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Categorizing Manchester United’s Potential Outgoings

We look at what United should do with it’s players likely to be short on playing time this season...

Manchester United Pre-Season Training Session Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images

After moving swiftly to lock up Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane before August began Manchester United have now shifted their focus on outgoings before making any more signings.

As always, the list of players needing to head out the door is quite long but there are plenty of different reasons for players to be leaving. Who’s future lies elsewhere? Who needs to jumpstart their career? Who needs more minutes for their development?

Let’s break it all down.

The Most Sellable Asset - (You have to sell him)

Jesse Lingard

Lingard has had a very rough past two years at Old Trafford but his loan spell at West Ham in the second half of 2021 reminded us that there’s a very good footballer in there.

I don’t care if he thinks he can get games here and wants to stay and fight for his place. Ole needs to sit him down and let him know exactly where he stands in the pecking order.

The things he’s good at - playing counter attacking football - United already have plenty of players who are also good at those things, whether it be Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes, Jadon Sancho, or even Dan James. They need someone who can play when there isn’t space in behind. That’s not Lingard.

Lingard’s game is much more suited to playing for a mid-table club than a top of the table club. He knows his future isn’t at Old Trafford. But that stint at West Ham had them seeing dollar signs. United slapped a £30 million price tag on Lingard that West Ham are balking at. United should do right by the player even if it means lowering that price to let him leave.

You Take What You Can Get and Hope It’s Not A Loan

Diogo Dalot

The match against Brentford made United fans finally realize that Dalot was exciting in 2018-19 not because he was good, but simply because he wasn’t Antonio Valencia or Ashley Young at right back. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has never been a fan of the Portuguese and he spent last season on loan at AC Milan.

Milan are interested in bringing him back but are currently balking at United’s £25 million price tag. They better be careful here. It took Milan a long time to be “convinced” by Dalot and his poor preseason isn’t helping matters, and a fluke goal against Everton doesn’t change that . Milan are not in the best financial situation right now and United have to be careful that they don’t walk away. A loan with an obligation to buy is an intriguing option.

Andreas Pereira

Pre-season Pirlo had a good game and United quickly stuck a £20 million price tag on this head. Pereira’s future is not at Old Trafford. If he doesn’t leave this summer he may not even be registered in United’s Premier League squad. Other teams know this and they certainly aren’t going to pay £20 million for what’s surplus to requirements.

Lazio reportedly have some interest in bringing him back but like most teams in Europe their financials are... United need to do what they can to make the financials work and find him a new permanent home. If there are no suitors, send him out on loan again.

The Chelsea Plan - Send em on loan and hope next year you get a fee

Axel Tuanzebe

Axel Tuanzebe is off to Aston Villa on a season long loan and it likely means we’ve seen the last of him at Old Trafford. Tuanzebe’s issue has never been defending - he’s really good at that - but playing with the ball at his feet. His timidness and lack of vertical passing really inhibits United when he’s on the pitch.

Tuanzebe will get games at Villa but he’s not even a sure fire starter. That’s something that would be a bit of a concern if United were really that heavily invested in his development. The reality is Tuanzebe turns 24 in November, his game should improve with game time but at this age he’s not going to get that much better that next season he’d just jump Maguire, Varane, and Lindelof in the pecking order? He could be a squad player but the reason he wanted to go on loan in the first place is because he wants to play. He’s not just going to accept that role again next season.

Tuanzebe is a Premier League centerback. He’s just probably not a Manchester United centerback. That’s ok. The hope here is that Tuanzebe impresses enough on loan that Villa want to make the signing permanent and United can collect a fee next year.

Brandon Williams

Similar to Diogo Dalot we’re now really seeing that our initial excitement over Brandon Williams was probably due to the fact that we were happy to not be watching Ashley Young. When Luke Shaw got hurt during Project Restart, we saw how drastic the drop-off in quality was between him and Williams.

Similar to Tuanzebe Williams is good at the defending aspects of the game, but not so good when it comes to the buildup and attacking aspects. At times last season when he played with the U23s (for match fitness) they’d play him at centerback!

There are plenty of teams in the Premier League who just want their defenders to defend, but teams at the top of the table need their defenders to get forward as well.

Even if Williams improves in that area on loan where does he fit in when he gets back? If United sign Kieran Trippier they’d have two fullbacks on each side, plus the young Ethan Laird knocking on the door.

Norwich are interested in taking Williams on loan and for Williams it would be nice to get there before the season starts. Thanks to the Alex Telles injury I think United will likely keep him until the end of the month as cover before sending him out at the deadline. His development and ability to crack the first team at a new club, is probably not the priority it once was.

Tuanzebe and Williams not making the grade at United is a good thing. United’s academy used to produce plenty of Premier League players but it’s been a dry well for the past few years. Getting back up to that standard will ensure that the best of the best to rise out of the academy are truly United standard.

Tahith Chong

Chong went on loan so quickly this summer you almost forgot that he’s still a United player. Chong was never really impressive when he got his first team opportunities a few years ago and was never really all that exciting away on loan last season. With the amount of depth United have on the wings the only chance he has of playing at Old Trafford is if he becomes a fullback, which I don’t see happening.

He’ll run out of his contract with a string of loans unless someone gives United a fee for him.

We Need Minutes. Wait - Are We Going On Loan?

Anthony Elanga

Elanga seemed nailed on for a loan this season after debuting late last season. But the injury to Marcus Rashford as well as a good preseason just may be causing a re-think of those plans.

Elanga is an exciting prospect but realistically what’s best for him? Rashford may be out until October but United still have Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial, Jadon Sancho, Edinson Cavani, Donny van de Beek, and Juan Mata who can play either up top or on the wings. Elanga has been impressive so far but not ‘undroppable impressive,’ and you can’t put too much stock in preseason performances so it’s unlikely he’d be getting into the team over any of those guys if they’re fit, even in the League Cup.

If United were in the Europa League then maybe this would be a different story but they’re not. There’s just not enough games for him, send him on loan.

James Garner

Garner played for the first team a few times in 2019-20 and (albeit with a small sample size) in terms of technical ability and IQ he immediately looked like he belonged. He just had one problem, he needed to grow.

Garner showed up this summer looking extremely bulked up. His successful loan spell at Nottingham Forest last season showed that he not only can handle the physicality of playing with men but he’s also above Championship level.

There’s a school of thought that he’s not quite ready and needs to go on loan to Premier League club this season. I completely see the argument for that but I’m not sure how much I agree with it.

Premier League clubs aren’t interested in developing players for other clubs. They’ll play you if you can help them win. Garner is already a better passer than Scott McTominay and Fred and if he’s good enough to handle the defensive duties of a bottom half side in the Premier League he should be good enough for Manchester United.

You can’t forget that it’s a long season. Garner may not be ready in August but he might be ready in November or December. If that’s the case is it worth sending him on loan for an entire season?

Just because you’re not playing in August or September doesn’t mean you’re not going to play all season. Fred didn’t start any of United’s first eight Premier League matches in 2019-20 and he ended up starting more games than any of United’s other midfielders. Nemanja Matic only started two games before Boxing Day and was their most important midfielder as the season went along. Injuries happen, form dips, things change.

Garner probably isn’t ready right now but he may not be a whole year off either. If he were going on loan in the Premier League it would have made sense for United to do that before pre-season ended. Does the fact that they haven’t mean something? Only time will tell.

The You Don’t Sell Him Full Stop

Paul Pogba

This one would have been different had Leo Messi not joined PSG and completely changed their financial picture. They’re certainly not coming for Pogba this summer regardless of who they sell now which means no one is coming for him.

That doesn’t matter, even if PSG did come with a £40-£50m offer United should simply say no. They already need a defensive midfielder. If they sold Pogba they would need a defensive midfielder and a replacement for Pogba. £40-£50m isn’t enough money for that.

Meanwhile, no one is really lining up to meet Pogba’s wage demands. He’s spent the better part of the last two seasons injured and he’s at an age where if you get injured three years in a row, that’s usually a sign that they’ll keep coming. If he wants the money that his agent is demanding, he’s going to have to stay fit this season and perform for United. If Pogba is performing at that level this season, United will be REALLY good.

As for letting him ‘leave on a free.’ You can’t worry about that. A year is a LONG time and we have no idea how the landscape will change. Just a few weeks ago we thought everyone and their mother would be in on Erling Haaland next season. Now Barcelona have no money, Real Madrid aren’t that far behind them, PSG just landed Messi, and Chelsea have brought in Romelu Lukaku. Harry Kane could be off to Manchester City and United could have a free run.

It all changes that quickly, so assuming that the status quo will be the same and PSG will still be willing to throw the bank at Pogba next season is naive. There’s every chance United will be the ones that can offer him the most next year. There’s every chance this team clicks and Pogba wants to stay. You gain the most if you let the situation play out.

I’m not going anywhere

Phil Jones

“You can lead a horse to water...”

Jones only “recovered” from a long term knee injury and began training recently. He hasn’t played a match since January 2020. Aside from having an extremely cushy gig of being paid £4 million a year to work out and have fewer responsibilities than Lee Grant, no one is interested in bringing in a 29 year old who hasn’t played in nearly two years.

If Jones is going to reserrect his career, his only chance will be to re-gain some match fitness in either a League Cup match or U23 matches this fall in hopes that maybe someone will take him on loan in January and maybe make it a permanent deal next summer.

United would (and sources have confirmed to The Busby Babe they have offered him for free to various clubs) let Jones leave in a heartbeat. But you can’t do that if no one is willing to take him.

Not Yet

Hannibal Mejbri

The 18 year old who made his first team debut in May and has now won three senior caps for Tunisia showed plenty of signs last season that he has out grown the U23 level. However, he also showed at the U23 level that he has plenty more to learn.

I’m not sure I see Mejbri going on loan this season. I see the plan for him being somewhere along the lines of what Garner, Chong, and Angel Gomes were in 2019-20. He’ll train with the first team, he’ll make 4-5 appearances in cup matches while also playing another year with the U23s, before going out on loan next season. He’s an exciting player, but there’s no need to rush.