It’s all well and good thinking about new signings that United could purchase in the summer transfer window, but to incorporate these players, some players must leave United. Most of the dead wood has been cleared out over the past few seasons and United now look just a few changes away from becoming a force to be reckoned with next season. It’s notable that this will be the first summer since David Moyes’ pre-season, that there are no International tournaments that United players will feature in as the Confederations Cup contains no squads that currently have United personnel in them. I’ve identified 11 players who could well leave Old Trafford this summer and why they could move on. Granted, all 11 are unlikely to move as that would set Mourinho’s squad back heavily in terms of numbers, but a good portion could serve as surplus to requirements this summer.
A goalkeeper, who started out in the United academy with Edwin van der Sar in the first choice role, would have been disappointed to not see an opportunity when de Gea arrived in 2011. This was the summer after Johnstone won the FA Youth Cup in the same side as Jesse Lingard and Paul Pogba. Loan spells at Preston and Aston Villa in recent times have helped the now 24 year-old develop but is very unlikely to get a chance at United’s number 1 and is likely to be sold despite having a year left on his contract.
The 27 year-old Englishmen endured some tough years in the United side earlier in his career when he was played a right-back or left in defence without Rio Ferdinand or Nemanja Vidić. When Louis van Gaal arrived in 2014, Smalling started well but was sent off for 2 inexperienced bookings in the Manchester Derby. Defying the critics, Smalling came back from the suspension and was terrific. His height and pace allowed for him to be a tough defender for strikers to play against and could get goals himself. His header to make it 4-1 in the repeat of that derby later in the season typified his development. The next season, he was partnered with Daley Blind and formed a pairing that was incredible for United. The two complimented one another perfectly and conceded the least amount of goals of any Premier League side that season. He was sent off in the FA Cup Final that season, United’s last match of the season and since then, his career has gone backwards. José Mourinho has shown faith in Smalling but the defender hasn’t been an excellent as everyone knows he can be. A disastrous display at Stamford Bridge early in the season took its toll on Smalling, but a strong Europa League Final with Blind back at his side worked wonders. It’s not highly likely that he could be sold this summer but with age not on his side, Mourinho may want to get rid of him. However with Marcos Rojo being sidelined for the foreseeable future, Smalling may just have inadvertently been given a lifeline.
After a great World Cup for Louis van Gaal’s Netherlands side, Blind was brought in as a versatile player for United. That versatility has been utilised but his incredible passing range and reading of the game have come into good use too. Now making most of his United appearances at centre-back, many doubted his adequacy for the role back in 2015. With a severe lack of pace and height, no one would have expected his excellent performance in the role. The partnership with Chris Smalling rarely lets United down but his physical weaknesses have certainly led José Mourinho away from trusting him. The Manchester Derby earlier in the season didn’t help Blind and since then has found real chances hard to come by and a run of games difficult. With Marcos Rojo (also being a left-footer), Luke Shaw and Matteo Darmian all challenging him in his position(s) and Mourinho wanting specialists, Blind could be shown the door this summer. His absence would be a detriment to the squad a whole but United must make sacrifices in order to move on and he could one of them.
The tenacious Rafael-like right-back was David Moyes’ first signing at United and had a loan spell at then Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid B team in his second season, the 24 year-old broke into the United side last season and played a decent number of games. Mourinho shipped him out to Eintracht Frankfurt on loan and the Uruguayan suffered a bad ankle ligament injury in just September. With him opting to go against the club’s wishes and get a tattoo ahead of the DFB Pokal Final against Borussia Dortmund just last weekend, Varela’s loan was terminated and he has returned to United. Its unlikely Varela will be given a chance under Mourinho due to the well-performing right-back options he already has and he may have to look elsewhere to finally break through into a first-team.
The ‘boy who can do anything’ – as the song goes – certainly has struggled ever since his debut season at Old Trafford. When Louis van Gaal came in, Januzaj was not his type of player and the system didn’t suit him, much like Mourinho’s. After unproductive spells at Borussia Dortmund and Sunderland on loan, it seems all is lost for the Belgian. Mourinho has said that even a few months ago he had his mind made up, however at the start of the season he said he loaned him out because he had the intention of utilising him next season. The tricky forward will find it tough to make it into Mourinho’s future plans.
After coming onto the scene in United’s penultimate fixture of the poor 2013/14 season and under caretaker manager and legend Ryan Giggs, Wilson scored a first-half double to lift United’s spirits and got chances the following season under Louis van Gaal – even starting at home to Liverpool in the Premier League. His pace and left foot were a danger against any side but was part of an injury carousel when Marcus Rashford was able to make his mark and take Wilson over as the young striker in the first team. After being sent on loan to Derby County in the Championship this season, the 21 year-old suffered a season-ending injury just weeks into the season and has missed out on a crucial time in his career to gain Mourinho’s trust. The end may be near for Wilson due to that injury and the other forwards at the club. However, Mourinho could, much like he could do with Januzaj and Varela, give him a 6-month lifeline until January to prove his worth.
The 6ft 5 inch Swede scored an amazing 29 goals in his first and quite possibly only season at United. His stature, presence and personality makes him a character suited to United and likened to Eric Cantona. After not tying himself down to another year at Old Trafford before his horrible knee ligament injury makes everyone wonder, what will Ibrahimovic do now? He could return mid-season for United and his experience could be utilised in difficult periods for United but also could decide to walk (or limp) off into the sunset. Ibrahimovic did say when he first signed that he wouldn’t leave Old Trafford until he wins the Premier League which fuels the fire, and the fact the elusive Champions League still not in his grasp, being with United may just be the last chance he has of winning it. Whatever happens, the 35 year-old will never be forgotten.
Legend or not, Wayne Rooney’s excellent 13-year service could well be done and dusted. Despite becoming United’s all-time top scorer this season, his game-time has dramatically decreased as Mourinho opts for younger and sharper players aswell as his ‘captain’s privileges’ being taken away from him. Many believe he could be just fine in midfield but Mourinho won’t play him there due to his goal-getting habit. His departure could pave the way for a fresher-looking United side and with Michael Carrick fresh from a new deal and possibly Zlatan Ibrahimovic still being around; Rooney, experience may be unneeded in Mourinho’s mind. His recent exclusion from the England squad shows just where his career is going without game-time and with age not on his side, the club-captain’s time at United could well be over.