Manchester United’s squad is really not good enough.
When the Red Devils have everyone fit they can put out a pretty good XI, well, a pretty good X and then someone alright at No. 10. But their depth beyond that is weak, as we have seen so far this season with injuries reducing them to fielding some absurdly subpar players or youngsters who clearly need a season or so out on loan, playing week in, week out to really find their rhythm.
So it has come as no surprise that United are looking to loan out some youngsters this January. Academy player performance manager Les Parry has said: “We’ll plan it out and we’ve identified four or five who might be going out [on loan] in January.”
But who could those five be? Parry identified Tahith Chong, James Garner and Angel Gomes as those who were considered but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer “wanted to keep them here and have a look at them.”
Well we’re a few months into the season and bar a handful of showings for Chong, mostly ineffective, it’s clear that Solskjaer has had a look.
So could they, or any other player, be on their way out of Manchester United?
The young winger with the big hair was one of the youngsters on the pitch when United turned it around against Paris Saint-Germain but in truth, the energy and drive he showed that night remains the high watermark of his career at Old Trafford. He’s played a fair bit since then, but mostly in cameo roles.
It’s obvious Chong has incredible talent; his balance and confidence alone make him a dangerous prospect on the wing – but he is a raw diamond in desperate need of polishing. And football has proven time and time again that nothing smooths off the edges than a spell out on loan. And that’s exactly what Chong needs.
Marcos Rojo is an interesting figure, because at the heart of his game is a very, very good centre-back. Rojo’s positioning and defensive instincts are superb and his tackling technique is next level.
However, he also switches off with alarming frequency, losing runners and often being unaware of where opponents are. Of course, the problem United have is that he can fill in at two positions in defence, which makes him a very useful back-up to have around the place.
Fosu-Mensah looked a can’t-miss prospect as a teenager. He combined a terrifying athleticism with a special technique and winning mentality. His loan to Crystal Palace under Frank de Boer should have been the making of him, but De Boer got sacked and Fosu-Mensah began struggling with injuries.
He’s now gone off the rails and needs to be moved on permanently so he can restart his career at a lower level of play. He’s only 21 so there’s every chance he could still be an excellent player, but he needs to move on from Manchester United to do so.
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For someone with a name as magnificent as Angel Gomes, Angel Gomes sure is a nondescript kind of player. He’s got dribbling skills and a nice first-touch but he rarely imposes himself on games. What he needs is a loan where he plays every week so that he can figure out the best way for him to implement his talent at Premier League level.
There is a massive amount of hope surrounding James Garner, and not just because his name is James Garner. Manchester United have a serious weakness in midfield, a talent-deficiency, and a player as composed and technically skilled as Garner could theoretically address that weakness. He’s a midfielder with superb passing talent and, being coached by Michael Carrick, one can see why United have kept him around thus far.
But United’s midfield quagmire is such a mess that integrating Garner into the first-team through that nonsense unit would be an exercise in cruelty. A loan to a Premier League side that play with good structure and shape would allow him to return to Old Trafford a much more rounded talent, ready to rock for the Red Devils.
When Eric Bailly first debuted for Manchester United, he looked like an absolute bargain, even at £30m. The Ivorian was an absolute whirlwind of a defender, physically ridiculous and technically immaculate. The way he could anticipate where the ball was going then get there to cut it off had him looking genuinely frightening.
Then injury hit, and Jose Mourinho consistently dropped including in the months preceding the 2018 World Cup due to Ivory Coast’s absence at the tournament – and guess what? Bailly’s confidence evaporated. Suddenly he looked half a step slower and even worse, his previously flawless instincts now seemed completely wrecked. Obviously the potential for him to restart his career is possible, but he won’t be doing that at Old Trafford. A loan is no good, so get him a fresh start ASAP.
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