Manchester United: Who Should Leave Old Trafford This Summer?
Tomasz Kuszczak left Manchester United earlier this week in an emergency loan move to Watford, and with his contract up at the end of the season, this is probably the last United supporters have seen of the Poland international.
He won't be the only one to exit Old Trafford in the summer. Plenty of United players have been linked with moves away from the club, but who should be moved on and who still has something to offer?
This is a game inspired by The Clash, "Should I Stay Or Should I Go?" dominated almost entirely by "Go."
The current squad is carrying around a bit of dead weight with some of the fringe players. This summer would be an excellent time to move on and make room for new signings or promising young players already at the club.
All of these players have made some form of contribution to United, some bigger than others. What they have done for the club will always be appreciated, but sometimes it is necessary to be realistic and acknowledge it may be best to part ways.
These five players have all been suggested as potential departures from Old Trafford, and almost certainly a few of these names will no longer be in the squad next season.
Who should stay? Who should go?
Go: Michael Owen
Michael Regan/Getty Images
Michael Owen continues to have a limited impact in his third season at Manchester United, and with injuries continuing to plague his career it might be best to cut him loose.
Owen was not the most popular of signings. Aside from once playing for archrivals Liverpool, United supporters were upset to see an aging striker signed on a free transfer after the club received £80 million from Real Madrid for Cristiano Ronaldo. Furthermore, he was given No. 7 as his squad number, a number many United fans consider sacred for the club.
Nevertheless, Owen had at least one moment that will long be remembered by the United faithful. His winning goal against Manchester City in the sixth minute of stoppage time was met by a roar from Old Trafford.
This early moment of glory in his United career never had a fair chance too be built upon. Owen has managed just 52 appearances in nearly three season, scoring 17 goals. Injuries have kept him out of the team for long periods of his time at Old Trafford.
Owen did, however, accomplish something with United that he never managed at Liverpool. Last season, he collected his first Premier League winner's medal.
Following that triumph, Owen made the bench for the Champions League Final, but it was assumed by many that he would leave with his two-year contract expiring at the end of the season. Instead, he signed a one-year extension keep him until June 2012.
It seems highly unlikely Sir Alex Ferguson will offer him another deal. Owen has only four appearances this season and has been in the treatment room since early November. There is no good reason to continue paying wages for a footballer who can so rarely play.
It may be time to look elsewhere.
Go: Ritchie De Laet
Ritchie De Laet joined Manchester United in January 2009, but failed to make a substantial impact in the squad during his three years with the club.
It seemed an unusual signing at the time. De Laet arrived for an undisclosed fee from Stoke City without ever making a senior appearance for the Potters.
That first season he played entirely for the reserves before making his senior debut against Hull City in the final game of the Premier League season, with the title already secured.
The following season, De Laet made just five appearances for the club, but was a regular selection in the reserves. He looked alright in his first-team opportunities, but nothing special. However, his performances in the reserves earned him recognition as the Denzil Haroun Reserve Player of the Year.
Loans consumed the remainder of his time at United, including stints at Sheffield United, Preston North End, Portsmouth and most recently Norwich City. He was not spectacular in his time away from the club, and after failing to contribute much due to injury, Norwich even canceled his loan deal. De Laet is currently back with the reserves.
Now 23 years old, it is probably best to let De Laet move on with his career to a club where he'll receive more first-team opportunities. His contract expires at the end of the season, and it would be beneficial for both the player and club to go their separate ways in June.
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Bébé is perhaps the most unusual signing in Manchester United's history, arriving from Vitória de Guimarães in an estimated £7.4 million transfer without Sir Alex Ferguson ever watching the player.
No one heard of Bébé prior to his move to Old Trafford. Former assistant manager Carlos Queiroz recommended Bébé, and apparently his word was more than enough for Ferguson. It is also rumored that Real Madrid and other top clubs were interested, much to the confusion of United supporters.
From the start, it was hard not to like Bébé. He was living the Cinderella story. Abandoned by his parents as a child, he grew up with his grandmother before being placed in a shelter. He played for a second division Portuguese side, where he earned a move to Vitória de Guimarães of the Portuguese Primeira Liga.
A few weeks later, after impressing in preseason, he signed for United.
There was a genuine enthusiasm among fans wanting to see him live the dream, but he failed to live up to his fee. Two goals in seven appearances was all he managed in his first season, spending most of his time with the reserves.
It was unfortunate to see him struggle in the first team, as he did seem to have the raw potential, but the coaching staff couldn't tap into his promise.
Bébé is a good athlete—big, quick and strong—and his technical ability is not as poor as some would have you believe. With some work, he could yet be a good player.
Unfortunately, he was in a new country where he didn't speak the language, and like many others, he failed to adapt. On top of that, he seemingly lack basic football knowledge. His decision-making was poor, and he often looked lost.
This season he was sent to Beşiktaş on loan, with an option for a £2 million permanent transfer. He has yet to appear for them after suffering an injury in preseason.
Bébé has the potential to have a decent career as a professional, but it is unlikely he will ever be good enough for United. The club now need to cut their losses and let Bébé move to a club where he will be able to succeed.
Go: Federico Macheda
Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Federico Macheda's future at Manchester United is still holding on tightly to a goal he scored nearly three years ago, and it may be time to cut him loose.
Macheda burst onto the scene was a stunning late effort against Aston Villa to secure three points for United, his strike arguably being one of the most important goals in the club's 2008-09 Premier League success.
Since that goal, however, his contributions have been limited to just five goals in 33 appearances.
He has the physique to thrive in the Premier League, but his development has been plagued by bad luck. When he is provided with opportunities, Macheda is often pushed out to the wings due to United's wealth of attacking options. He lacks the skills needed of a winger, but he doesn't get enough chances in his preferred role as a striker.
Macheda is also the victim of two detrimental loan moves. His move to Sampdoria last season was hardly beneficial, scoring just one goal in 16 appearances. Halfway through his loan move, the manager was sacked and Sampdoria were relegated at the end of the season.
Hardly the ideal environment for a developing young player.
After returning from loan, Macheda was mostly involved with the reserves, making just six first-team appearances and scoring a solitary goal. His confidence looked completely drained at times.
In January, he was loaned to Queens Park Rangers, but shortly after his arrival the manager was sacked. His new club signed a few experienced strikers in the transfer window, and it is unclear how many chances he'll get with the new manager.
It is concerning that his new loan move seems like a repeat of his time at Sampdoria—playing under a new manager at a club battling in the relegation zone.
The damage already done to Macheda's development and confidence may be too severe, and it would hardly be surprising if he was allowed to leave this summer.
Macheda appeared to have all the promise in the world after his goal against Aston Villa, but it has since been a run of poor luck, being at the wrong place and the wrong time.
With loan moves more conducive to developing a young player, Macheda may have already been heavily involved in the first team. It would be a shame to see such potential leave, but unless he shows signs of fulfilling his promise while at Loftus Road, his time may be up.
Stay: Dimitar Berbatov
Clive Rose/Getty Images
Dimitar Berbatov is the one player in this group who still has a future at Manchester United.
Berbatov is a fantastic striker, and it is shocking that he has not received more games this season. It is almost unfathomable that the club's top scorer last season is now stuck on the bench, but that is the situation Berbatov finds himself in.
He is now considered the fourth-choice striker for the club behind Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck.
Whether or not he should be higher up the pecking order is a different debate; the point is that he has plenty left to contribute. Berbatov was in fine form during the month of December, scoring six goals. Up until that point, his involvement had been limited, but he took his chances and showed why he still belongs at Old Trafford.
With the other three strikers either injured or in need of a break, Berbatov came into the squad and performed admirably. There is not a better fourth-choice striker anywhere in the world, and Berbatov maintained a good attitude despite his lack of playing time, continuing to push for more involvement.
Some think it is time to see Berbatov move on, but especially if Federico Macheda and Michael Owen leave this summer, the Bulgarian's ability and experience will still be required.
Sir Alex Ferguson already confirmed the club would activate a one-year extension clause in Berbatov's contract to keep him at the club until June 2013.
Berbatov could, and arguably should, be more involved in the team with his remarkable ability and undeniable class. As long as he continues with a positive attitude and keeps pushing for a bigger role, there is no reason any supporter wouldn't want a player of his talent in the squad.