According to a recent article by ESPN, up to 10 senior squad members could be sold this summer and have, effectively, been made available for sale.
It seems unlikely in our view, although not impossible, that either Alex Telles or Anthony Martial will be sold this summer as ESPN suggest. However, there are names that are missing from the list that, arguably, could and should also be included if the right deal were to come along.
Rumours have died down of late, but it remains the case that United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer stated last season that the pair would not share duties again this term and Heaton’s arrival is surely an indication that his opinion hasn’t changed.
Another player who could leave is Nemanja Matic. United are reportedly desperate to sign a specialist holding midfielder so that they can change to a 4-3-3 formation and do without the double pivot of Scott McTominay and Fred.
Should such a player be acquired, it would push Matic even further back in the pecking order and at 33 years of age he may prefer to move on, with a third reunion with José Mourinho at Roma one mooted option.
Eric Bailly, who like Matic has recently signed a contract extension, could also be sold. With Varane’s arrival he will now likely be fourth choice centre back and at 27 years of age, his career is starting to pass him by. Whilst Tuanzebe is on ESPN’s list, arguably Bailly is the more logical sale at this stage with the younger man likelier to benefit from a loan move.
This brings the full list of possible sales to 13. In many cases, though, salaries will provide a major stumbling block to any potential move.
United have in recent years tended to give players three year or more contract extensions to protect their value. But this tactic has and will backfire badly if that salary level is one that buying clubs cannot match.
This is arguably the situation in many of the thirteen cases listed. United could, as they did with Alexis Sanchez and Wayne Rooney, buy out the rest of the contract to offload the player or offer some sort of settlement. But this in turn reduces profit on the sale.
The club’s negotiators have also been accused of being unrealistic in the asking price they have set for a number of players, even on loan deals. Jesse Lingard and Diogo Dalot for example are wanted by a number of clubs but the fees demanded are proving to be prohibitive.
There is therefore a lot for United to sort out to trim down the squad in time for the new season and to leave time to use the released funds to buy one or two more reinforcements. A lot more pragmatism and some tough decisions will need to be made to avoid carrying a massively overpopulated senior group through the 2021/22 campaign.