A changing of the guard at Manchester United this summer wouldn’t come out of the blue.
While last summer was quiet on entry and exit for a multitude of reasons, many of which related to the Covid-19 pandemic, 2019 has been busy as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has started its ‘cultural reboot’. This focused on unloading some players who were approaching or past the age of 30. Chris Smalling, Matteo Darmian and Alexis Sanchez were at the top of the release list.
Every now and then some sort of liquidation tends to take place at Old Trafford, with 2018 being a fallow year and summers such as 2014 and 2016 – when new managers put their feet under the table – seeing a lot of action.
Solskjaer will hardly feel the need to change too much at United if they get a second place and win the Europa League, but there are a few eye-catchers in his squad, many of whom are aging and in key positions.
Juan Mata is an obvious candidate for dismissal, given that his contract expires this summer when he turns 33. Injuries have taken their toll on the Spaniard this season, although many believe he still has enough to offer.
Eric Bailly will soon be 27, but it looks like United have to replace him and 32-year-old Nemanja Matic this summer as well.
The Ivorian defender is approaching the last year of his contract and, although United have started talks on a renewal, they could look to sell the former Villareal man, while gradually eliminating Matic.
There are a number of marginal players to the club which will surely not be taken into account when Solskjaer considers who to promote from above. Not all positions can get the attention they need in the transfer window and there is always a need for blood for young people.
Brandon Williams, Axel Tuanzebe along with others on loan like Diogo Dalot, Andreas Pereira and Tahith Chong are probably in the reserve category for good now, but United arguably have two more exciting prospects to call.
James garner and Teden Mengi are both on league loans at the moment and could easily step into fringe roles in United’s squad next season.
Garner, 20, quickly made himself a fan favorite at Nottingham Forest, picking up consistent playing time – and establishing a talent for scoring – which accelerated his development. Mengi is still just 18 and has played fewer games for Derby, but Solskjaer believed when the center-back’s loan was concluded in January that he would take giant strides.
Solskjaer said: “When you get to that age sometimes it’s not hard enough, it doesn’t prepare him enough for that physical striker, for example, that they might meet in the first team.
“Playing in the championship is a big challenge for Teden.
“It’ll do him good.” Wayne has been a top striker and I’m sure he’ll go out there and show him a few things himself.
An even more experienced boss than Solskjaer raves about Garner, with Chris Hughton de Forest reaping the rewards of United’s quick decision to change the midfielder’s loan club in January.
“We are very grateful to Manchester United for their services and we have a good relationship with them,” said Hughton.
“It’s hard to talk about next season because he’s not our player. The only thing I can say is we’re really happy with him. Not just because of his contribution, but because of the way he settled in. It can be difficult for a young boy.
It might just be a minor change of guard for Solskjaer to reintroduce Garner and Mengi – who both had samples of senior action – to the team’s first photo, but as local talents for complete the team, they don’t improve much.