Can Manchester United really afford to lose Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard and Donny van de Beek this month?
Interim manager Ralf Rangnick has said in various press conferences that United’s first team squad is too big. This has led to players becoming unsettled due to a lack of game time.
Martial has already completed a loan move to Sevilla, Lingard is reportedly close to a deal with Newcastle (although recent reports suggest the deal has hit snags) and Van de Beek is closing in on a straight loan switch to Crystal Palace.
It is true that none of the three stars are regular first team starters. They have amassed just 370 minutes of Premier League football between them so far this season – the equivalent of just 1.37 games each.
The Frenchman and Dutchman will get game time and could come back rejuvenated and/or increase their transfer values. United will be able to recoup at least something for Lingard before his contract ends in June.
So what is the problem? Especially when we consider that Paul Pogba, another attacking midfielder, is back in training to supplement the ranks and Rangnick has indicated that Hannibal Mejbri will be promoted to the first team squad upon his return from the Africa Cup of Nations.
The case of Martial is probably the simplest. There should be plenty of cover left at Old Trafford, with Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Mason Greenwood, Anthony Elanga and, at a pinch, Pogba, all able to play left wing and Cristiano Ronaldo, Edinson Cavani, Rashford and Greenwood all able to play up top.
Amad is another option although he, too, is expected to be loaned out.
Many of the same group, plus Bruno Fernandes, Juan Mata and Hannibal cover the positions that Lingard would normally occupy.
But loaning Van de Beek seems the most risky because of his ability to play in a holding midifield role.
Generally considered to be more effective as an attacking midfielder, the 24-year-old himself has said he feels at his most confident playing as a number six.
There is some value to allowing the player Premier League game time elsewhere. But the fact is that United only have three other players covering that position – Scott McTominay, Fred and Nemanja Matic.
Injuries, suspensions or a loss of form to any two of those three would surely mean that the Dutchman would be needed.
Rangnick has said he has advised Van de Beek to stay and does not want him to leave. He is no doubt fully aware that it leaves United bare. However, if the club and player are both adamant that he makes the move, it is unclear whether the manager has the power to veto the deal.
It may be that a clause is inserted in any loan deal agreed that allows United to recall the star if needed, but this is not ideal as he will have been used to training at a different club under a different manager and so could find it difficult to simply slot back in.
From Manchester United’s footballing perspective, there seems to be little to gain by loaning Van de Beek out at this stage.