Mourinho’s hit list: the who and the why

July 23, 2016 Tags: , Opinion 14 comments
featured image

Evolution is a part of life. Adapt, change or become obsolete. It is the gradual development of everything, including the natural change in a football squad. Manchester United was always heading this way once José Mourinho took charge at Old Trafford. The Portuguese has already begun moulding the squad in his own image. More is to come this summer.

As far as arrivals go the recreation of the world’s biggest football club is underway. Eric Bailly, Zlatan Ibrahimović and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are three high quality arrivals, and Paul Pogba – barring a disaster – seems set to join once his world record transfer from Juventus is completed.

Mourinho has already added quality and physicality to a squad in dire need of it. This is the Mourinho way. Many thought in the last two summers that Louis van Gaal’s signings would add a bit of dynamism, but it wasn’t to be. Now most of those players’ futures are unclear.

In 2016 the environment is very different at United, with the club finally flexing the financial muscle Ed Woodward bragged about two years ago. United is the most powerful commercial force in football, and Pogba’s signing, if completed, is not only what the squad needs, but a statement of intent.

That is part of the evolution that has taken place since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, although Mourinho must clean up the mess of the past three years, and strip out the remaining deadwood. It is no easy task to sell a player, but the new manager has enjoyed plenty of time to scout his new club, and appears to have known that he would become United’s manager long before it was officially announced.

Watching from the training pitch and not the stands will have offered José a fresh perspective on his squad. Not all will have a long-term future at the club. So who might be on the chopping block? Rant investigates…

Phil Jones

The English defender appears safe for the season, but that is by no means secure. Jones has made no progress since Ferguson’s departure; there is little evidence that he is deserves a career at Old Trafford. Recent media reports suggest that he could be Chris Smalling’s preferred partner under Mourinho, although Jones was not in the starting line-up against Wigan Athletic. Jones will likely survive the summer cut, but he needs a good pre-season if he going to impress enough to make the most of a career that has stalled.

Marcos Rojo

The Argentine should be gone, and stay gone –  and it has been widely reported that Mourinho has already cast him aside. A move on loan to Villarreal has been mooted – a series of reckless and inconsistent displays since joining the club from Sporting Lisbon have done him no favours. #RojoIsRed – but not for much longer it seems. Rojo is the most likely to depart this summer.

Memphis Depay

The Dutchman is one of the United’s more curious players. The prodigy that arrived from PSV Eindhoven early last summer had his confidence eradicated under Van Gaal. Memphis’ ability at free-kicks is now feeble, his confidence on the ball has all but gone. There are flashes of talent, but the player is in dire need of revitalisation. Mourinho could provide that.

It has been a difficult pre-season already. Mkhitaryan set up an excellent chance for Memphis to start pre-season strongly, but a push from a trailing Wigan defender resulted in the chance being missed. The United number seven will likely survive any summer cull, but his new manager does not allow room for passengers.

Memphis Depay

Juan Mata

The enigmatic Mourinho-Mata relationship has been one of the fascinating side stories of the Portuguese’s arrival. Quite how the new boss perceives his former Chelsea playmaker is open to interpretation. Mata is now a different player with a better defensive work rate, but that does not change everything in the Spaniard’s favour.

Mata can change his habits, but he cannot become quicker, more agile or stronger – the qualities that Mourinho demands from his attacking players. It’s hard to believe that Mata will not follow Rojo out of the Old Trafford exit, despite the positive noises Mourinho has made about the player. The real question is how much United can recoup of what was a club record purchase. Many supporters would be devastated at a favourite’s departure, but Mourinho has little room for sentiment.

Adnan Januzaj

Januzaj came to prominence under David Moyes – one of very few shining lights during a dark time for the club. Since then the Belgian has produced little, and concerns about application and attitude seem to ring true after a poor spell at Borussia Dortmund was mercifully cut short. Many fans do not want to see Januzaj go, but realistically he has promised much and produced little.

The Belgian could find a renaissance under Mourinho, though it is unclear how much of an opportunity he will have to do that. There’s interest from clubs at home and abroad, but Januzaj is one of the many younger players in the squad who will get a brief chance on tour while stars take a rest after summer tournaments.

"The recreation of the world’s biggest football club is underway. Mourinho has added quality and physicality to a squad in dire need of it. Eric Bailly, Zlatan Ibrahimović and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are three high quality arrivals."

Daley Blind

Blind was one of United’s better performers last season, mostly excelling in a central defensive role that showcased his ability as a multi-functional player. Yet, like Mata, the Dutchman does not fit the Mourinho archetype. That is a serious problem.

In his opening press conference Mourinho stated that he likes one or two multi-functional players in his squad, which offers Blind some hope. It would seem that the Dutchman is significantly down in the midfield pecking order though and will not feature regularly in the middle of defence or in Luke Shaw’s slot at left-back. An auction for Blind’s services may await, with a raft of Premier League clubs surely keen on his talents.

Ashley Young

The veteran winger’s future will be a point of interest, with the Englishman on a deal running through to 2018 with an option to extend it further. Young’s wages aren’t significant in contemporary terms at £110,000-per-week, but if he doesn’t command a regular role there is an incentive to remove the 31-year-old from the wage bill.

Young’s future may hinge on what decisions Mourinho makes on Januzaj, Memphis and Mata, who could all eat away at his opportunities to play. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Young retained though, as his high work rate, speed and ability on the counter-attack fits into what Mourinho typically wants from his attacking ranks.

Antonio Valencia

Antonio Valencia

It appears Valencia may be safe at United. The Ecuadorian captained United in the second half against Wigan, but will have to earn his future on tour. Valencia can play a similar role to Young, but his lack of versatility may play against him unless Mourinho uses the veteran at right-back as his predecessors did.

Valencia’s future is not confirmed either way, but it would be a surprise to see both Valencia and Young survive the cull in the medium term. Neither contributes much statistically or, as squad older players in the squad, true leaders.

Marouane Fellaini

In one of the bigger surprises, club whipping boy Fellaini is likely to stay for a fourth season at Old Trafford – his physicality and versatility enabling him to find a role under Mourinho. Fellaini’s methods are unpopular, but so are Mourinho’s, and perhaps the Belgian’s tactical discipline is what sealed the decision to retain him.

Fellaini has worked under two disastrous regimes at United, and perhaps Mourinho sees the potential for redemption in the Belgian that he seeks to gain for himself after an embarrassing finish to a second spell at Chelsea.

Bastian Schweinsteiger

The German star has spent his career dictating from midfield since moving from the right-wing under Van Gaal at Bayern Munich. Yet, he’s also spent it battling injuries. United has been no different.

Schweinsteiger enjoyed some wonderful moments controlling play in his early days at Old Trafford, but he there were also some shockers too – such as United’s disastrous loss at Arsenal last October. Logically, one of the older heads in central midfield could go – Schweinsteiger or Michael Carrick. Mourinho looks like he made that choice when extending Carrick’s contract for a further year. Yet, with a salary exceeding £200,000 per week, could the Red Devils find a willing suitor for the German captain?

Bastian Schweinsteiger

Paddy McNair/Tyler Blackett

McNair and Blackett are good young players, but neither has shown enough consistently to guarantee opportunities at Old Trafford. Blackett performed no better than average on loan at Celtic last season, while McNair failed to earn Van Gaal’s praise in his sophomore season. Blackett appears all but gone, certainly on loan. McNair is not too far behind, with another defensive signing likely to make it impossible for the Northern Irish international to make it into Mourinho’s plans.

James Wilson/Guillermo Varela

Varela has joined Eintracht Frankfurt on loan, and it appears Wilson is also heading out the door this summer. Both will need to impress on loan if there is any chance of returning to the first team squad. Despite Mourinho’s reputation opportunities will not be scarce for youngsters this season, but only if they make it into the elite bracket that the Portuguese demand. That isn’t very different from how Ferguson approached youth.

Beyond the youngsters there will be a few brutal departures this summer. Some fans’ favourites might go, while players for whom we once had high hopes might well be told they haven’t made the grade. It’s time to adapt or die United. Who’s going to evolve to survive?

14 comments

Indoril Nerevar - July 23, 2016 Reply

mou already stated recently that he wants to keep Mata

Shitbag - July 25, 2016 Reply

Not quite what he said, I don’t think. More that there was ‘a place’ for him if he did well. Certainly offered no guarantee.

Denton Davey - July 23, 2016 Reply

Jones, Rojo, Young, Fellaini,and AV25 don’t offer much – now or going forward. I’d jettison all five of them so that their salaries can be relocated into Zlatan/Pogba’s wallets.

Blind, Schneiderlin, Mata, Darmian, Herrera, and Schweini would all be quality back-ups in the inevitable event of injuries BUT do they want to warm-the-bench ? If so, then I’d keep all of them for this coming year and look to phase them out down-the-line. They would all be solid squaddies – they could “do a job” – but none will set the game alight.

Adnan, Lingard, Memphis, and Pereira have each got a lot to prove -although, perhaps, it’s unfair to lump Pereira in with the other three because he’s never really been given much of a chance.

With regard to McNair, Wilson, Blackett, and Varela, I think that only McNair has a chance to be the last-guy-on-the-bench because he would provide depth at cb, rb, as well as having experience as a holding midfielder, where he has played for Northern Ireland.

Frank Effiom - July 24, 2016 Reply

Absolutely spot on. All listed players dont deserve to wear our colors any more. No good manager will endure those passengers for they are inconsistent and will ruin the best of world class players.

Marco - July 24, 2016 Reply

I’d like to see Schneiderlin given more time. At Southampton, he bossed the midfield and turned in some superb performances. Philosophy man gets hold of him and he turns to shit. I’m not happy with Schweinsteiger. Goes on the sick for most of the season but turns out for Germany at the Euros. Makes me think that his heart really isn’t at the club. I don’t think Memphis is as good as he thinks he is either. It’s all very well being Jack the Lad in the Rolls and dressing up like a fashion icon but his performances on the field have been dire. Not good enough for the number 7, or the number 47 come to think of it unless he undergoes a radical transformation. Maureen needs to wield the axe if we wants a thin squad. As you say, we don’t need any passengers.

Denton Davey - July 24, 2016 Reply

There was a time in Feb/March when the statistics for “with”/”without” Morgan were astonishing – TheLads almost never lost when he was playing. So, yeah, he deserves a better chance than he was given by LvG.

If – and it now seems almost inevitable – UTD sign Pogba, then the midfield becomes over-crowded: PP would be an automatic choice but which two of Schneiderlin, Schweini, Blind, Herrera, Carrick AND Fosu-Mensah get game-time in a 4-3-3 ? In a 4-2-3-1, the situation would be even more interesting because it would be “6-into-1” for PP’s partner. [Notice that Fellaini isn’t in consideration !]

Marco - July 24, 2016 Reply

Ideally, you need cover in all positions but if we are to have a pared-down squad, we will need to pick carefully. I can’t see Carrick making a lot of starts despite his contract extension. Herrera maybe. FM is a hell of a prospect and I hope Jose sees him as the future. A lot of players these days are athletes who happen to play football, but FM looks like the real deal to me.

Schneiderlin looked thoroughly fed up with life under Van Gaal. His form dropped to the point where Deschamps didn’t pick him for France and he only got a spot because of injury. That should not happen to a player of his quality who is, at least in my opinion, a stronger and more skillful option than Matuidi. It’s all down to confidence and Schneiderlin clearly lost his.

I’ve never been a fan of Jones. The Duncan Edwards comparison was laughable. He’s clumsy, and his positional sense is awful. Injuries aside, how many times have we seen him dragged out of position by opposing forwards leaving Smalling exposed? Blind is a good player with a good brain. We haven’t seen the best of him thanks to Van Gaal playing him at centre-half instead of buying one last summer. Even so, Blind turned it a lot of creditable performances and deserves a place ahead of Schweinsteiger who I think will return to Germany. If the rumours are true, Bastian wasn’t exactly the most popular man in the dressing room. So, in answer to your question, it would be Schneiderlin. Fosu-Mensah, and Pogba as first choice with Blind as back-up. Herrera would have to make way.

Who knows what Maureen will do with Fellaini. Maybe Gollum will take him to Sunderland or he’ll go abroad, but he won’t be vying for the No.10 shirt. Moreover, Pogba may not be the last signing of the summer.

Denton Davey - July 24, 2016 Reply

” it would be Schneiderlin. Fosu-Mensah, and Pogba as first choice with Blind as back-up. Herrera would have to make way.”

I see it a bit differently – but not much differently.

To start the season – “all things being equal” and injuries not being an issue – then PP and Schneiderlin would team up with Blind (left-footedness) while Herrera and Carrick and Fosu-Mensah would be on the bench. But, things change and Blind’s role would probably be the one that is most likely to be under threat.

Ideally, to end the season, PP would be teamed with Fosu-Mensah and Schneiderlin would become the deep-lying defensive midfielder.

Thus, I see that Herrera and Carrick are likely to be squaddies/reserves/injury-replacements.

I haven’t heard any “rumours” about Schweini’s dressing-room disturbances but it might be the case that if he’s way-down in the pecking order that there might be a mutually-agreeable parting-of-the-ways. He might be a make-weight to finalize the deal for Pogba.

With regard to Blind, I think that he’s most valuable as a jack-of-all-trades and despite what Jo$e has said about “specialists” the season is long and injuries are almost inevitable. Having someone with Blind’s versatility would be a great insurance policy for next year.

If Fellaini stays at UTD then I can see that Jo$e might want to use him as a battering-ram for those situations in which TheLads are constantly “knocking-on-the-door”. I suppose that Fellaini would still command a 12million transfer fee and that for that price there would be takers.

The latest news is that Juve are still being coy about selling Pogba; I’d guess that it’s now about time that Mata gets-outta-jail and is used as a sweetener to seal-the-deal (unless Juve want someone like Schweini because Claudio Marchisio is still injured – or maybe even a cut-rate deal for Fellaini for the same reason. Basically, who knows !). I can’t see how Mata fits into Jo$e’sUTD, regardless of his skill; he’d be really well-suited to the slower pace of SerieA.

Finally, Jo$e’s UTD are thin in central defence – Jones/Rojo are just not good enough and should be moved along BUT Tuanzebe is too young for such a big step up from the reserves; McNair isn’t good enough; and I suppose that Darmian or Borthwick-Jackson could be enlisted to back-up Blind who would be backing-up Smalling/Bailly but, really, that’s not enough manpower in such a key position

In the next week or so, all will be revealed – or, maybe not. That uncertainty makes “silly season” so much fun.

Shitbag - July 25, 2016 Reply

Don’t see Fosu-Mensah playing in midfield due to the depth there. There’s far less competition for defensive positions.

Mike - July 25, 2016 Reply

I don’t see the point in moving anyone out while Rooney is in there stinkin’ up the joint.

Expecting sustained success with the fat scouse as as fixture in the starting 11 this year will be as successful as trying to win with him as a no 9 last year.

No matter who we buy 11 opposition players on the pitch will win out 7/10 times against 10 man utd players and one pub player waiting to play one cross field pass per game. (Alas that cross field pass will be talked about, as world class ; ) by the British press)

Utterly ridiculous how a whole nation can buy into such a collective delusion and embrace such crap.

subterranean steve - July 25, 2016 Reply

Mourinho prefers players who are ‘specialists’ in their position. I wonder how many of United’s current squad can be deemed to be specialists after enduring two seasons of van Gaal’s chopping and changing.

Mark - July 25, 2016 Reply

I for one really hope we don’t sign Pogba.
As brilliant as he is at football, we certainly don’t need another stupid haircut, headphone wearing, selfie taking egomaniac idiot….we’ve got plenty of them already.
I’d have Matic in a heartbeat over him….probably even Fletcher back.

Adam Joseph - August 2, 2016 Reply

Oh mark, that is not smart.

Rich - July 25, 2016 Reply

I think this article will be a lot more relevant in December. I think Mourinho will need a few more months with these players to see what exactly they can offer him. Woodward will then need some time to fish around for clubs able to meet wage demands. I’d actually be quite surprised to see more than three players leave; Fellaini, Keane, Varela and a few loan outs.

Add your comment