Manchester United’s website lists 38 players in the first team section. Six are on loan, three haven’t played for the first team all season and three others haven’t started a game.
Ralf Rangnick works roughly with a 26-man squad and he still hasn’t had Raphael Varane, Edinson Cavani or Paul Pogba available for selection. Phil Jones, Teden Mengi and Amad are loanable next month while Juan Mata could request a departure earlier than his contract expiration date of June 30.
United have a deliberately bloated squad to tackle the pandemic. The Omicron variant was described as a “storm, not a hurricane” by science adviser Andrew Hayward and the early Thursday morning pages cited two separate studies which concluded that Omicron is less severe than the Delta variant.
The UK government has resisted reintroducing restrictions, but the Netherlands is already stranded nationwide. Dean Henderson, interested in what would be an ideal loan to Ajax, is in lockdown limbo.
An agency source has previously said the pandemic and lockdowns are affecting the January market. Footballers still have special privileges when it comes to freedom of movement – unfair to anti-vaxxers in the locker room – but anxiety is still there. Steven Gerrard has said that an Aston Villa player with symptoms of Covid was reluctant to leave his car.
Rangnick may have arrived too late for United to formulate a proactive battle plan to generate funds in January. the Manchester Evening News reported last week, Jesse Lingard is expected to terminate his contract with United rather than move next month. A mid-season change for Pogba was never predictable and there is little logic in letting Cavani go when he has a goal in Rangnick’s first two.
Mata and Anthony Martial are in surplus, with six starts between them this season. Mata, 34, in April, has been a staunch servant during his eight years at United and deserves a worthy farewell. The same cannot be said of Martial, out of form for 15 months, a period that has earned him eight goals.
United stand to lose tens of millions but it is for the best if Martial, Cavani, Mata, Lingard and Pogba are left off the books when the next summer transfer window closes. Erling Haaland’s continued lawsuit would indicate that Cavani and Martial’s numbers are up and Rangnick appears to have no interest in bringing Pogba or Lingard back to the negotiating table.
Every United manager since David Moyes has inherited a leak or a leak. Moyes rekindled Wayne Rooney and his best form after Ferguson resulted in a new contract. David de Gea turned around on Louis van Gaal’s watch and Jose Mourinho signed a one-year contract for Michael Carrick. Pogba is still at United after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s power indulgence.
Whether the next permanent manager is Rangnick or one of United’s initial shortlisted candidates, they would inherit an enviable position. Rangnick restores the manager’s authority and cleaning up the bridges would allow him or his successor to strengthen a streamlined team.
An incoming midfielder is certain next year and a striker is also essential. United still have Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho, Mason Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford and Donny van de Beek to choose from for their attacking quartet, with the potential provided by Anthony Elanga and Hannibal Mejbri. Haaland is a generational talent who deserves to be courted, but a designer is more urgent.
You wouldn’t want to get past the destructible and yet indestructible Jones to survive Rangnick as the second anniversary of his last appearance approaches. A one-season loan awaits Mengi and Eric Bailly’s participation in the Africa Cup of Nations next month is sure to hurt his future playing time at club level.
United should have cut the cord this summer. Bailly has always played this season but must be offended by his status as a fourth-choice center-back. A more robust middle half to compensate for Jones and / or Bailly would make sense.
Diogo Dalot outclassed Aaron Wan-Bissaka in his recent run, but must maintain him for the next five months if United are to put aside their right-back strengthening plans. Rangnick has previously stressed that three goalkeepers ready for the first team are needed if Henderson is to be loaned or sold. Tottenham have become a possible summer destination, with Hugo Lloris approaching the final six months of his contract.
Potential United squad 2022-23
From Gea / Henderson, new backup guard, Heaton, Wan-Bissaka, Dalot, Maguire, Varane, Lindelof, Bailly, Shaw, Telles, new defender, Matic, McTominay, Fred, new midfielder, Van de Beek, Fernandes, Elanga, Mejbri, Amad, Rashford, Sancho, Greenwood, Ronaldo, new before