Manchester United are in a title race. Whoever thought we’d be saying that last August?
Level on points with Liverpool at the top, with a game in hand on the champions. It’s looking pretty rosy at Old Trafford at the moment (it’s especially impressive considering how bad their start to the season was) and they have an opportunity this month to strengthen their hand in the transfer market.
The chances of any expensive incomings appear low, though. Amad Diallo’s deal from Atalanta is already wrapped up, but January 2021 is going to be more about clearing out the remaining deadwood and trimming the wage bill rather than huge statement signings.
Here’s the seven players most likely to leave United this month.
Potential destinations: Brighton, or anywhere that will offer the chance to play football
Potential transfer fee: Under £5m
Poor Sergio Romero has really suffered this season. He’s always done an admirable job as David de Gea’s understudy, but now that Dean Henderson has returned and taken Romero’s role, the 33-year-old is very much out in the cold.
United should have allowed Romero to leave in the summer, but their transfer demands ended up meaning he stayed. The player nor his wife were happy about that, but he will depart at some point in 2021 with his contract set to expire in June.
Brighton are looking for a goalkeeper to replace Mat Ryan, and they could do much worse.
Potential destination: Boca Juniors
Potential transfer fee: Under £5m
Marcos Rojo has plenty of time to perfect his toast-making skills at the moment, given he’s not getting a look in for the United first team. And he definitely needs the practice.
The Argentinian, now 30, will leave the club when his contract expires in the summer for certain, but he could exit six months early to move back to his homeland. Speculation that Boca Juniors have reached an agreement on a three-year contract for the defender has yet to be confirmed, though.
Whether he leaves this month or in the summer depends on United, who may want a small fee or could let him go for free before the end of his deal.
Potential destinations: Newcastle, Southampton, Bayer Leverkusen
Potential deal: Loan until the end of the season
The arrivals of Alex Telles in the summer has meant Brandon Williams has spent most of his time playing for United’s Under-23s this season, instead of the first team.
He has good potential though, as he’s shown since breaking through, though his form did drop off towards the back end of last season. A loan seems like the safest option.
There’s plenty of interest in him too, with Newcastle looking a likely option as it stands.
Potential destinations: Burnley, Newcastle
Potential transfer fee: Under £10m
Would you believe Phil Jones is still only 28?
We’ve still yet to see his prime, you know. Though if he does ever play football regularly again it’s almost certain that it won’t be at Manchester United.
The club made a huge error by handing Jones a contract until 2023 shortly after Solskjaer took charge, as they’ve now lumbered themselves with a player on big money who is incredibly prone to injury. So they’ll spend energy and time in this and coming transfer windows trying to find a club to sell him to.
Burnley could be one of those options having new investment, while you can bet Steve Bruce might fancy a crack of bringing the big man back to the fore at Newcastle United.
Potential destinations: Bayer Leverkusen
Potential transfer fee: £1.5m
Dutch prospect Tim Fosu-Mensah recently rejected a new contract offer from United, though questions have been raised as to why a deal was offered in the first place.
Though a fan favourite at Old Trafford, Fosu-Mensah has yet to deliver on the potential he came to the club with from the Ajax academy, and he joined in 2016. He’s not going to take Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s place at right back and has not suggested he can do the necessary job in other positions, despite being versatile, so his best option might be to move on.
He’s been linked with a host of clubs, but it now appears Bayer Leverkusen have agreed a deal to sign him in January.
Potential destinations: Sheffield United, options abroad
Potential transfer fee: £10m – £15m
Jesse Lingard‘s fate appears sealed at United, despite the fact the club has recently triggered a 12-month extension option on his contract.
That was a move to retain his value and sell, whichever way you look at it, with his contract before then expiring this summer. United will hope to earn a decent fee in either January or the summer for the now former England international, who has very much been a victim to how good Bruno Fernandes has become in what was his position.
It remains to be seen who seriously pursues Lingard, but United will likely be accommodating in any sale process as they’d like to see one of their academy graduates firing again somewhere else.
Potential destination: Brighton, Leeds, Wolves
Potential deal: Loan, or fee between £15m & £20m
Daniel James started his career at United like a house on fire. But the goals have dried up, confidence has been lost and he’s fallen down the pecking order.
James is at his best in a counter-attacking system with space to run into, but as United try to move away from that style and look to dominate matches, the Welshman suffers. The arrival and integration of Amad Diallo this month is sure to make it even more difficult for James to get minutes.
You can still see him playing in the right situations, but United will look for their wide players to offer more than just pace. The ability to dribble past players and out of tight spaces, making the right pass at the right moment and having a killer instinct in front of goal are all key qualities and it doesn’t look as if James has them all at present.
There will be plenty of takers on loan or permanent deals, though the former seems more likely. Marcelo Bielsa has tried to sign him before for Leeds while Brighton’s Graham Potter knows James’ game well enough to improve him.
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