8 Players Whose Manchester United Careers Could Come to an End This Summer
Manchester United have seen a significant turnover in playing staff over the past couple of years, but there could and perhaps should be another big clear-out this summer.
What follows is a selection of players for whom it makes sense—either from the club's point of view or their own—to move on to pastures new. It is a list that contains established stars whose careers are winding down, unsuccessful purchases on whom United should cut their losses and younger players whose careers will be best served with a new challenge.
Let's start with a few who just missed being included here...
Memphis Depay has struggled in his first season in England. However, three key factors swing the balance in favour of keeping him for another season.
The first is about the speed of adaptation to life at United. Luke Shaw's superb form early this season was in stark contrast to his shaky first campaign at Old Trafford and should serve as an inspiration for Memphis.
The second is the level of talent he has shown in the moments when it has been working for him.
The third are the doubts that exist about Louis van Gaal's methods when dealing with creative, improvisational forwards. A new manager could get a very different tune out of Memphis.
Wayne Rooney's numbers appear to indicate he is in decline, but it seems unlikely the club will get rid of their captain this summer, and he can be a useful presence in the squad. He should lose his apparent guarantee of a first-team start every game, though.
Ashley Young has had an injury-hit season, and been a little out of favour even when fit, but the fact that he signed a new contract last summer seems to indicate he will be here when next season starts.
Let's start the ball rolling with the biggest name on this list.
Michael Carrick has been a fine servant to United. He is, at the time of writing, 23rd on the all-time appearance list, per Website of Dreams. Two more appearances will see him nudge ahead of Sammy McIlroy into 22nd place.
During that time, he has won five league titles, a League Cup and, of course, the UEFA Champions League and Club World Cup. He is one of United's most decorated players.
But all good things must come to an end.
At 34, Carrick's time in a red shirt should be just about up. Pace has never been a particular asset of his, but subjectively it has looked this season as though even the short bursts of running to close down space when an opponent has the ball have been a little more laboured.
It is perhaps telling that no announcement has yet been made on his future, given how close we are to season's end. It would be no surprise to see him play elsewhere in 2016/17.
Will Keane appeared to be getting his big chance. Injuries ahead of him in the pecking order saw him recalled from his loan spell at Preston North End, and given some first-team minutes.
Sadly, he went down injured moments later. In the weeks that followed, Marcus Rashford made himself United's starting centre-forward. With James Wilson to return to the mix, and the potential of further investment in new signings up front, there does not look to be a place for Keane at Old Trafford.
He is a popular figure at the club and will no doubt receive a lot of goodwill if he leaves.
Paddy McNair was a surprise call-up from the youth ranks into Van Gaal's first-team squad last season. This season, though, he has hardly been involved, playing just 312 minutes of league football spread over three starts and five substitute appearances.
When he has played, there has been little to show he is of the required standard to make it as a first-team regular at United. His place in the squad should probably go to another graduate from the youth set-up, and McNair should look to build his career as a regular starter at a lower level.
Phil Jones needed a good season. The end of the 2014/15 campaign had been so positive for the then-23-year-old. He and Chris Smalling had begun to build the kind of partnership Sir Alex Ferguson must have envisaged when he brought them both to the club.
What was abundantly clear, though, was that Jones had to remain injury-free for large parts of this season. Unfortunately, the opposite happened.
He has played the least minutes of league football of any season since he arrived at United. That would still be the case if he played every minute of every game left.
Jones looked a bright prospect when he was signed and has had plenty of good moments in a red shirt, but it is time for the club to cut their losses and allow him to move on. Gambling on his fitness, and gambling on his development that has been so hampered by his injuries, would seem an unnecessary risk.
On April 8, Simon Bajkowski of Manchester Evening News wrote:
Nick Powell's Manchester United career could be over after the attacker suffered a potentially season-ending injury.
The 22-year-old briefly featured for Louis van Gaal this season - notably coming on for Juan Mata in the critical Champions League defeat to Wolfsburg - but quickly fell back out of favour.
Out of contract at Old Trafford in summer, Powell's move to Championship promotion hopefuls Hull was a last chance to show what he can offer.
Injuries have returned to plague the player though, and manager Steve Bruce does not expect to have him available for selection again this season.
It seems hard to imagine Powell's United career—such as it has been—picking up again from here. He will surely be off in the summer.
Make no mistake, Marouane Fellaini can serve a useful function in certain games for United.
He has shown his utility in recent games, with goals against West Ham United and Everton in the FA Cup. However, United should look to upgrade on the Belgium international this summer. For everything he does well, there are counter points.
His frustrating tendency to give away cheap fouls when United are on the attack and his lack of cutting edge in terms of his passing in the final third are two key knocks against him.
Even at Wembley, a game in which he attracted a good deal of well-deserved praise, there was a moment when United were in attack and Fellaini had options ahead of him, but instead he turned and knocked the ball slowly back into midfield. That was an encapsulation of much of what is wrong with his play: too conservative, lacking in speed of thought and unsuited for the highest levels of the game.
It is time for him to go.
Marcos Rojo had a decent first season at United, especially when he featured at centre-back. This season, though, he has generally either been injured or playing in a left-back spot that does not appear to suit him.
The last few games have shown up his defensive frailties—he was very lucky not to concede a penalty against Riyad Mahrez, for example—and his attacking contribution is highly inconsistent.
Between his injuries, fluctuations in form and the presence of Luke Shaw and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson in the squad, there seems little reason to keep Rojo around, especially if United bring in another top-class option in the centre of defence.
This one is a little more complex. Perhaps if a new manager arrives, Adnan Januzaj could experience a United renaissance. However, if Van Gaal is still in charge, Januzaj should, for his own sake, find a new club.
It could not have been more clear this season that Van Gaal does not consider Januzaj a serious option. In a campaign crying out for invention and attacking impetus, the Belgium international has either been away on loan or sidelined.
His development, once promising enough that he inherited the No. 11 shirt from Ryan Giggs, has stalled abruptly under Van Gaal. There would seem little benefit in another season on the fringes of United's squad.
Advanced statistics per WhoScored.com.