‘You’re driftwood’ goes the song by indie band Travis, ‘hollow and of no use’. A pretty fitting summation of the band themselves, as it happens. You remember Travis, right? They were the band The Strokes arrived to save us from in 2001.
Manchester United, of course, have themselves been drifting for far too long, carrying too much deadwood of their own. Erik ten Hag, just like the New York band before him, has arrived to wash that mediocrity away. Here are seven Manchester United players he needs to immediately offload.
Jesse Lingard- Treated grossly unfairly by the club, it’s high time they did the right thing and granted him his release. It should have happened already.
Not allowing him an appearance from the bench to say his goodbyes at the end of last season was a final slap in the face for a player who has been at United since 2011 when he won the FA Youth Cup as a teenager. It was in direct opposition to the club’s famous family ethos and should not be repeated. I wish him well in the future.
Victor Lindelof- He’s just not good enough. He wasn’t good enough when Mourinho was here (I distinctly recall one particularly miserable night at Old Trafford where Arsenal turned him inside out and then back again), and he’s not good enough now. Not for Manchester United.
Lovely guy. Not good enough.
Alex Telles- See above. He just doesn’t meet the standards required. Hearsay had Erik ten Hag shaking his head in displeasure while watching his performance at Crystal Palace in the final game of last season, so all signs point to him being one for the first to be shown the door. Still, I’ll always cherish the memory of his sublime wonder goal in the Champions League against Villareal. No doubt he will too, as it is the only goal he has scored for the club.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka- I think everyone understands this one, and it looks as though its already on the cards. £50 millions represented a huge gamble, and it just hasn’t paid off. Unlike someone like, say, Patrice Evra, who initially struggled to adjust to the step up in class playing for Manchester United constitutes, before redoubling his efforts and coming back to be a bona fide club legend, Wan-Bissaka has just never got going.
He is an average defender but, crucially, is poor going forward in attack, something certain to doom him under ten Hag’s favoured style of play. United had been linked with Kieran Trippier to play at right back around the time they signed Wan-Bissaka. Trippier would have been a much better fit, as a local lad and as a player, and it is mouth-watering to think of what the new Dutch manager could have done with the attacking prowess of the England international.
Eric Bailly- Too injury prone. Having only signed an extension to his contract last April, when he pronounced his intention to stay injury free and pursued his dream of winning a Premier League title, the 28-year-old defender went on to have a nightmare campaign this past season (him and everybody else, to be fair), making just six starts all year.
Most people affiliated with the club now admit the extension as a terrible misstep, particularly after his hilarious ultimatum that he would leave if he wasn’t picked to play in the Europa League Final. He did go on to start, but one can only imagine what Sir Alex Ferguson would have said to a player making those demands when he was in charge, and what blood-stained remnants would remain of the player when he was. It would be like me demanding to be in Oasis, or else. Good riddance.
Raphael Varane- Not the colossus he was billed as when he came in from Real Madrid. He hasn’t been helped by the supporting cast, to be fair, but one gets the sneaking suspicion that, during his time in Spain, he was perhaps carried slightly by his centre back partner, Sergio Ramos. Granted, Harry Maguire is no prime-Sergio Ramos, but Varane has been caught at sea too many times for my liking, leaving nobody to guard the gates. At just 29 years old, he might get a stay of execution should the first centre back signed by Ten Hag be to replace Maguire rather than the Frenchman, but don’t be surprised if Varane is the first to take the fall.
Paul Pogba- Nobody was more thrilled than me when we resigned the Frenchman in 2016. Nobody is a bigger Eric Cantona fan than me, and I really believed that Pogba was going to be a new French catalyst to rocket us out of the doldrums. It hasn’t happened. His time at United can be described as patchy at best. Sure, he’s shown glimmers of his genius, made some breath-taking assists, occasionally looked like his old self, but not often enough. Pogba fits the bill of the guy who is unbeatable on his day, he just hasn’t had many ‘days’ in his time at United.
Rumours suggest too that he is one of the architects of the toxic atmosphere poisoning the locker room at the minute. Too much moaning. Too much fussing. In the end, I enjoyed watching Roy Keane get riled up about Pogba more than I enjoyed watching Pogba himself, and that says it all.
Others, like Phil Jones and Juan Mata will also be out the door, for one reason or another, so I haven’t included them on this list. Fred and Scott Mctominay get a stay of execution for now, but only because I see them as bit part players going forward, back up players and substitutes until the club has had enough transfer windows to adequately replenish the entire squad. Harry Maguire deserves one more chance to come good. Cristiano Ronaldo is a whole other article all on his own.
That’s it for now. Erik ten Hag may not have perfectly tousled hair (or any hair at all, in fact) or unspeakably cool Converse and tattered jeans, but his rock n roll revolution is finally here. Off loading these seven players should just be the start.
Now, let’s get down to business, and never mention Travis again.