Manchester United – Keep, Loan or Sell?

With Manchester United looking likely that it will be sold, the upcoming summer transfer window could be the biggest United have had in years.

Thus, in Erik ten Hag’s second year at the club, the Dutch manager will be looking to move on players that don’t fit his system.

Potential options include Harry Maguire, Scott McTominay, Antony Martial and David de Gea.

Harry Maguire

The former Leicester City centre half has been at the club since previous manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer brought him in for £80m back in August 2019. Maguire joined United as a leading Premier League level centre half, who was integral to the success of England’s defence. He excelled in arial battles and reading the game. This helped the English defender cover for his apparent lack of pace. Since his signing, Maguire had been a consistent starter in the team, rarely missing a game in Solskjaer’s reign. The former Hull defender was swiftly granted the captaincy after the departure of Ashley Young. In his time at the club, Maguire has made 168 appearances.

However, since the arrival of Ten Hag, Maguire has struggled for minutes. The Dutch manager likes to play with quick centre halves who can adopt a high line. Thus, United’s captain struggles with this. This season, Maguire has only played 1176 minutes, the equivalent of around 13 full matches. Therefore, some may believe it’s time to let go of the English centre half.

However, others may feel that it would be a mistake to let go of Maguire. This is because the 30 year old defender provides useful depth and great experience in case of injuries. This in particular due to Raphael Varane’s increasing fitness concerns. Therefore, it would be a mistake letting go of Maguire as United may struggle if Varane or Lisandro Martinez can’t start.

Despite this, as the former Sheffield United defender’s style contrasts with how Ten Hag likes to play, United should look to move him on and try generate some cash back from the expensive transfer.

Scott McTominay

The 26-year old midfielder has been at United since July 2012, spanning over 11 years. He made his official United debut in May of 2017, thanks to former manager Jose Mourinho’s promotion of the Scotsman.

McTominay is at his best playing in a ‘box to box’ midfield role with less emphasis on defensive duties. The Scottish international is  six foot four, which helps provide greater arial height for United in midfield. In standout performances, McTominay excels in intercepting opposition attacks, before driving at their defences. Due to the Scotsman’s previous experience playing as a striker, McTominay possesses great ability to strike from distance, or find the right strike needed to score in the box. Thus, this makes McTominay a useful option in midfield to have when looking for athleticism and offensive prowess.

However, the academy graduate lacks in his ability on the ball. The Scotsman is prone to giving the ball away, or not finding the right weight of pass. This is incredibly significant as Ten Hag looks to use his midfielders as the creative outlets, who progress the ball into the forwards. Thus, with McTominay struggling to do this, it lowers his chances of playing consistently in Ten Hag’s system. Therefore, with the midfielder soon entering his prime years, the Dutch coach may look to move the Scotsman on, as he just doesn’t fit the system.

On the contrary, like with Maguire, some may feel keeping McTominay is a necessity as he provides much needed depth. This comes as although the Glazers are looking to sell, with Financial fair play (FFP) a major problem for United, spending maybe restricted this summer regardless of who the new potential owner is. Thus, signings could be limited, and so by letting go of another midfield asset, United could struggle to replace him and subsequently be even weaker in midfield.

Ultimately, although McTominay may not fit in Ten Hag’s system, keeping him might become a necessity with the potential financial restrictions facing United this summer.

Antony Martial

The Frenchman joined United on September 1st 2015. He made a historic debut against Liverpool, coming off the bench to dribble round Martin Skrtel, before firing into the bottom right corner. Martial won over Old Trafford instantly.

In his time at the club, Martial has played as the centre forward, but has also been forced out onto the left wing. In recent seasons, Martial has earnt his spot upfront again.

Martial possesses elite close control and dribbling, which helps him ease past opposing defenders. This is combined with a strong ability to score goals helping make him a dangerous striker. Having moved back upfront under Solskjaer’s guidance, Martial has significantly improved his hold up play. The Frenchman likes to drop deep and link with his wingers helping speed up the attack. These attributes fit the football Ten Hag likes to play.

However, there’s key aspects holding the former Monaco striker back. Recently, Martial has consistently struggled to stay fit. The French international has recovered from injuries only to get injured straight after. Furthermore, as a centre forward, Martial lacks two major qualities. Pressing and Movement. In contrast to Wout Weghorst, who works incredibly hard off the ball, Martial lacks the work rate to consistently press and put in the defensive duties needed. In addition, in the box, Martial lacks the predatory instincts needed to score those scrappy goals. The Frenchman doesn’t make the quick runs needed to get ahead of the defender, so to be in space for potential crosses into the box. Thus, Martial tends to be too stationary, and therefore predictable in the box.

As a result, Ten Hag may look to move Martial on, because in his seven years at the club, the Frenchman hasn’t been able to consistently hold down the centre forward spot, and thus it might be his time to leave. A striker signing is likely a priority for Ten Hag, and so moving Martial on may make room for this.

David de Gea

The Spanish goalkeeper has been at United since 2011. In this time, De Gea has become integral to the United side winning four player of the year awards. The Spanish international was widely seen as the best goalkeeper in the world for a large majority of time. De Gea has world class shot stopping abilities, which are second to none. Such abilities have been pivotal in keeping United in games. Without De Gea, United would have done far worse in previous years. United’s goalkeeper has countless phenomenal performances, but the one against Arsenal in 2017 stands out.

However, mistakes have crept into De Gea’s game. In addition, in recent years, the demands of a goalkeeper have changed. In 2023, goalkeepers are expected to be comfortable on the ball and able to excel in the air, claiming crosses. De Gea struggles with these. On many occasions, De Gea has been caught sticking to his line too much or giving the ball away in possession. Ten Hag wants to use a modern goalkeeper. Thus, despite De Gea’s decade of service to the club, now might be the time to move the legendary goalkeeper on. De Gea is on incredibly high wages and thus a loan isn’t an option.

Therefore, Manchester United should look to sell Harry Maguire, Antony Martial and David de Gea but consider keeping Scott McTominay.