Even if no academy stars are included, Manchester United will have a squad of 30 players for the forthcoming season unless more players are moved out or loaned on.
The Reds’ boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said yesterday that ‘We need a big squad’ and that ‘I don’t want to be too light in any position’, but 30 is a colossal number of players to keep happy and leaves no room for youngsters to come through.
The 30 currently on the books are De Gea, Henderson, Heaton, Grant, Wan-Bissaka, Dalot, Williams, Shaw, Telles, Lindelof, Bailly, Maguire, Varane, Tuanzebe, Jones, Matic, Pereira, Lingard, Mata, McTominay, Fred, Pogba, Van de Beek, Fernandes, Greenwood, Sancho, James, Rashford, Martial and Cavani.
The numbers are not sustainable and despite the manager’s rhetoric, he will have to make some tough decisions.
It would certainly be wise to keep one or two of the youngsters in the squad, which makes trimming down the senior ranks even more vital.
It is known that United are willing to let Diogo Dalot and Brandon Williams go out on loan, but that itself is curious as there is no cover for Aaron Wan-Bissaka at right back if they both move on to gain experience.
In other positions there is clearly an excess of players. Four senior goalkeepers seems unnecessary, for example. It was thought when Tom Heaton was brought into the ranks that it was paving the way for either David de Gea or Dean Henderson to move on, but neither of those prospects seems likely at this stage.
It is a similar story at centre back, with six seniors competing for two places. Reports have linked Axel Tuanzebe with a loan move to either Newcastle of Aston Villa, but that would still leave one or two players in excess of the required number. A loan for Phil Jones would probably represent good business.
Decisions will also surely need to be made about the likes of Andreas Pereira and Daniel James. There would be no shortage of suitors for either, on loan or on a permanent deal, if United are realistic about their prices.
Solskjaer has made positive noises about keeping Jesse Lingard at Old Trafford this season as well but with Bruno Fernandes being the first name on the teamsheet, Juan Mata having signed for another year, Paul Pogba looking likely to stay and Donny van de Beek desperate for game time in attacking midfield, there will not be enough games to keep all five happy in that number 8 to number 10 area.
Despite his excellent form for West Ham last term, Lingard does seem to be a logical choice to move on.
Of course, ambitious and confident players will want to stay and fight for their place at United and believe that they will be successful. But Solskjaer will have to be ruthless, as anything over a 26-man squad will surely be unmanageable as the season starts to develop.