The January transfer window is almost upon us. And The Hard Tackle takes a look at three players that are most likely to leave Manchester United in the upcoming window.
The 2018-19 season has been a topsy-turvy one for Manchester United. From a pre-season marred by the Anthony Martial – Jose Mourinho saga, to the sacking of the Portuguese manager last week, it has been anything but pleasant viewing for the club’s supporters.
There have been brief moments of positivity and happiness – the 3-2 comeback win against Newcastle United, the 1-2 comeback victory against Juventus that involved last-minute heroics from Juan Mata, the qualification to the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League.
But, all of that has been shrouded by the fact that Manchester United are off to their worst ever start in the Premier League. Almost midway through the campaign, the Red Devils find themselves sixth in the table, trailing leaders and arch-rivals Liverpool by a margin of 19 points and eight points off the top four, having let in a mind-blowing 30 goals already.
The appointment of club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as the caretaker manager has restored some optimism around Manchester United, which was further boosted by their 5-1 hammering of Cardiff City in the Norwegian’s first game in-charge this past weekend.
However, there is no taking away the fact that there is some serious work needed to be done between now and the end of the season, if the 20-time English champions are to stay in the hunt for a Champions League qualifying spot.
The transfer window will play a crucial part for United, with recruitment in a couple of areas likely on the agenda for CEO Ed Woodward. However, for new faces to come in, the Red Devils are likely to have to part with some of the current squad members. And here we look at three players who could be shown the exit doors at Old Trafford next month;
The Italian international was keen on an exit in the summer transfer window itself, but ended up staying put at the club, as Mourinho was unwilling to sanction a sale back then. The thinking behind such a move by the Portuguese was that Diogo Dalot had arrived recently and was nursing an injury, while Antonio Valencia was struggling for match fitness.
However, with Jose gone now and Dalot integrated into the first-team, the time is ripe for Darmian to bid goodbye to Old Trafford. The 29-year-old arrived at Manchester United from Torino in 2015 and made a solid impression under then manager Louis van Gaal. However, he was unable to establish himself as a regular first-team member under Mourinho.
In the two-and-a-half years that the Portuguese was at the Manchester United manager, Darmian started just 42 games across all competitions. In comparison, the Italy international had started as many as 32 games in his first season itself under Van Gaal.
The former Torino has man has featured just four times in the ongoing campaign and with his contract set to expire at the end of the season, although the club can extend it by another year, it would be in the best interest of all parties that Darmian be allowed to leave in January.
The signing of a new centre-half is one of the top priorities for Manchester United heading into the January transfer window, considering how poor they have been in defence this term. Having already let in more goals than they did in the entirety of the last season, strengthening their options at the back with a proven performer would go a long way in aiding their recovery.
However, for that to come to fruition, United are likely to have to offload one of their defensive personnel and the most likely candidate to face the axe would be Marcos Rojo. Another signing from the Van Gaal era, the Argentine defender is in his fifth season at the club and has accumulated 110 appearances so far.
Rojo made a strong start to life at the club under Van Gaal, much like Darmian, but injuries hampered his growth at the club and with Mourinho bringing in the likes of Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof in the past couple of years, the 28-year-old fell down the pecking order at the club.
The Argentine international has just featured 12 times for the United first-team since the 2017-18 season and while he may have penned a new contract earlier in March this year, his time at Old Trafford could be drawing towards a close, especially if United decide to splurge on a new defender in January. Wolves are interested in Rojo.
Scott McTominay (loan)
The 22-year-old Manchester United academy product was one of the main beneficiaries of the strained relationship between Mourinho and Paul Pogba, as he burst on to the scenes last term and made a solid impression – so much so that Mourinho went on to name him the Manager’s Player of the Year in the end of the season awards ceremony.
However, it hasn’t been all smooth sailing for McTominay in the ongoing campaign, with his game time seeing significant reduction. The Scotland international has made just six appearances so far this term – two of which have come out of position as a centre-back. And it was no coincidence that United conceded two goals in the first-half in both those matches.
Solskjaer has hinted that he will be giving each player ample opportunities to stake a claim for a regular starting berth. But, given the plethora of options at his disposal in the middle of the park, it is hard to imagine McTominay getting any significant game time moving forward in the second half of the campaign.
There has been a lot of interest from clubs in the EFL Championship to take McTominay on loan for the rest of the season. Leaders Leeds United were believed to interested, as were Aston Villa. A temporary move to the English second division could be the right option for the 22-year-old, as he would stand to gain valuable first-team experience instead of warming the bench at United.