With the January transfer window closed, Louis van Gaal now has six months to decide who does and who doesn’t have a long term future in his Manchester United squad, before it reopens in July.
Indeed, it’s been a season of transition at Old Trafford despite the Red Devils’ respectable standing of third in the Premier League table, with £150million worth of new players arriving alongside a new manager, a new philosophy and several new formations.
Resultantly however, there’s now plenty of deadwood piling around Old Trafford that appears to be surplus to requirements.
So, with that in mind, here’s FIVE players the 13-time Premier League champions should throw on the scrapheap come the summer.
The sheer presence of Ashley Young at Old Trafford is more than enough justification for Louis van Gaal to spend fortunes on another wide-man this summer, because the former Aston Villa star is way below Manchester United standard.
To give credit where it’s due, the one-time England man produced some impressive performances as an emergency wing-back earlier in the season, but that’s more a homage to van Gaal’s bizarre selection antics than Young’s ability as a footballer.
He’s scored just two Premier League goals in the last two-and-a-half terms at Carrington, hasn’t represented the Three Lions since 2013 and is widely considered as one of the most prolific, cynical and dramatic divers in English football.
Now 29 years of age with just a single season remaining on his contract, Young’s United tenure has surely run its course.
Juan Mata’s top-class quality remains undoubted, and the Spaniard’s return of eleven goals and seven assists in 35 Premier League appearances since moving to Manchester United last January is certainly nothing to be sniffed at.
But the former Chelsea star’s inclusion in United’s starting Xi tends to cause more problems than it solves, not least resulting in Wayne Rooney moving deeper into central midfield to accomodate for Mata’s preferred role of No.10.
The top heavy nature of the Red Devils’ squad is no secret and swapping the 26 year-old for a more defensive midfielder this summer, such as Sami Khedira or Kevin Strootman, would certainly balance it out somewhat.
Then again, United would likely make a significant loss on their original £37million investment if they sold Mata just 18 months later, and for that reason alone his Red Devils career could span past the summer.
Nick Powell was tipped for great things when Manchester United signed him from Crewe Alexandra back in summer 2012 but he’s since gone on to make just two league appearances for his parent club, spending the majority of his time struggling to convince amid loan spells with Wigan and Leicester City.
With the Latics for example, the midfielder-come-striker found just seven goals in 32 Championship appearances, whilst the Foxes called upon him on just three occasions this season before cancelling the England U21’s loan stay six months early.
Powell’s still just 20 years old and has plenty of football ahead of him, but after failing to imprint upon Sir Alex Ferguson’s, David Moyes’ or Louis van Gaal’s first team plans, his development might progress quicker at another club.
Even if Powell isn’t parted with on a permanent basis this summer, he desperately needs a loan move to a top flight club that will guarantee him regular football.
Regardless of his Man of the Match display against Burnley, Manchester United should be aiming a little higher than hap-hazard defender Chris Smalling.
There’s no doubting the 25 year-old’s credentials off the ball, particularly when it comes to the defensive basics of headers, interceptions, tackles and clearances, but he’s a real liability in possession and struggles to cope with the pressure in important matches – his red card against Manchester City earlier this term being a classic example.
Although Smalling is a decent enough member of the squad, Manchester United should be making room for more coveted defensive arrivals this summer, such as Marquinhos or Mats Hummels, who would truly lift the quality of the Red Devils’ starting Xi.
A controversial suggestion perhaps, considering Robin van Persie is Manchester United’s leading goalscorer in the league this season with ten goals from 23 appearances, bringing his total across all competitions for the Red Devils to an impressive 57 in 97.
But the Dutch assassin requires an incredibly unique kind of service to get the best out of him – particularly, pin-point accurate long passes from deep positions – which seems impossible for the Red Devils to produce in every game.
Likewise, the 31 year-old offers no physical presence at all in the lone front-man role, rendering the Red Devils worryingly undynamic going forward this season, and his long-term injury problems are well known.
It wouldn’t constitute the worst situation imaginable if RVP stayed on at Old Trafford past the summer. But inevitably declining as a top-class striker and set to enter the final year of his contract come July, United have certainly reached a crossroad regarding the former Arsenal star’s future.