Winter is coming. José Mourinho’s cold stare and stone heart is set to be unleashed on a failing Manchester United squad. The Portuguese will find the basis of a moderate team, although one shorn of almost any world-class talent, despite more than £250 million spent over the past three years. In the place of true quality comes a misfit collection of wasters, shirkers and frauds – or at least Marouane Fellaini, Wayne Rooney and Phil Jones. On the precipice of permanent decline, the club must move on and that surely means another round of change this summer. Old Trafford’s revolving exit calls for these 10 players …
Is Young one of the worst players to complete five seasons at the club? Certainly, he is one of the most mediocre. Young’s effort wins praise – fans and God, it seems, love a trier – although the former Aston Villa winger provides far too little output for his £110,000-per-week contract. Young’s first campaign at the club brought seven goals and a similar amount of assists – it was by far his most productive season in Manchester. In the four seasons that followed the totals read: 0/3, 2/1, 2/5 and 0/2 in Premier League and European competition. Or, for the £14 million fee, United has been rewarded with 11 goals and 18 assists – £1.3 million in fees and wages per goal created or scored. True, Young has a certain flexibility and has appeared in five different positions this season. It is both a pity and an inevitability that he has also been short of quality in each. Potential fee: £5 million | Wages off books: £5.7 million per season | Waste-of-space factor: 9/10.
The Belgian has become the poster-child for the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era. Acquired at a hugely inflated fee, for a reason that nobody understands, Fellaini has proven to hold only two qualities: his left and right elbows. The 29-year-old is a dreadful defensive midfielder – incompetent in the tackle, weak in the pass, and a cowardly bully prone to throwing the aforementioned pointy appendage. In more advance roles Fellaini’s usefulness boils down the a manager’s willingness to ‘go agricultural’. It is just not the United way. Fellaini is patently a standard below what has come to be expected at Old Trafford, and both player and club will benefit from moving the Belgian on. The player’s mooted transfer to AC Milan fell through last summer, but any bid into double-figured millions is likely to prove attractive as the club tries, once again, to move on from a disastrous three years. Potential fee: £12 million | Wages off the books: £4.2 million per season | Waste-of-space factor: 9/10.
The man, the myth, the legend. They say he is a physio’s best friend, but if a footballer never players, can he really exist? Jones had talent, once, although it is hard to recall when it was last fully applied in a United shirt. In more than five years with the club the Lancastrian has progressed little; still a player who features far too infrequently for reliable service – and is far too unreliable when he is actually fit to be pressed into a regular service. It is a paradox wrapped inside a frustration. If Jones was a horse he would be slated for the knacker’s-yard. In footballing terms that’s a transfer to a mid-ranked Premier League side, for a medium-sized fee. Jones may have signed a new five-year contract last summer, but all parties will be better off by moving on. Potential fee: £10 million | Wages off the books: £3.9 million per season | Waste-of-space factor: 7/10.
Once England’s golden teenager, the great white hope. Now, a washed-up striker a long way from the world’s élite. Rooney has made 32 appearances across all competitions this season, scoring 14 goals and providing four assists. It is a reasonable return in yet another injury-disrupted campaign. Yet, the former Evertonian has scored just three times against teams in the top half of the Premier League: Stoke City, Liverpool and Everton. Nine of Rooney’s goals have come against undeniably weak opposition: Club Brugge, Derby County, Ipswich Town, Newcastle United, Sunderland and Sheffield United. Moreover, it is not as if this pattern is a recent conception; Rooney’s goalscoring record per game has declined year-on-year for the past three campaigns. True, Rooney is both a marketing asset and a flexible player – both qualities that are now in decline. Rooney can no longer be considered élite at any level, let alone on the global stage. Indeed, Rooney is now neither the best striker, winger, number 10, nor midfielder at the club, while earning by the far the highest wages. Potential fee: £5-10 million | Wages off the books: £15.6 million per season | Waste-of-space factor: 7/10.
What to call a winger that cannot cross and a right-back who cannot defend? Valencia! The Ecuadorian is far from the player who provided 13 assists in the 2011/12 season. Then, Valencia’s golden age as it turns out, the Ecuadorian’s right-football crosses were frequently met by Rooney’s bald-pated headers. No longer. Valencia has shrunk into himself, neither confident enough to attack his opponent, nor skilful enough to whip in those crosses of old. Today the player is a utility full-back, whose crass lack of positioning often causes his team-mates trouble. It is a wonder that the 30-year-old is so popular with lame-duck manager Louis van Gaal. Then again, Valencia’s one talent is the safe five-yard-pass. Should be sold to a mid-ranking European club for a small-sized fee. Potential fee: £3.6 million | Wages off the books: £5.7 million per season | Waste-of-space factor: 7/10.
The Argentinian has suffered a disastrous season, albeit one largely unnoticed. Amid higher-profile failures, Rojo has almost gotten away with a stinker of a campaign. Rarely fit, rarely reliable, Rojo is neither United’s best left-back nor is he trustworthy in the centre. Injuries have, of course, hindered his progress, but there was always a suspicion that the player’s heart outweighs his true ability. Signed for some £16 million, United will do well to collect an eight-figure sum if the former Sporting player is sold on to a continental club during the summer. It is unknown whether Mourinho holds a soft-spot for the tough-tackling player, although the new manager is unlikely to respect Rojo’s lack of consistency. Potential fee: £8 million | Wages off the books: £3.6 million per season | Waste-of-space factor: 6/10.
The new Frank Lampard, or something like that. Powell came with the Crewe Alexandra youth product seal of authenticity. Sadly, the youngster’s lack of development means a move is almost certainly on the cards this summer. Powell has featured just nine times for the club over four seasons, including one of the most bizarre substitutions in recent memory – his entrance in place of Juan Mata with United losing at Wolfsburg in the Champions League last December. Powell has also suffered more than one failed loan spell, including a period at Leicester City in 2014 where he was sent back to United amid accusations of holding a poor attitude to training and time-keeping. Potential fee: £1 million | Wages off the books: £0.5 million per season | Waste-of-space factor: 6/10.
Once a Rolls-Royce player in the stock car race that is the Premier League. Carrick’s ease on the ball, positional sense and ability to recycle possession from defence to attack has long been under-rated by observers less studious in the subtler arts of the game. Still, time waits for no man and certainly no footballer. The autumn of Carrick’s career is closing in, and where the head may still work, the Geordie’s legs have gone. In midfield Carrick is too often swamped unless braced by younger more mobile legs. In defence Carrick is an error-per-game player. With the 34-year-old out of contract in the summer it appears likely that the former England international will leave Old Trafford after 10 seasons and more than 400 appearances. Potential fee: £0 million | Wages off the books: £4.2 million per season | Waste-of-space factor: 4/10.
Almost five years after making his début for the club Will Keane has recorded just three appearances in the first team. Once a talented youth team striker, Keane has suffered more than one unlucky injury in recent times. It has certainly hampered the 23-year-old’s professional development. Still, in more than 50 appearances on loan with Preston North End, Sheffield Wednesday and Queens Park Rangers, Keane has netted just five goals. The proficiency of youth has turned into the profligacy of a career now on the racks. Keane desperately needs to move on to a Championship or potentially even lower level club. Potential fee: £1 million | Wages off the books: £0.25 million per season | Waste-of-space factor: 3/10.
There’s no doubt that the Irishman holds some talent, although this has been a campaign of regression for a player who had seemingly made the breakthrough in Van Gaal’s first season at the club. McNair has featured in just nines game this year, across a range of positions. Even in a campaign where injuries to defenders has been a weekly occurrence the 20-year-old is no nearer to commanding a regular place. With United certain to spend on a central defender this summer McNair could well find himself on the sidelines next season. At a minimum a loan beckons, although the club could well choose to cash in. Potential fee: £3 million | Wages off the books: £1.3 million per season | Waste-of-space factor: 3/10.
Data: whoscored.com, ESPN, transfermarkt, totalsportek