As the Premier League season winds down and the highly anticipated summer transfer window opens, several Manchester United players are making last ditch efforts to solidify their future at Old Trafford. While the Red Devils failed to meet expectations by keeping true to manager Jose Mourinho’s “second season syndrome,” they’re still in contention to land a consolation trophy as FA Cup champions. However, that honor is simply not enough for The Special One or fans who are used to a conveyor belt of trophies under the Sir Alex Ferguson era.
Mourinho, never at loss for words, has long hinted at a major overhaul this summer for his side. A major overhaul that includes up to ten current players who could be starting for other clubs at the conclusion of the window. The goal of the summer transfer period is clear: secure the best talent that rivals the roster of our Big Six opponents and of course be crowned Premier League champions next spring. However, in an effort to return to familiar dominance fans and critics are used to seeing with United, I shudder that the Portuguese boss will in turn sell players who are worth more to this team than a specific dollar amount.
While the only individuals who ultimately control the player’s fates are Mourinho, the Glazer family and Ed Woodward, I’ve outlined five players who at all costs, shouldn’t be allowed to leave Old Trafford this summer. Is this definitive? Of course not. There is no particular ranking to this list, as each player mentioned brings a distinct level of talent that I would hate to see them display with another club.
David de Gea
What more can be said about the Spanish keeper, who was the only United player to be included in this year’s PFA’s Team of the Year. With 17 clean sheets in 34 domestic appearances to date, its no wonder Zinedine Zidane would be keen to offer de Gea a lucrative offer to player under him at Real Madrid next season. Even on his worst day, de Gea remains United’s knight in shining armor. It’s rare that you have two incredible keepers in a starting and back-up position, and Sergio Romero has proven he’s a worthy contender for the starting role should this be the summer de Gea finally makes his Manchester exit. However, Mourinho is better off letting Zidane fight Antonio Conte for Thibaut Courtois. David de Gea is on his way to rightfully becoming the first hundred million keeper and his forever home should be in Manchester.
The French Connection at United rivals the Messi-Suarez-Neymar team that once dominated at Barcelona, and that is in part to Anthony Martial. Martial’s third season as a Red Devil has arguably been his best yet, even while fighting an in-form Marcus Rashford for a starting role since the January signing of Alexis Sánchez. In recent weeks we’ve seen limited performances by the French international, and that absence has led the forward to consider a new home with either PSG or Juventus this summer. At 22 years old and in the prime of his career, can we blame him? According to The Independent, Martial wants to stay. Analyzing United’s success since Sánchez’s arrival, keeping Martial as a first-team member while benching his Chilean rival - at least until Sánchez plays at the level Mourinho paid for him - seems a fair option.
Every United fan remembers where they were when they witnessed Marcus Rashford’s fairytale Premier League debut. At 18 years old, the English superstar dazzled fans and shocked Arsenal by scoring twice and assisting with the third goal in a 3-2 home victory. While every match since then hasn’t been as iconic as that, Rashford has justly earned his first-team spot, and is an example of a successful Manchester academy alumni. Many liken Rashford as United’s franchise player, possibly the only one who can break Wayne Rooney’s all-time club scoring record of 250 goals. On a personal level, Rashford’s presence is reminiscent of a storied Manchester United tradition: training the best players at a young age to emerge into club legends (class of 1992, anyone?).
Back in 2014, Luke Shaw’s record-breaking £30 million transfer fee for a teenager meant United’s left-back woes had seen better days. Four years later, he remains Ashley Young’s understudy. Sure, injuries are partly to blame for his lack of time on the pitch. However, Mourinho hasn’t exactly been Shaw’s cheerleader when speaking with the press either. The left-back role isn’t a must improve position for United this summer; therefore, the logic behind selling Shaw for a reported £28 million is silly. He was pure class against Bournemouth yesterday, denying Callum Wilson an equalizer (even if his tackle was a clear penalty for the hosts).
A thorn in Mourinho’s side one week and a Manchester derby hero the following. Paul Pogba’s best years in Manchester are yet to come, and each performance on the pitch is a strong reminder to his manager the depth he contributes across all competitions. The French international bossed the midfield in last night’s win at Vitality Road, providing another world-class assist for Romelu Lukaku. As one of United’s most creative players, Pogba should on the contrary serve as the link to bringing another sought after transfer target (Antoine Griezmann, Paulo Dybala) to Old Trafford, just like he did with Lukaku.
For the next several months, top agents will forgo sleep in order to secure the most desired home for their client. Clubs will ultimately frustrate fans for buying and selling unnecessary talent. It’s been made clear we’ll see a much different looking Manchester United come August, but I trust the incoming athletes won’t come at the expense of the aforementioned players who have undoubtedly earned their role in Jose Mourinho’s starting XI.
Anyone on this list you wouldn’t be losing sleep over his exit? Should I have directed my analysis towards another player? Let’s argue in the comments.