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14th May 2019

Six senior players Manchester United should build their new squad around

Patrick McCarry

After seeing that feeble, grim 2-0 surrender to relegated Cardiff City, on the last day of the season, some fans would be forgiven for seeking a clean slate

After Man United had suffered their eighth loss in 12 matches, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer spoke with Sky Sports and sounded like a man in need of a couple of months off. That this moment arrives five months into his dream job does not bode well.

Solskjaer has the appearance of a trainee teacher who, after the students have behaved in front of the principal, has now been locked in a room with a class that hoicked the keys out the window and are now making a fort out of the upturned tables.

For the second time in two Old Trafford press conferences (Chelsea 1-1 and Cardiff 0-2) he has sat down and made a joke about immediately leaving. “No questions?”

Plenty. Now sit there and try not to mention past players or The Gaffer.

In his chat with Sky, Solskjaer was asked point-blank if eight new players would be enough to get the team challenging for titles next season. EIGHT PLAYERS. Imagine the smiling, golden Solskjaer of 6 March being asked if he needed eight players.

Imagine Gary Neville, instead of asking where the Norwegian wanted his statue to be, asking what eight players the club would be bringing in over the summer?

Instead, back in front of the Sky cameras, Solskjaer said there would be personnel changes and that he had work to do. Winning the league in 2019/20 is no longer a realistic goal for the Solskjaer of May 12. Finishing third, behind Manchester City and Liverpool, is.

Eight new arrivals now seems like the minimum required but United need to shift on some badly misfiring players and ones on massive salaries. Alexis Sanchez and Fred are a couple that spring to mind, with Anthony Martial not far behind.

Many fans bemoaned the departure of Ander Herrera – reportedly heading to PSG – and pointed to the hapless likes of Chris Smalling, Ashley Young and Phil Jones getting new contracts but all are English-qualified and there, in part, to keep some older heads and meet the league required quotas.

If you want to wring your hands over a ridiculous contract extension, look no further than this abomination from March 16:


That announcement was followed, the same day, with this headline – ROJO: I’M ABSOLUTELY DYING TO RETURN FROM INJURY

His time at Manchester United has been one of the staggering mysteries of the 21st century. With 81 years to go, it’ll take some shifting.

Even if United were to get in the likes of Eriksen, Rice, Wan-Bissaka, Koulibaly and Sancho, they still need to sort out their current crop.

Solskjaer has himself convinced a good pre-season will sort this squad out but he will also need to start looking at players to build this squad around. The likes of James Garner, Angel Gomes, Tahith Chong and Mason Greenwood will get more game-time but these are the six senior players Solskjaer should retain to re-shape United in his own image.

David De Gea

Sign that lad up. Had a major blip down the closing stretch but his nerves must be shot after playing in front of a litany of average defenders and pure frauds for the past six seasons.

Luke Shaw

His best season yet for United but he could benefit from another pre-season of hard yakka. May never be the player we all thought he could be, before those knee injuries, but a handy player and someone growing more assertive.

Victor Lindelof

Looked for all money that Jose Mourinho has wazzed £29m down the drain on the former Benfica defender. Confidence never arrived with his luggage when he first landed in Manchester, but has been one of the best players since Solskjaer took over and gave him a decent run.

Axel Tuanzebe

Given his debut by Louis van Gaal, has been loaned out to Aston Villa over two different stints. Villa would like to keep him, especially if they win promotion to the Premier League, but Solskjaer has spoken keenly about getting a good look at him over the summer.

Jesse Lingard

This took some soul-searching but Lingard was decent enough until he got injured against Liverpool before finishing the season like a shadow of a shadow. One more season. Sure he’s only a young pup…

Marcus Rashford

Public opinion veers wildly on Rashford. He is either the next incarnation of Danny Welbeck or the next great goalscoring saviour of United and Mother England. Appears to need a shunt every now and then but definitely worth persevering with as frontline leader next season.