as one of the best goalkeepers in football. However, as De Gea came to find out the hard way, time and tide truly waits for no man as the world of football evolved to the point that the concepts around the type of goalkeeper that top teams were looking for became more diversified and possession-heavy based, and those who failed to adapt to the changes were ultimately left behind as David De Gea is starting to find out in the Premier League. His inability to efficiently transition into the modern style of goalkeeping has left him rather ill-equipped to compete on even footing against his rival counterparts, often landing him in damning statistical comparisons with some of the most underperforming goalkeepers in the league and to an extent weakening his own team's capability to control matches on a regular basis. As a result of this Manchester United has had to resort to having one of the lowest defensive lines in the Premier League this season, not because of the team's attempts to make the defense more rigid but to offset some of the weaknesses to De Gea's overall game that teams all across Europe have taken advantage of on more than a handful of instances with the disastrous exit to Sevilla in the Europa League being one of the most recent displays as to how easily it can be to force him to make errors and lead his team to conceding goals. It is not without trial and error that managers and their coaches at the club as well as the Spain national team have tried to help him improve on his overall game in order to be able to take his team's overall ability on the ball to the next level, but the more they tried to evolve him into a modern day goalkeeper the more they kept coming to the same conclusion...if Manchester United, under new ownership, intends to push this team into the next stage of Erik ten Hag's rebuild then finding a new no.1 to replace De Gea must be considered one of the top priorities of the upcoming summer window that the board must get right by any means necessary, and in a rather well timed moment of fortune for the board David De Gea's contract is due to expire this summer which provides them with the very likeliest of opportunities to guarantee that at least a quality goalkeeper walks through the doors at Carrington in this upcoming transfer window. That being said, will they take advantage of such an opportunity being handed to them on a silver platter and finally deal with one of the most vital positions in Erik's setup once and for all, or will they instead choose to go with their original approach and renew his contract on different terms and in hindsight risk stagnating the team's overall progression into a season where their competition will all but surely be ready to capitalize on every bit of our weaknesses? Sentiment versus ruthlessness, or perhaps there is a world where both can exist in balanced harmony without jeopardizing the team's progress...only time will tell how this story will end, it seems.

The reason there is a strong focus on these four in this article is because Manchester United are in need of more quality reinforcements if they intend to challenge for major silverware, and the four paramount positions that the club has made a priority to deal with this summer are ST, CM, CB, and's not a coincidence that these four players were the main focus of this article, and in a matter of weeks there is a great deal of chance we might never see any of them again in a Manchester United shirt as the club begins making plans for the upcoming transfer window. By all means this does not imply that their fates are already sealed with some being given a lifeline during the season to try and save their careers at Old Trafford, but unfortunately time is no longer on their side because by the time the summer transfer window is in full swing the red throne of Manchester United will be occupied by a new face and a much hungrier desire for success compared to his predecessors hellbent on winning everything under the sun. A storm is brewing in the horizon, a revolution is about to descend upon Manchester United that will give rise to the rebirth of a sleeping giant that has laid dormant long enough and any who are too weak to weather the storm of change or adapt to it well enough will be carried away into the distance as Old Trafford is rebuilt into the fortress that it became world-famous for...will these players be ready to leave everything on the pitch and fight to stake a claim for a spot in the senior squad, or will they crumble as before when the pressure of getting results over the line became more of a reality than wishful thinking? Only them can answer this question for all of us and only on the pitch can they make their desires known with 3 matches left this season with a place in next season's Champions' League and an FA Cup final on the line...

Let the games begin gentlemen, and Godspeed...

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