With the January transfer window now in full swing, the anticipated activity at Old Trafford has, as yet, failed to materialise.
A number of players were expected to leave this month, by transfer or by loan, in an effort to reduce the size of what manager Ralf Rangnick admitted is a bloated squad.
Jesse Lingard, Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani, Anthony Martial, Donny van de Beek, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Dean Henderson, Amad Diallo, Anthony Elanga, Juan Mata and even Cristiano Ronaldo have been among those reported to be open, or keen, to be heading off for pastures new.
And while there has been some loan activity, with the likes of Ethan Laird moving from Swansea to Bournemouth and Axel Tuanzebe moving from Aston Villa to Napoli, nobody has left from the playing squad currently assembled and registered to play for United’s first team.
Admittedly, Pogba’s injury makes that a very difficult transfer to organise but the fact is that United have just 18 days left to try to sell both him and Lingard, or their contracts will simply run down and they will leave a free agents in June.
Anthony Martial’s departure is fraught with complications because of his high salary and transfer value. He has reportedly turned down the idea of a move to Newcastle and United have turned down an offer from Sevilla to pay half his salary, leaving him in limbo.
United desperately need reinforcements in this window, especially in the defensive midfield area, but if reports are true that they need to offload players from the wage bill and/or sell before they can buy, the slow start to the market makes that look unlikely.
Lingard is the most obvious choice to move on. It is hard to understand what is stopping that from taking place. Newcastle, West Ham, Everton and Spurs along with a smattering of overseas clubs have all been credited with an interest and Lingard himself recently caused controversy by posting a photo of himself wearing the West Ham shirt he graced so well during last season’s loan.
Given that he has only amassed 87 minutes of Premier League football this season – all from the bench and spread over eight games for an average of just under 11 minutes per game – Lingard is clearly not central to plans going forward. Surely even a couple of million is better than nothing for him, in fact, a free transfer is better than nothing as it gets him off the wage bill.
It is unclear whether the sale or release of the 29-year-old will be enough on its own to free up funds to strengthen the midfield or grab one of the exciting young strikers who are being hotly pursued this month. But it would certainly be a step in the right direction.
It also remains to be seen whether Ralf Rangnick fares better than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in moving players in the transfer market or whether he, like his predecessor, is little more than an onlooker in this regard whilst the likes of director of football, John Murtough, director of football negotiations, Matt Judge, new CEO Richard Arnold and majority shareholder Joel Glazer make all the important decisions.