Solskjaer to United: Five players who should be cut loose
Manchester United have put their faith in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer following an impressive spell as interim manager, giving him the job on a full-time basis as they finally look to escape from a troubling post-Alex Ferguson era.
There is no doubt Solskjaer's impact since replacing Jose Mourinho in December has been significant, as performances have improved immeasurably and the atmosphere around the club seems much healthier.
But now the hard work begins in earnest for the Norwegian, as he suddenly no longer has the relatively pressure-free role of only being in charge until the end of the season.
Despite United's better displays under Solskjaer, there are still plenty of areas for improvement in the squad.
With a busy transfer window expected in pre-season, we have identified five players – on top of Matteo Darmian, who is already expected to depart – the new permanent manager should look to move on.
The longest-serving United first-team player still in the squad, Valencia has certainly been a fine servant to the club down the years. He adapted into a solid right-back option under Mourinho, offering experience, discipline, pace and power, but this season he has featured only five times in the Premier League amid injuries and fitness problems. In addition, his fleeting performances have displayed serious signs of decline, suggesting it would be wise to let him depart instead of giving him a new contract.
Much has been said and written about Sanchez's time at United since joining from Arsenal in January 2018. In short, he has arguably been the worst signing in Premier League history, when you consider he is said to earn approximately £500,000 every week when bonuses and image rights are included. Not only is his three-goal haul from 29 Premier League games dismal, his displays have rarely – if ever – been up to scratch. It had been hoped Solskjaer's arrival would reinvigorate the 30-year-old, but even the Norwegian seems to be at a loss with him, stating in February: "I can't do anything about Alexis."
An able – albeit erratic – stand-in at centre-back, Jones is not without his uses at United. However, with defenders likely to be heavily invested in ahead of next season, the injury-prone former Blackburn Rovers man is likely to find it even harder to nail down a first-team role. While some might suggest he could remain as a rotation option having signed a contract until 2023 in February, he is already behind Victor Lindelof, Chris Smalling and Eric Bailly in the pecking order – add another player, potentially Kalidou Koulibaly, and his chances will decrease even further.
Many supporters reacted with bafflement when United extended Rojo's contract until 2021 – with the option of another year – 12 months ago. The occasional fiery performance aside, Rojo has never looked of the desired quality to play for the Red Devils on a regular basis. His versatility seemed to prolong his United stay, as the Argentina international can play at the centre or on the left of the defence, but he has made just 11 top-flight appearances since the start of last season. A move away is surely on the cards.
We are delighted to announce that Marcos Rojo has extended his contract with #MUFC until June 2021, with the option to extend for a further year.— Manchester United (@ManUtd) 16 March 2018
Full statement: https://t.co/5Vznqbc4pEpic.twitter.com/G0X2BNFFaP
Although he was a fine addition in his first season, Matic has appeared to be in decline for most of the 2018-19 campaign, turning in a number of laboured performances. He initially looked to have improved after Solskjaer's arrival, but he was well off the pace in the Champions League last-16 first-leg defeat to Paris Saint-Germain. He missed the return match and United benefited from the greater energy shown by Fred, Scott McTominay and Andreas Pereira, claiming a famous 3-1 win in the French capital. Now 30, Matic is arguably past his prime but should still hold some of his value, perhaps making it the ideal time to offload him.