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Which Manchester United defenders should be sold this summer?

Manchester United are obviously going to make some defensive signings this season, with the Mats Hummels, Aymeric Laporte, Nathaniel Clyne and Seamus Coleman rumours demonstrating where they are weakest. Of the seven senior defenders they have, we have a look at who should make way. No, not all of them.

It's complicated.
It's complicated.
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Phil Jones

Despite being the best defender of his generation, it’s impossible to be convinced by Jones. He had an impressive performance against Liverpool, but even then he marred it with such a reckless, red-inviting lunge on the wing that it was obvious he could never be trusted. And now he’s injured, again, at a crucial part in the season. That would be unlucky if it wasn’t for the problem that he’s always injured, and he’s always making daft mistakes. There are plenty of other defenders out there who are not always injured, and not always making daft mistakes. He hasn’t improved in midfield when he plays there, and shows no real grasp of positioning, which is essential for Louis van Gaal’s so-far boring philosophy. SELL HIM, IDEALLY TO LIVERPOOL

Chris Smalling

He’s played well for a few matches, and shown a marked degree of improvement in that period. Before then he appeared much like Jones, injury-prone on and off the field, and careless on it. He appears to have understood the requirements of playing under Van Gaal, and his attacking runs forward add bodies to United’s attack to add numbers when United are trying to break sides down. He’s still not good enough, but it would be unwise to chuck both him and Jones into the canal in the same season, so right now he seems the best option of the two. KEEP HIM, BUT STILL HAVE BUYER’S REMORSE.

Jonny Evans

A few years back Manchester United sold Gerard Pique. He struggled with high balls, and they had Jonny Evans, anyway. Evans learned his trade at left-back and formed an impressive partnership with Rio Ferdinand when Nemanja Vidic was injured, and vice versa. He had a calmness, authority and physicality that made him appear far better suited to the Premier League than Pique. Obviously, that is now clearly the wrong decision, but it wasn’t so easily demonstrated at the time. Evans is now the least convincing of the four senior centre-backs. He appears nervous and incompetent, a dreadful mix of lack of acceleration, poor passing and lack of confidence in defence. SELL HIM, IF NOT SEE IF BARCA WILL SWAP HIM FOR PIQUE

Marcos Rojo

He’s only played 22 games for Manchester United this season, and 19 in the league. He’s shown flashes of what Van Gaal saw of him in that game for Argentina against the Netherlands. He’s got pace, stands in the right place on the pitch, and isn’t noticeably soft on it. If he can play forty games a season then he seems like the most sensible option for any partnership with a new player. At 25 he’s the most experienced central defender (given Evans is being sold), and adept at left-back too. It’s still essential that he is not the best defender at United at the start of next season. KEEP HIM, BUY A PROPER DEFENDER TO PLAY WITH HIM THOUGH

Antonio Valencia

A man without a future at Manchester United. He does what Van Gaal wants from a right-back better than Rafael Da Silva does: he occupies a wide position and supports the right-winger in attack. But he can’t cross, is absurdly one-footed, makes poor decisions in attacking positions, is no longer showing he is explosively fast, and appears to no longer enjoy football. That’s fair enough, he had a terrible injury and also could have been deeply affected by the death of Chucho Benitez. His position is one of the most obvious that needs to be upgraded to improve United in both defence and attack. SEND HIM TO A GOOD HOME

Rafael Da Silva

On the cusp of achieving all that was needed of him in the last season under Alex Ferguson. He scored three goals, and made at least 40 appearances for the first time in his career. Still prone to the odd rash decision, but that had been significantly curbed and for the most part he was disciplined and effective going forward on the wing. He also was happy to kick scousers, a criminally ignored part of football under Ferguson in his later years. Under David Moyes, he was barracked and humiliated by Moyes and Phil Neville, and his form duly suffered. Now, the best players would redouble their efforts and prove their doubters wrong, but like most players at United in that era, their personalities were not strong enough, and they regressed. Rafael was no different. This season, he’s barely had a chance, but given we know Van Gaal wants boring players, generally, he would probably not have convinced him anyway. IF YOU LOVE SOMEONE SET THEM FREE

Luke Shaw

An adequate first season, and he slotted into United brilliantly by being injured all the time. Despite his apparent heft - perhaps due to some deeper reason as others have hinted, like eating a lot or something else - he’s sharp on the wings and should be an attacking threat. He needs to improve his crossing a great deal, especially given the woeful attempts from Ashley Young and Daley Blind to put balls into the box from the left wing. If Van Gaal decides he’d rather a more effective, older player, he could hardly argue though. It looks like he’ll get his chance though, and Rojo and Blind are reliable enough reserves. KEEP HIM, PUT HIM IN THE SAUNA

You can also read a similar appraisal of United’s goalkeepers here.