Ryan: The summer transfer window has been officially open for three days, and Manchester United have already tied up deals for Ivory Coast centre-back Eric Bailly and veteran Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimović.
Borussia Dortmund attacking midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan is set to complete his switch to Old Trafford at any moment, and rumours persist over a potentially world record-breaking bid to bring Paul Pogba back to the club.
New United manager José Mourinho has certainly wasted no time in beginning to remodel the squad he inherited from Louis van Gaal, and it has been widely reported that, in addition to the above names, the Portuguse coach is keen to add another defender and possibly a winger to his ranks.
But to make way for all these incomings, there must also be some outgoings. Exactly how many players are to be sold remains to be seen.
Juan Mata — rather unsurprisingly given his history with Mourinho at Chelsea — is thought to be surplus to requirements, while Marcos Rojo and Matteo Darmian apparently face uncertain futures, with media reports linking both defenders to a move away from Old Trafford.
So what I want to discuss today, Jack, is how big of a cull do you feel is necessary?
Do you think it is important to retain a degree of continuity by keeping the vast majority of the current squad — regardless of underperformance? Or does Mourinho’s arrival strike you as the perfect opportunity to clear out any deadwood and start anew?
Jack: I don't think there is any great need to sell, and I think we should only be urgently attempting to do so if Mourinho feels that the unhappiness of a player would prove detrimental to the squad as a whole. Last season we were left relying on youth players a little too often, whereas now we could cope rather better if another injury crisis hits. Of course, United's current financial position is sufficiently healthy that there is no need for fundraising, and so I think we can afford to wait and see.
That said, there's also no point resisting selling someone who isn't going to feature regularly. Supposing someone came in and bid £30 million for Mata — a player we assume will spend most of next season on the bench — it would certainly make sense to sell. At his age, that would be an excellent deal for United, and holding out for more wouldn't be too clever. So, in short, I don't think a cull is at all necessary, but equally, we shouldn't be desperately clinging onto squad players.
Ryan: So, would you be of the opinion that those who failed to convince under van Gaal shouldn’t be judged too harshly for under-performing in an ill-suited system? And that the right thing to do would be to allow them a chance to impress under Mourinho?
There are obvious names that spring to mind here: some recent aquisitions such as Memphis Depay and Darmian; as well as some who have been around a little longer, like Phil Jones and Marouane Fellaini.
Marcos Rojo was largely attrocious towards the end of last season, but how much stock do we put in those performances, given that the team as a whole was below par?
Jack: I do think there are certain players that Mourinho should be more receptive to letting go. It seems fairly clear by now that Jones and Fellaini will never be good enough to establish themselves as regular first-teamers, and supposing someone came in and offered a reasonable sum, I imagine we'd be open to selling.
As for the youngsters, you're definitely right to suggest they deserve a second chance. Memphis is in the Adnan Januzaj bracket of 'talented underperformer,' and it seems to me to be no coincidence that these creative attackers struggled in such a rigid, dictatorial system that van Gaal imposed. I think Mourinho's a much more pragmatic coach, and I remain hopeful he'll be able to polish these very rough diamonds.
I think Rojo and Darmian occupy a kind of liminal space between these two categories: they're not entirely hopeless, and yet very unlikely to establish themselves as world class players. However, they can both reasonably aspire to competence — as exciting as that is — and because of the versatility they both provide, I wouldn't be looking to flog them this summer.
Ryan: Ok, so let’s finish up by putting ourselves into Mourinho’s Armani loafers for a moment.
We’ll assume that, in addition to Bailly, Ibrahimović and Mkhitaryan, we’ve also brought in an experienced centre-back, a dynamic central midfielder (*cough* Pogba), and a young winger.
We’ll also assume that we’ve received what we consider resonable offers for everyone in the squad. Who do you let go?
For me, it’d be Jones, Rojo, Fellaini, Mata, Sergio Romero and one of Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young. Valencia and Young both have their uses, but with the prospective incomings, would be reduced to very little game-time.
There have been rumours of possible moves away for Darmian and Daley Blind, but I’d like to see both retained. I think some United fans went a little bit over the top in their praise of Blind last season; he was good at times but he also had some truly awful games. But that’s not his fault, he’s not a centre-back. I’d keep him as a squad option to fill in at left-back or in midfield.
And Darmian, though limited in terms of attacking production, is a player who I feel could still develop into a viable option to start at right-back for us. And, like Blind, his versatility is an asset.
Jack: I definitely agree on Blind and Darmian. I would be happy to sell Jones, Fellaini, Valencia and Young, and the arrival of another centre-back would mean a reasonable offer for Rojo would be welcome. Mata is a player I think still has the quality to make a difference for United (albeit only in certain circumstances), but the arrival of a winger and dynamic midfielder would make it sensible to sell for the right price. I would also rather see Memphis and Januzaj (or the forgotten man Andreas Pereira) given game time than a veteran past their peak.
I don't think Mourinho will be averse to selling — history has shown that he is more than happy to work with a smaller squad. While I don't think it's absolutely imperative to go out and flog these players, I would certainly hope that their departures would pave the way for youthful experimentation — particularly when it comes to the Europa League.
Ryan: I agree on Mata, I included him on my list mainly because it seems an inevitability that he’ll be on his way this summer. As we discussed in a previous Great Red Debate, the Spaniard hasn’t quite fulfilled his potential at Old Trafford, but he’s still one of the best players in the current squad, and shouldn’t be discarded without an adequate replacement (which I expect Mkhitaryan to be).
Depay and Januzaj are frustrating figures, but I’d like to see them given another season to turn things around. And Perreira is long overdue a chance in the first-team.
The transfer window has only been open for a few days, so we can expect plenty more activity before it shuts. And as far as United are concerened, the window will more resemble a revolving door, with players moving in both directions.