Which players have a future at Old Trafford, and whose time is up this summer?

Updated: May 4

Tuesday, 3rd of May, 2022. I’m currently watching a replay of Netherlands vs Spain in the 2014 World Cup, imagining what it would be like to see Manchester United play close to some of the quality on display here.


It’s safe to say Manchester United have had a more than underwhelming 2021/22 season, currently needing 2 wins in the last 2 games to equal their worst ever Premier League points total of 64 points, tallied by David Moyes and Ryan Giggs in 2013/14.


Despite finally displaying a good performance last night in a 3-0 win at Old Trafford, it’s still a struggle to see which players are actually good enough for Manchester United. The three best performers were all over 33 years of age, with two of them guaranteed to leave in the summer, and the third's future, Cristiano Ronaldo’s, is still in doubt.


So where does that leave the rest of the team?


With new boss Erik Ten Hag arriving in just under a month’s time, many fans, including myself, are gathering excitement for the summer as transfer rumours start to pick up pace. But before thinking about incomings, the players that remain at the club are still undecided.





In this article, I will discuss each position in a potential starting XI, evaluating who could thrive under the new boss, and who’s time should be up at Manchester United.


Goalkeeper: David de Gea


Having made the second most saves in the Premier League this season with 121, David de Gea has kept Manchester United in a fight for Europe when they could easily be far lower in the table. Having been one of the best goalkeepers in world football in recent years, you would think he has an indefinite place in the squad. However, do his attributes as a modern goalkeeper hold him back?


In the past few years at Ten Hag’s Ajax, goalkeeper Andre Onana has acted as a starting point of build-up play, and is someone confident in making smart choices with the ball at his feet. This is a skill that De Gea has far from excelled in.


Starting with distribution, Onana has a passing success rate of 76.2% this season, with De Gea’s at 68.6%, indicating a potential flaw in his game. Fans would also like the Spaniard to be more aggressive off his line- De Gea has made 6 sweeper clearances this season compared to top 4 rival Aaron Ramsdale’s 20.


Having been at the club for over 10 years, many have a soft spot for De Gea, and whether or not Ten Hag will be looking for a replacement is yet to be seen, so his future at the club remains undecided.


My Verdict? Stay




Left back: Luke Shaw


Having been at the club since 2014, the England International came into the spotlight in the 2020/21 campaign, playing as one of the best left-backs in Europe. However, this year has been poor from Shaw, being replaced by Alex Telles at times before picking up a season-ending injury.


In a Ten Hag system where full-backs are so vital, Shaw could still play a major role. A player confident with the ball, Shaw has made 39 key passes in the league this season, compared to Ajax left-back Nicolas Tagliafico’s 12, in just one more game played- a statistic that may signify Shaw’s ability to impress Ten Hag.


My Verdict? Stay



Centre-back: Raphael Varane


One of the most decorated centre-backs of all time, Raphael Varane was a wonder signing for many United fans last summer. This year, his injuries have slowed him from hitting his peak, however when he has played, he has been one of the few united players who aren't heavily berated by the fans after a poor result.


With good recovery pace and positioning that is critical when wanting to play on the front foot, Varane could appeal to the new boss. In Ten Hag’s Ajax system, the centre-backs are sometimes pulled into a makeshift defensive midfield role, so how well can this suit Varane? The Frenchman will need to be confident in carrying the ball past opponents, to which he has only completed 2 successful dribbles this season, compared to his Ajax counterpart Lisandro Martinez, who has 15 under his belt. That said, this depends heavily on the role given to him, and Varane’s quality over the years should give him the benefit of the doubt over whether he can be a future star at Old Trafford.


Verdict? Stay




Centre-back: Harry Maguire


Described by many as the worst signing in Premier League history, saying the £80million man has been poor is an understatement. Maybe the captaincy has hindered his performances, putting too much weight on his shoulders, but regardless, his performances haven’t been good enough. However, is Maguire becoming over-hated?


After a contrastingly decent season last year and a very good Euro 2020 campaign with England, Harry Maguire showed his skill in carrying the ball out from the back, something needed in a progressive Ten Hag system.


But is potential skill enough to overlook a run of awful form at a club like Manchester United? Or has his ship sailed, with Harry Maguire still ashore?


Verdict? Go


Right back: Diogo Dalot

Having replaced Aaron Wan-Bissaka under Ralf Rangnick, Diogo Dalot has displayed consistently decent performances, with the amount of good games outweighing the bad. However, is he enough to suit Ten Hag?


Contrary to the eye test, Dalot has actually completed 24 less successful dribbles than Wan-Bissaka this season, and 1 less than Ajax right-back, Noussair Mazraoui. Dalot has also won less interceptions than Wan-Bissaka, whilst Dalot finally trumps in shots taken and clearances.


Numbers aside though, Dalot seems to have more natural talent for playing in a possession-based XI though, which may win him enough credit to see himself through the summer window at United.


My Verdict? Stay


Defensive midfielder: McTominay/Fred


With the clubs only proper number six in Nemanja Matic announcing he’ll be leaving the club at the end of the season, neither of the infamous ‘McFred’ duo will be enough to hold down the midfield next year.


Ajax enjoy Edson Alvarez in this role, an active midfielder who boasts more interceptions and passes this season than either of the United pair. Both Mctominay and Fred also improve as they move further away from the defensive midfield position, indicating a top player to cover this role is needed.


My Verdict? Go



Central midfielder: Paul Pogba


A controversial man in the middle of the park, Pogba has shown his talent over the years but never on a consistent basis. The French international has been looking like leaving the club for the past few transfer windows, with an exit in the summer seemingly the most likely scenario as his contract comes to an end. However, it has been reported that he has had a new offer on the table from United since July 2021, but would Ten Hag want him?


In the Dutchman’s most recent 433 system, the midfielders often drift high and wide as a full back covers their central midfield spot. Pogba has had experience in this, often playing in the left-wing position under previous manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. What's more, Pogba has suited playing alongside a sitting number six well during his time with France, where N'golo Kante’s defensive duties allowed Pogba to help his side to a World Cup trophy in 2018.


But should he be kept based on his talent, or are his inconsistencies too much to warrant a fresh start at Old Trafford?


My Verdict? Go


Attacking midfielder: Bruno Fernandes


The Portuguese magnifico had a staggering 20/21 season, recording 18 goals and 12 assists in this time, recently earning him a new contract. This season has been a different story. Prone to wanting to play the ‘Hollywood pass’, Fernandes has given away possession far too often this season, frequently looking for low-percentage passes to players who simply aren't good options.


However, a lack of creativity in the squad sometimes cries out for this sense of urgency, with national teammate Cristiano Ronaldo seldom receiving enough chances to show his world class finishing quality. If Bruno can learn the importance of keeping possession a little more, he can be a vital part of Ten Hag’s side in the future.


My Verdict? Stay




Left Wing: Jadon sancho


£74 million man Jadon Sancho was bought originally to solve the right wing problem, but in his spell on the left under Ralf Rangnick, he has shown that his natural quality shines on this side of the pitch.


A creative winger, Sancho is one of the few players who remains well-liked amongst the fanbase, and with good reason. His lack of selfishness allows the ball to flow to the focal point of the side, a role Cristiano Ronaldo may look to play in the future. Due to attacking full-backs and wide midfielders, the wingers in Ten Hag’s system often drift inside and pick up the ball in central areas, something that Sancho’s technical ability will allow him to enjoy.


My Verdict? A resounding stay


Striker: Cristiano Ronaldo


What words are enough to describe Cristiano Ronaldo? Seriously, I'm struggling to think.


The highest scoring international player of all time has had a challenging run in his return to Manchester as his teammates struggle to supply chances for him. Of course, at 37 years old he may not be the ideal candidate for Ten Hag in a counterpressing system, however having successfully played for 12 coaches in his career, Ronaldo has shown he can adapt.


My Verd- do I really need to ask?


Right Wing: Marcus Rashford


Potentially leaving the most debatable until last, Marcus Rashford is a player many United fans have grown to appreciate. The academy graduate has shown his talent ever since scoring twice on his Premier League debut against Arsenal, but he's having his worst season yet in a red shirt.


At 24 years old, Rashford is no longer a player for the future, but one entering a footballer's prime years, not that he's shown it recently. When receiving the ball on the right, (a position he plays in more often, as he was pushed out of his natural left-wing spot by Jadon Sancho) he habitually tries to take on multiple defenders, often with little success. This simply cannot continue if he wants a future at the club. However, Rashford’s peak was a sight to behold.


In the 2019/20 season, he had 24 G/A in 31 games, with 60 successful dribbles, which are better numbers than Manchester City's Raheem Sterling had in the same year. Rashford's carelessness on the pitch doesn't seem to be a quality issue, but more of a mental block, as he makes the wrong decisions at the wrong times, though this is something even Sports Psychologist, Sascha Lense, seemingly hasn't solved in his time at the club.


Will Erik Ten Hag bring out the best in Rashford, or will he be another example of wasted potential…


My Verdict? Stay: One more chance


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