With Jose Mourinho preparing to cull his Manchester United squad, TEAMtalk analyses which stars should go and who should stay.
Sell: The World Cup winner has only had a season at Old Trafford but few of the signs point to a likely improvement during his sophomore year in the Premier League.
Schweinsteiger featured in fewer than half of United’s league games, starting only 13 matches. Injury was the primary reason for his absence, but the Red Devils can’t say there were no red flags over the 31-year-old’s fitness prior to his arrival. Reliability is likely to continue to be a concern.
Even when Schweinsteiger was fit, his form was far from convincing. At the base of Louis van Gaal’s midfield, the veteran lacked the mobility and tenaciousness of Morgan Schneiderlin; the passing range of Michael Carrick; and the physical presence of Marouane Fellaini, though none of that trio fared a great deal better than Schweinsteiger. But in Jose Mourinho’s midfield, it is more difficult for the German than the others to see where he might fit into a midfield shaped by Jose Mourinho.
Considering Schweinsteiger, who has been linked with PSG and Besiktas, is reportedly earning double the amount earned by Carrick, Schneiderlin or Fellaini, it is hard to make a case for the resistance of any offer that may come in…
Stay: Schweinsteiger was signed not only for what he offers on the pitch, but also for the characteristics he can bring to the dressing room. The World Cup and Champions League winner can offer a winning mentality, the like of which has declined at Old Trafford in the post-Ferguson era.
The intelligent German can be an authoritative voice in a young squad lacking leaders and possesses an ambassadorial quality that United will always find a use for. However, there were reports of dissenting voices among team-mates over what they perceived as preferential treatment for Schweinsteiger last season, given how often he was allowed to return home to Germany.
Verdict: Sell. Unlikely to be used often by Mourinho – certainly not enough to justify his salary.
Stay: The Dutchman accumulated the second highest total of minutes last season, behind only Chris Smalling. Few forecasted that Blind would make one of the centre-back slots his own when he was shifted there early in the season by Van Gaal, but the manager saw enough to keep him there for the remainder of the season.
Blind was one of United’s best performers, which is all the more impressive in central defence when you consider his lack of pace or physical presence. The former Ajax star demonstrated his positional sense, timing in the tackle, organisational abilities and composure on the ball to enjoy a stellar season at the back.
We now know that Blind can perform as a central midfielder, centre-back or left-back, with such versatility and adaptability treasured by most managers.
Sell: Mourinho, though, is not one of those managers. The new United boss has spoken of his preference for specialists over multi-function players, which potentially spells bad news for Blind.
While an accomplished performer, the 26-year-old excels in none of his roles – positions for which Mourinho has grand plans for them all. The manahger wants a new centre-half, at least one more midfielder and Luke Shaw is fit again to return at left-back. This all leaves Blind on the bench at best.
Verdict: Keep. Despite Mourinho not being impressed by versatility, Blind is a useful player to retain in a squad which is likely to be smaller than Van Gaal’s.
Stay: Mata is almost universally popular at Old Trafford, among team-mates and fans. If the identity of Manchester United’s new manager was anyone but Mourinho, then the Spaniard’s future would not be up for discussion.
The playmaker contributed six goals (United’s third highest goalscorer) and a squad-best seven assists in the Premier League last season when he started more league games than any of his team-mates. He may not possess devastating pace, but the Spaniard offers creativity and an eye for goal lacking that is woefully lacking in the squad Mourinho inherited.
Sell: Mata has spent much of his time at United cutting in from the right flank – an area of the pitch Mourinho seeks to dominate with the type of pace Mata simply does not possess.
Mourinho sold Mata when Oscar became his first-choice No.10, and there is plenty of competition again for the role in the squad being built at Old Trafford. Wayne Rooney and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are Mata’s main competition, and given that one of that pair is Mourinho’s captain and the other a new recruit, then Mata may be out in the cold again.
Verdict: Keep. Mata deserves a crack at proving himself again to Mourinho and he is, at worst, is a useful option from the bench.
Keep: Rojo is an experienced defender who can play in the centre or on the left. In a squad that has been woefully short on senior defenders in the past two seasons, Rojo has usually been a steady and versatile presence.
The Argentina international has no shortage of suitors, with both Barcelona and Sevilla linked with the 26-year-old this summer.
Sell: Just because other clubs want him doesn’t mean Rojo is of much use to United.
As either a centre-back or a left-back, Rojo has failed to pin down a place in Van Gaal’s side. The manager chose to convert Blind from a midfielder to a central defender, rather than trust Rojo, while the former Sporting Lisbon star could not make the left-back spot his own when Luke Shaw was ruled out for the season.
Injuries have not helped, with Rojo appearing in only half the number of Premier League games since his arrival at United. But for a supposedly robust, no-nonsense defender, Rojo appears too delicate to thrive under Mourinho. You can get advice and tips on free bets here.
Verdict: Sell. Rojo hasn’t proved himself up to the job in the Premier League and that is unlikely to change under Mourinho, who has promising youngsters like Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Axel Tuanzebe to integrate into his squad.
Keep: The Dutchman had a miserable first season at Old Trafford, scoring just two goals and contributing only one assist, but he certainly would not be the first young foreign attacker to struggle while he adapts to the Premier League.
Depay showed some moments of promise in Europe and he certainly has the kind of pace and directness that Mourinho might appreciate. The manager may see it as a challenge to drag some form out of Depay, who seems to appreciate that he may be on borrowed time.
The 22-year-old has been putting in extra training during the off-season and spoke of rediscovering his PSV form, insisting: “The old Memphis, who beat every opponent, will soon be back again.”
Sell: Depay’s debut season was so bad that it will take a transformation of epic proportions to turn around his United career quickly enough for Mourinho.
Given the manager’s other options in attack, Depay would likely have to bide his time and wait for his opportunity. Is the winger capable of such patience?
Verdict: Keep. For now, at least. The Dutchman should be given the chance to demonstrate that he has readjusted his attitude and he may feel more at home in a United side more direct under Mourinho that it ever was during Van Gaal’s reign.