29th April 2016. By Karl Matchett.
Another reasonably disappointing season is fast coming to a close for Manchester United, once perennial title winners but now busy establishing themselves as one of the several clubs on the outside of the top four looking in.
The Old Trafford team could still end up with the consolation prize of winning the FA Cup, a fine return for any team in any campaign, but in truth their path to the final was rather straight-forward and the final itself is unlikely to be a classic, paired up as they are against Crystal Palace. Meanwhile, United fell out of Europe at the first, embarrassingly low hurdle, then were knocked out of the second tier of continental competition by their biggest rivals Liverpool and, barring a collapse from Arsenal or Manchester City, won't finish higher than fifth in the Premier League this season.
The Red Devils have work to do over summer, which could include replacing the manager, but must include upgrading key parts of the squad. To do that they'll have to offload some, and we've earmarked four who need to depart the scene regardless of who sits in the dugout come August.
The Belgian midfielder is a millstone around United's already bent, if not outright broken, neck. Ungainly, overly physical and with no outstanding technical characteristics, Marouane Fellaini is most effective playing just off the striker-yet forces the team to be sluggish, predictable and ugly in their play when he occupies the role.
He's far below the level of a true central midfielder required and, at aged 28, he simply isn't going anywhere with his performance level to suggest he'll suddenly step up either his consistency or his tactical acumen.
Fellaini has to go, for any kind of fee, allowing United to either buy a true No. 10 playmaker if that's the system they want to use or else bring in a more capable central option to compete with the current occupants.
For several seasons there has been a big expectation that Will Keane would eventually get his chance at Old Trafford and have the self-confidence and ability to grasp the opportunity.
It simply hasn't happened.
A reliable goalscorer with the youth teams and a presence in the penalty area, Keane has had a largely terrible time of things in senior football this season: one goal in 20 games in the Championship with Preston North End, and a groin injury which has prevented him from participating with United after his return.
He's 23 now, turning 24 in summer, and that's simply far too old to be messing about between loan spells and under-21 team football. Keane needs to drop a division, get himself playing regularly and work his way back up to the Premier League, if he indeed does show he has the capacity to do so. Many who have shone in the youth teams of top clubs down the years simply fail to adapt when it becomes time to move into the professional ranks.
The same applies to 23-year old goalkeeper Sam Johnstone, who displayed great ability in pre-season almost a year ago but who has done no more in competitive matches than sit on the bench half a dozen times.
Under-utilised and not as appreciated at Manchester United as he should be, Ander Herrera was briefly a star at Athletic Club but has been moulded out of the role he begun to flourish in at the Basque club during his time in England.
Whether he opts to return to Spain or try his luck elsewhere in the Premier League, Herrera is a gifted player in possession who can dictate the tempo of the team, open up opposition defences and get himself into good supporting positions in the final third. He's not a player who should be asked to be combative centrally for two games, then play as a higher outlet ball, then be left on the bench for three weeks running-there has been no consistency to his game because there has been no consistency to his use.
Louis van Gaal cannot manage him to get the best from him and it's probable he wouldn't be an ideal fit for Jose Mourinho either, should the Portuguese boss get the nod to replace the Dutchman in summer.
Get out now and Ander can find a side to display his true worth in.
Four players Manchester United must sell in summer, regardless of who is manager
29th April 2016. By Karl Matchett.