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Man United keep or dump: Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford all have uncertain futures

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Laurens: Man United's players just don't care (0:51)

Julien Laurens labels Manchester United's performance against Everton as "pathetic." (0:51)

Dear Richard Arnold and Joel Glazer: Another summer of change is approaching at your club, Manchester United, and with it, you hope, another period of introspection searching for the answer to this basic question: "How do we go back to being what we were on the pitch?"

We don't claim to have answers, we simply have suggestions based on our analysis of the club from the outside and what we've observed around the Premier League and the rest of Europe.

Richard, this is aimed primarily at you because right now, you're the freshest set of eyes at the club with any real power. You've taken over from your longtime friend Ed Woodward as CEO of the club, and early indications are that you will delegate more than he did, at least on the football side. This may be wise since your expertise lies on the commercial side, but it also makes it all the more important that the right decisions be made by those you put in charge.

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Woodward may have made mistakes -- and plenty of them -- but he was also a lightning rod for more than a decade. He took the flak when things went wrong (and they did go wrong ... often). If you're not going to be as involved as he is, there must be somebody who is accountable for the football side the way Woodward was. It can't just be the manager.

Look at those clubs that have been successful over the past decade, like Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Liverpool, Real Madrid and Manchester City. There is a blueprint to success which goes beyond money and signings. Some have had seemingly near-omnipotent, transformational managers (Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp are the obvious examples). Others have had a strong internal structure with clearly defined roles, plus experienced, capable people in those roles who could weather managerial changes or mistakes in the transfer window and correct things quickly.

Your next manager won't be of the caliber of Guardiola or Klopp -- at least not initially. (Heck, Klopp wasn't Klopp when he got to Liverpool). He won't have the gravitas or clout or connections from Day 1. You'll need to give him the support to do his job, always mindful that though the club comes first, the medium- and long-term goals must counterbalance short-term objectives.

Clubs that succeed often have a strong (to use an American term) "front office." By that we mean the people charged with coordinating scouting, recruitment, contracts, football decisions and the care of the first-team squad. Call them sporting directors, technical directors, directors of football, whatever -- they are critical roles.

John Murtough holds the role of "football director" and Darren Fletcher is your technical director. You know them well, too: Murtough has been at the club since 2014, while Fletcher was there for two decades as a youth-team player and senior pro. But they've only been in their current roles for a year or so. It would be wise to fully review their jobs, make sure they are properly defined and, even after just 12 months, evaluate the job they've done. We can all rattle off recruitment mistakes the club has made -- and for which Woodward mostly took the blame -- but you ought to know from the inside what their position was at the time, what calls they made correctly and which ones they got wrong.

We also want to underscore another key part of their roles that sometimes gets overlooked: the care of the players.

It's not lost on anyone that some of United's most important players -- Harry Maguire, Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood -- have had issues on and off the pitch over the past year. Part of the directors' jobs ought to be to stay on top of the club's stars, defuse issues before they arise, and ensure they're getting the care they need to stay happy and motivated. This task can't fall solely on the manager's shoulders. Maybe they did everything they could and the players' issues were beyond their control. Maybe they could have done things differently; you'll need to determine that. And determine to what degree they are to be part of the club's future.

We see reports linking you with various short-lists of managers -- including Julen Lopetegui, Mauricio Pochettino and Luis Enrique -- and now, reports indicate you've decided on Ajax boss Erik ten Hag. All are fine coaches, but none of them are dead certainties for success, which makes it all the more important they find the right structure and support from Fletcher and Murtough (or somebody else, if you replace them). All of them have worked at clubs with a strong front office/sporting director/structure in place.

Below you'll find our assessment of the squad. We considered (as you might) things like performance, contractual situation and age. We appreciate you have more information than we do, and also that much of this will necessarily be informed by the new manager and what his plans are. So take it with a grain of salt.

Best,

Mark and Gabriele

Jump to: Goalkeepers | Defenders | Midfielders | Forwards


GOALKEEPERS

David de Gea (31 years old, contract expires in 2023 with club option to extend for one more year)

MARCOTTI/OGDEN: He's on big wages and most clubs who could afford him are settled with their goalkeeping situation. Therefore, there's no reason to extend him in the very near future. Take your time and see what the new manager thinks. He may want somebody who is better with his feet, but you cross that bridge when you get to it.

Verdict: Keep, do not extend

Dean Henderson (25, 2025 with option to extend for one more year)

OGDEN: At this stage, he's either No. 1 or he goes. I don't see him accepting another loan move. Find somebody younger who can compete with De Gea in a year or two.

MARCOTTI: I don't think you're going to get value for him because he has hardly played this season. Presumably he doesn't want to sit on the bench and be the next Raymond van der Gouw, so he should have a loan market. Unless, of course, the new manager decides he likes him more than De Gea, in which case you keep him.

Verdict: Split (dump or loan)

Tom Heaton (35, 2023 with option to extend for one more year)

OGDEN: Solid and reliable, he's a good guy and a good backup.

Verdict: Keep

Lee Grant (39, 2022)

MARCOTTI: There is no reason why a club should ever have three goalkeepers in their 30s.

Verdict: Dump (free transfer)

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1:52

Michallik: Man United are getting worse with every game

Janusz Michallik speaks about Man United's performance in their 1-0 loss to Everton.

DEFENDERS

Raphael Varane (28 years old, contract expires in 2025 with option to extend for one more year)

MARCOTTI: You hope he stays fit, as there's unlikely to be a market for him anyway and he's only just arrived. He's the least of United's problems.

Verdict: Keep

Harry Maguire (29, 2025 with option to extend for one more year)

OGDEN: You can't move him on because nobody who could afford him will take him (thanks to that huge contract), so you hope the new coach can come in and get him back to the level he was at before. Or bring in somebody new, perhaps, though United have four or five big holes to fill and will need to prioritise. It's going to depend on the new boss.

Verdict: Keep, but do not extend his contract

Victor Lindelof (27, 2024 with option to extend for one more year)

MARCOTTI: You keep him because you can't transfer him and United have bigger problems.

Verdict: Keep, but do not extend his contract

Eric Bailly (27, 2024 with option to extend for one more year)

OGDEN: He wants to go and there's interest for him. His injury record is poor and he's not going to challenge for a starting spot even when fit. I think you can get maybe as much as £20 million in transfer fees.

Verdict: Dump

Phil Jones (30, 2023 with option to extend for one more year)

OGDEN: You have to start making statements and he can't be part of this squad next season. Maybe nobody will sign him for a transfer fee, and maybe he won't want to go on loan. So be it. But you obviously don't extend him.

Verdict: Dump or loan out

Luke Shaw (26, 2023 with option to extend for one more year)

MARCOTTI: There's no reason to extend him, because you still have the option for an extra season. Maybe left-back is a position that needs to be upgraded, but you're not going to fix everything in one summer.

Verdict: Keep, but do not extend his contract

Alex Telles (29, 2024 with option to extend for one more year)

OGDEN: He's a squad player and does his job. There's no reason to extend him -- see what the new manager says and whether he can compete with Shaw for a starting position.

Verdict: Keep

Aaron Wan-Bissaka (23, 2024 with option to extend for one more year)

OGDEN: I don't think he's good enough to start for this team. He's a good one-on-one defender, but that's it. You need to do more in the modern game and I can't see the new manager being happy with him in that role. I think you can get £20m in transfer fees here, maybe.

Verdict: Dump, if you can

Diogo Dalot (23, 2023 with option to extend for one more year)

MARCOTTI: I think Dalot is a decent back-up for a top team who can maybe grow into more. If you can move Wan-Bissaka on and bring in a starting right-back, then Dalot is a handy guy to have around, not least because he's versatile, too. At that point, you extend his deal, but again, that's assuming you can shift Wan-Bissaka. If you can't, maybe the better option is to transfer Dalot, get some cash in and upgrade the position.

Verdict: Keep and extend his contract

Axel Tuanzebe (24, 2023 with option to extend for one more year)

MARCOTTI/OGDEN: I think you need to be ruthless at this stage. He's been on loan most of his career, so it's time to either give him away or loan him out.

Verdict: Dump or loan out

Brandon Williams (21, 2024 with option to extend for one more year)

OGDEN/MARCOTTI: I don't think he'll make the grade at United, but he can be useful to someone in the Premier League. I think you can get a transfer fee around £12m.

Verdict: Dump

Teden Mengi (19, 2024 with option to extend for one more year)

OGDEN/MARCOTTI: He played quite a bit at Birmingham City, and he's very young. It's the classic case where he does preseason with United and unless the manager feels he's an asset for this season, it's best to loan him out again. It won't be difficult to find him a club.

Verdict: Loan out, unless new manager is impressed

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1:33

Can ten Hag succeed at Manchester United?

Craig Burley sees so many problems at Manchester United and isn't sure Erik ten Hag will be able to succeed there.


MIDFIELDERS

Scott McTominay (24 years old, contract expires in 2025 with option to extend for one more year)

MARCOTTI: I don't know what his ceiling is, but at a minimum he's a useful squad player. You're also not at a stage where you need to extend him.

Verdict: Keep, but do not extend his contract

Nemanja Matic (33, 2023)

OGDEN: You won't get anything for him at this point, so if he wants to be here, you keep him. He's obviously declining, but he brings experience to the dressing room.

Verdict: Keep, but do not extend his contract

Paul Pogba (29, 2022)

MARCOTTI: This one is entirely up in the air. He's out of contract, and you presume he wants to leave or he would have extended, since the club did offer him a new deal. But equally, he hasn't signed with anyone yet. If the new manager loves Pogba, if maybe Pogba doesn't get the offers he wants elsewhere, then you have a conversation with him about staying.

Verdict: This one's up to the new manager and Pogba himself

Fred (29, 2023 with option to extend for one more year)

OGDEN: He's been one of the few positives under Rangnick. They have the option, so you can wait to extend him and see how he does under the new contract. But he's unquestionably an asset right now.

Verdict: Keep, but do not extend his contract

Bruno Fernandes (27, 2026 with option to extend for one more year)

OGDEN: Bruno recently signed a new contract through 2026, with an additional 12-month option, but United didn't really need to extend right now. He had plenty of time remaining on his existing deal, and who knows if he'll fit in under the new manager? The decision smacks of panic: With Pogba likely leaving, United perhaps felt they had to look proactive by extending Bruno. But just as on so many occasions in the recent past, United have jumped too soon and locked a player into a long-term deal without any obvious strategy for the team.

MARCOTTI: I think we agree that United have done this needlessly, considering he had so long to run on his original deal.

Verdict: Well, they've already kept him!

Jesse Lingard (29, 2022)

MARCOTTI/OGDEN: No reason for him to stay and in any event, he's ready to go.

Verdict: Dump (free transfer)

Juan Mata (33, 2022)

MARCOTTI/OGDEN: We're not sure how he got a new deal last summer. He's a great guy, but it's time for him to move on. And I think he might welcome that.

Verdict: Dump (free transfer)

Donny van de Beek (24, 2025 with option to extend for one more year)

MARCOTTI/OGDEN: It's hard to see a way back for him in the current United, but hopefully it will be a different United with a new boss. You have to take guidance from the new manager here, and he's young enough that clubs will interested in him.

Verdict: Dump or loan out, unless the new manager wants to work with him

James Garner (21, 2024 with option to extend for one more year)

OGDEN: Apparently he's done very well on loan at Nottingham Forest in the Championship. Take him back as a squad player and see what he can do.

Verdict: Keep

Facundo Pellistri (20, 2025 with option to extend for one more year)

MARCOTTI: He's had his moments with Uruguay, less so with Alaves, but he's still very young. Give him time to grow somewhere else.

Verdict: Loan out

Andreas Pereira (26, 2023 with option to extend for one more year)

MARCOTTI/OGDEN: He has no future at United, it's incredible how long he has stuck around. If Flamengo or somebody else wants him, let him keep him on loan until the end of his deal.

Verdict: Loan out

Tahith Chong (22, 2022 with option to extend for one more year)

MARCOTTI/OGDEN: Let him go. It's over.

Verdict: Dump (free transfer)


FORWARDS

Marcus Rashford (23 years old, contract expires in 2023 with option to extend for one more year)

OGDEN: If I were a new coach coming in, I'd let him go and make a statement. Plus you could get a decent fee, and I'm not sure he wants to sign a new contract. I think he's worried about wasting his career. You don't want him to keep him for the wrong reasons (e.g. because he's local, because he's a nice guy or because he has commercial value).

MARCOTTI: Rashford is a talent. Whether he'll ever sustain a high level of performance is a different story, but the ability is there. I think you need to base this decision largely on the new manager. If the new manager feels he can't reach him or would rather be without him -- and he wants to leave -- sure, then you transfer. But you can't give up on him now.

Verdict: Keep, extend his deal and look to transfer

Anthony Martial (26, 2024 with option to extend for one more year)

MARCOTTI: Ideally you'd find him a new club, but United are already losing a couple of strikers, so they may end up keeping him just because of numbers. So much here will depend on what the new manager wants to do. Maybe the right coach can get more out of him.

OGDEN: United should have backed Jose Mourinho when he wanted to get rid of Martial in 2018. Four years on, he's still as infuriatingly inconsistent as ever, and he's not dazzling on loan at Sevilla either. But here's the problem: Cavani is going, Ronaldo is 37, Rashford is out of form and unhappy and Greenwood is suspended indefinitely, so United may have no option but to keep Martial because of the mess they're in with their attacking options.

Verdict: Keep, unless new manager feels strongly

Amad Diallo (19, 2025 with option to extend for one more year)

MARCOTTI/OGDEN: He cost a lot of money, so you need to give him time to grow. Not sure Rangers was the right loan move for him. But he should get another chance on loan somewhere.

Verdict: Loan out

Jadon Sancho (21, 2026 with option to extend for one more year)

MARCOTTI/OGDEN: He's progressing nicely.

Verdict: Keep

Anthony Elanga (19, 2026 with option to extend for one more year)

MARCOTTI/OGDEN: He's come on well this year. You keep him unless the new manager feels he can't give him the minutes, in which case you loan him out to keep developing.

Verdict: Keep

Mason Greenwood (20, 2025 with option to extend for one more year)

MARCOTTI/OGDEN: Obviously this one is out of anyone's hands. He's suspended and will remain suspended, at least until his case is resolved. Nothing you can do.

Verdict: Keep, pending the outcome of his case

Edinson Cavani (35, 2022)

MARCOTTI/OGDEN: He's made it clear he's ready to leave, so there's no sense in keeping him at this age and those wages.

Verdict: Dump (free transfer)

Cristiano Ronaldo (37, 2023 with option to extend for one more year)

MARCOTTI/OGDEN: Different rules have to apply to Cristiano. He's United's top goal scorer this season and arguably their best player. But you have to be guided by two things: what he wants to do and what the new manager wants to do. If the new manager comes up with a way of keeping him as a key figure in the squad and Cristiano is happy to stay, then he stays. If the new manager wants to go in a different direction and Cristiano wants to move on, then you move on.

The tricky thing, of course, is if they want different things, but here, you need to be grown-up and honest about it.

Moving elsewhere for Ronaldo would almost certainly involve a pay cut. Maybe he won't mind; maybe he'll want to go back to Sporting or whatever. Maybe he still wants to be at the very highest level. If you keep him, you need to construct the team around him to maximise his strengths and minimise the things that, at 37, he's not going to do as effectively.

Do you believe a new manager can come up with a plan to do that and also be successful? That's the really tough question that needs to be answered, and it's not one we can answer now.

Verdict: This one's down to the new manager and Ronaldo himself