With Louis Van Gaal due to begin his work at United tomorrow, the future of a number of players in the current squad would likely be rather unsure. A criticism often thrown in United’s direction last season was that the squad had too much “deadwood”, the players who make up this contingent seems to be open for debate but there are a few usual suspects.
Tom Cleverley splits opinion within the United faithful, some fans see him as a hard work, tidy midfielder with a bright future at the club. Other fans see him as a starlet who has never fulfilled his potential and is more of a liability than an asset. My view lies firmly in the latter camp.
Last season, Cleverley complained that he was made a “scapegoat” by United fans, who he felt, were criticising him unfairly in the midst of a difficult season. In my opinion, he is rarely criticised without substance. This is a player who was once labelled as the future of United’s midfield, a talent rising through the youth ranks destined for big things when in actual fact he has never been anything more than grossly underwhelming in a United shirt.
I understand that he works very hard, is eager to have the ball at his feet and loves the club but that simply isn’t enough to be a regular at Manchester United. He gives the ball away too often, is weak in the tackle and provides no spark whatsoever. Some fans feel he needs another chance but he has had his chances and never capitalised on them.
My belief is that Tom should move on to pastures new. Roberto Martinez is reportedly interested in Cleverley joining his Everton side, I think this would be an opportunity too good for United and Cleverley to turn down. With Ander Herrera’s arrival and the likely arrival of another central midfielder, I think Tom’s time is up. I have no problem with him wearing a United shirt, as long as it’s as a fan.
The next fringe player divides opinion even more than Tom Cleverley, our Mexican front man Chicharito Hernandez. I have previously written an article on how I think, despite his good attitude and commitment, his time at United was up. My belief that this is the case is even stronger now. Despite a couple of promising seasons early in his United career, the decline in “the little pea” has been significant. His contribution, when he gets the chance to play, is littered with poor touches and glaring misses. People argue that this is due to lack of game time, rubbish.
The players train hard every week and have plenty of time to sharpen their game before playing and if Hernandez possessed the lethal or natural finishing ability some people level at him, then he wouldn’t miss half the chances he does. The simple fact is, as with a few others at the club, he simply isn’t good enough to be in United’s starting eleven and he doesn’t seem happy with his role as a squad player. To me, this points to only one outcome, his eventual departure from the club. There are a number of clubs across England and Europe who would take the diminutive Mexican, I think it is time for United to cash in before his reputation fades any further.
The future of Danny Welbeck plummeted in to uncertainty last season as he told the club of his desire to move elsewhere. Similarly to Cleverley and Hernandez, Danny divides opinion amongst us fans. He, like Cleverley, is a youth team lad and a local one at that. He loves United and works seriously hard to further his career, some would argue that hard work will only take you so far though.
Welbeck has regularly been criticised for his goal return, something which is essential if you want to lay claim to a regular place as a front man. However, he has often been shipped out wide by previous managers Sir Alex Ferguson and David Moyes thus limiting his ability to develop that prolific streak.
It is undeniable though, that he has been wasteful with great opportunities in big games. I think the doubt’s over Welbeck’s future that arose last season were largely as a result of the disillusionment so many of the squad were feeling under the management team, I have no doubt that Danny would be keen to stay now and look to enhance his reputation at the club. The decision is whether he warrants this time to establish himself further. Personally, I think Welbeck will stay and I am happy for that to be the case. Despite this, there can be no doubting the fact that significant improvement is needed if Danny is to get the game time he desires at United and to build a long term future at the club.
Anderson no longer divides opinion quite so much, some fans have a bit of sentiment for the rotund Brazilian but it is largely based on humour or sympathy. When he joined the club there were whispers of “the new Ronaldinho”, the reality could scarcely be further from the truth. Anderson put in some high profile performances early in his career, notably against Liverpool and Arsenal, his penalty in the 2008 Champions League final was also lauded by Sir Alex Ferguson.
Since then, it has been nothing but limited ups and prolonged downs for Anderson at United. There is no doubt that he has a good eye for a pass and his natural instinct is to drive forward, but he is too careless and doesn’t maintain the high standards required to play at this club. His loan spell at Fiorentina last season wasn’t a shining endorsement either, as he struggled to get game time and made little influence at all.
I won’t deny that he has had some bad luck with injuries, but he also doesn’t look after himself well enough, he often stands out as looking unfit compared to the rest of the squad and perhaps he possesses a bit too much of that fun loving Brazilian attitude. I do have a soft spot for Anderson, but he isn’t good enough to be a United player and has been at the club for long enough to turn around his fortunes. The time has come for him to move on and hopefully he will establish himself elsewhere.
Nani is a player I have always had time for, but the amount of time I have had for him recently is considerably lower than it once was. The Portuguese winger possess an abundance of talent, skill and pace but chooses to use them extremely sparingly. He has scored some screamers in his time and produced some moments of genius, but he has never established himself the way someone with his talent should have.
It could be argued that he lacks the personal grit and determination to attain his potential status and that is something only Nani himself can resolve. He certainly strikes me as the sort of player that needs to be “looked after” by managers and team mates. Given his attributes and similarities to Cristiano Ronaldo, I feel Nani will always be in the shadow of his former team mate whilst at United. The time has probably come for Nani to move on and I fully expect that he would be a star if he were to move to the likes of Spain or France.
Ashley Young was once hailed by Martin O’Neill as being in the same bracket as Lionel Messi. It would seem we bought a different Ashley Young. After joining from Aston Villa, Young made a good start to his United career remembered by most for his performance in the 8-2 demolition job of Arsenal. However, this was not a trend that was to be sustained.
He has been in and out of the team for the past couple of seasons with some terribly poor performances in that time. He does not deserve the amount of abuse he gets from United fans, but for me, he isn’t a United quality player. Despite some good attributes, he is predictable and goes to ground far too easily. Opinion isn’t really divided on Ashley Young, I think we all feel it is time for him to move on. However, due to his high wages any move away from United would be difficult to engineer and would likely have a reduced transfer fee attached to it. There has been recent rumoured interest from his former club Aston Villa, if this could be negotiated, I think United should take full advantage and let Young return to his former stomping ground.
More briefly I feel slightly more recent acquisitions Marouane Fellaini and Wilfried Zaha should also be mentioned. We paid considerably over the odds for both players, and I worry that neither has a future at United.
Fellaini had a phenomenal season with Everton prior to his over priced move to United, but he has shown little or no indication of this previous form whilst in Manchester. With new midfielders arriving and a poor world cup further damaging his reputation, I feel Fellaini may be on his way.The fact he signed last season might be his only saving grace and he may be given another year to make an impact.
Wilfried Zaha is a story I can’t help but think of with dismay, a star at Crystal Palace bought for a foolish transfer fee and brought to a club that is out of his league. Zaha does posses great pace and athleticism, but at times I wonder if his brain is connected to his legs. He is young, but the worryingly poor loan spell at Cardiff and reports of poor attitude make me think there is an inevitable outcome to Wilfried’s time at United. Palace reportedly maintain an interest in re-signing the English winger and I wouldn’t be surprised if this came to fruition.
This is my personal opinion and I am sure there will be those who disagree with some, or all, of what I say but there is a significant presence of players at United who wouldn’t get anywhere near the teams of our rivals. If we are to regain our status and compete with the best, we need to raise the bar and dismiss the odd acceptance of mediocrity that seems to have emerged at Old Trafford in the past couple of seasons. There is always room in a squad for hard working, less talented players but the proportion is simply too high in our current squad.