Ranking Manchester Utd Players Most Likely to Be Sold or Loaned out in January
Manchester United's January transfer windows are generally quiet affairs. While the summers, of late, have been full of blockbuster mega-signings, January has been a time for stability. Juan Mata was the last high-profile mid-season arrival, and by the time this year's window closes, he will have been at the club for four years.
But there could be a little movement in the other direction this time out, particularly with a few younger players needing some game time.
Of course, there are some older players who might fancy a little more game time, too, so we shall start with a few long-shots before getting to the rankings proper.
Long Shot: Michael Carrick
It would have been no surprise if Michael Carrick had left United this past summer. Having added the FA Cup and Europa League to his collection in the last two seasons, the Red Devils' current club captain has won the lot. He received a well-earned testimonial earlier this year, and no one would have begrudged him taking on some kind of late-career new challenge.
Instead he stuck around at Old Trafford, though Jose Mourinho has hardly used him in anger. Other than a home win over Championship side Burton Albion in the Carabao Cup, Carrick has been absent from proceedings.
It seems pretty unlikely he will opt for a move in January, and certainly the squad benefits from his presence, but given how little playing time he has left in his career, it would not be a total shock if he did seek pastures new for his own sake.
A long shot but perhaps not impossible.
Long Shot: Daley Blind
This one is even less likely, in truth. Daley Blind might be near the top of the charts for a summer 2018 departure but probably offers a little too much to get rid of mid-season.
He has hardly been a first-team regular this season, starting just three of United's eight league games so far. Mourinho clearly sees Blind as a useful squad option, rather than a go-to guy, and latterly has opted for Ashley Young ahead of the Dutchman at left-back.
He has never used Blind in defensive midfield, a position in which he played a lot before his arrival at United. Were it not for his versatility and a pretty thin squad overall, he might cross from long shot to likely, but those two factors will probably keep him at the club for the next few months at least.
Long Shot: Luke Shaw
One of two things has to happen to Luke Shaw's Manchester United career. It has to work out or it has to end.
While a sale of Shaw in January seems completely impossible, there is some kind of logic in loaning him out until the end of the season—perhaps to a European club rather than a domestic rival—to allow him to continue his development somewhere.
He surely cannot spend another six months on the sidelines as a mostly unused substitute. Neither club nor player benefit from that. Hopefully what will actually happen is that he will stay at the club and rediscover the form that he showed consistently at Southampton and in patches at United. Indeed, Mourinho should be working overtime to make this happen.
However, if it does not, then surely the club and player will part ways sooner rather than later.
5. Matteo Darmian
The first player to feature on the list proper is Matteo Darmian. In truth, this is borderline long shot, too, given he can cover either full-back position, but his place in the squad at all has to be under scrutiny.
His performance at Anfield on October 14 was a vintage example of what Darmian's presence in United's back four costs the team. While his defensive duties were reasonably well-attended, his use of the ball was very poor. United's complete lack of ability to meaningfully impact Liverpool on the counter-attack was not entirely the Italian's fault, but he certainly did not help.
If Mourinho does not plan to rehabilitate Shaw, then he surely has to find a permanent solution to the left-back issue. If he does, Darmian could easily make way for a new signing. That this would come as no kind of shock were it to happen in January is why Darmian crosses from long shot to fifth in the actual rankings.
4. Scott McTominay
Scott McTominay's personal interests would probably be best served by going out on loan, but United's lack of numbers in the centre of midfield means he is just fourth on this list as the club might well need him to stick around.
The 20-year-old, who will be 21 by the time the window opens, has acquitted himself really well when called upon by the first team. He has never looked overawed by the big stage and carries himself in a manner that would have people suggesting he was the heir apparent to Carrick were Louis van Gaal still the manager. Mourinho seems less likely to gamble on a youngster.
A few months of regular Premier League action could do him the world of good, though, so a loan would not be that surprising.
3. Demetri Mitchel
Demetri Mitchell is another player who might just be a first-team regular by now were Van Gaal still holding the reins at United. As it is, he has continued his impressive performances in academy football but surely needs to make a step up now.
There would not seem to be any serious impediments to Mitchell getting a loan move between now and the end of the campaign. In the summer, it seemed possible he would be on the fringes of the first-team squad, but given that is not the case, a bottom-half Premier League club could get themselves a gem by taking a punt on him.
2. Axel Tuanzebe
Axel Tuanzebe is on the fringes of the first-team squad, but given Phil Jones, Eric Bailly, Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo and Victor Lindelof are all ahead of him in the centre-back pecking order, it is hard to see where he will get any game time.
Having been involved with the first team at the back end of last season and having been part of the squad so far this time out, he surely has enough experience of the travel and general lifestyle of a United player to be ready when the time is right.
Now he needs to play.
Indeed, were this list a list of players who most need to get a move, a loan move for Tuanzebe would sit in the top spot. The fact he did not go on loan in the summer is why he misses out on the No. 1 position here. It was perfectly logical then for him to move, yet did not happen, so the same lack of a move in January presumably remains a possibility.
1. Joe Riley
Joe Riley was thriving on loan at Sheffield United last season until injury derailed him and he returned to United. Having spent the first half of the season with the reserves, he needs a move. He will be 21 when the window opens and cannot get much more out of playing youth-level football.
Riley is highly rated, though at this point it does not seem impossible that a move could even be permanent, given Mourinho has not had him in the first-team picture.
Either way, though, he is probably the player in the squad most likely to make a January move.