MANCHESTER United are ready to offload up
to six players at the end of the season as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer builds a team
capable of competing for the Premier League title.
An overhaul of the squad is imminent even
if Solskjaer can claim a Champions League place after Tuesday’s defeat at
Wolves left United adrift of the top four.
It promises to be the biggest shake-up at
Old Trafford since 2015 when Louis van Gaal signed six players and jettisoned
United usually prefer to replace three
players a year, but accept the number may be significantly higher this summer
because of the current state of the squad.
Club captain Antonio Valencia looks certain
to leave after a decade at United having not played since early January.
Matteo Darmian is expected to follow having
failed to secure the return to Italy he wanted in the summer. The 29-year-old
defender has played only six times this season, and only twice under Solskjaer.
United are also likely to sell one of their
five centre-backs with Marcos Rojo and Eric Bailly the leading candidates to
Rojo has made four appearances since being
lined up for a move to Everton last summer, while Bailly has had a difficult
campaign in which he suffered the indignity of being substituted in the first
half against Newcastle and Paris Saint-Germain.
Ander Herrera and Juan Mata are both set to
leave as free agents if they cannot agree new contracts after 18 months of
Herrera has been in talks with PSG and is
also attracting interest from Arsenal, with United unwilling to more than
double his £80,000-a-week salary.
Mata has also been able to talk to foreign
clubs since the start of the year and is being linked with Barcelona.
United accept the inflated wage demands are
a reflection of what is happening throughout football, but insist the terms
must be fair to both sides.
They remain hopeful, however, that David de
Gea will sign a new contract despite having just one year left on his current
deal, and talks are now expected to continue into next season.
United are also open to letting Alexis
Sanchez leave after a dismal season-and-a-half at Old Trafford if that is
Solskjaer’s wish, although the player’s £500,000-a-week wages would be an obstacle
to finding another club.
In addition to the senior players set to be
offloaded, defenders Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Axel Tuanzebe — on loan at Fulham
and Aston Villa respectively — are also likely to go.
United have prioritised signing a
right-back and possibly two central midfielders — one defensive, one creative —
to fill the gaps, and may also bring in another winger.
Crystal Palace full-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka
is a prime target and the England Under-21 international will cost upwards of
The midfield options include Atletico
Madrid’s trio of Saul Niguel, Rodri and Thomas Partey, as well as Ivan Rakitic
of Barcelona and West Ham’s Declan Rice.
United would prefer to buy English players but accept it will be difficult to prise Jadon Sancho or Callum Hudson-Odoi away from Borussia Dortmund or Chelsea this summer if they do try to sign a winger.
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