red clear-out | 

Erik ten Hag must ship out Manchester United's three big flops quickly

Erik ten Hag, Manager has some tough decisions to make. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images© Getty Images

Sunday World

And you have to say that Cristiano Ronaldo, Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof and others didn’t do a lot to show they deserve their starting places back as United lost 1-0 to Real Sociedad in the Europa League on Thursday night at Old Trafford.

It was great to see David Silva doing his stuff at an English ground again – he was a super player for Manchester City for so long.

When I heard his name being mentioned in the team line-ups I was delighted, I really perked up.

I wanted to see could Silva still be the shining star he was for Manchester City and Spain for so long.

Frankly, the legs were gone. There were still touches of class that brought back memories of the great player, but Silva’s legs could not always carry him to the places he wanted to be to influence the match.

But that makes the 1-0 loss even worse for United – when you are beaten by a team whose top player was let go by City as a fading force a couple of years ago.

All in all, it doesn’t bode well for United’s squad strength in what is going to be a long and arduous season, with so many of the Red Devils’ squad off to the World Cup in Qatar in two months time.

Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw, the latter pair didn’t even start on Thursday, must all now be planning to get away as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately for all three of them, that cannot happen until after the World Cup finals in November and December, unless Manchester United simply tear up their contracts and let them leave as free agents – and they are not likely to do that.

Harry Maguire (inset), in particular, is in a bind. Every time he makes a mistake, and footballers make mistakes in every game, you just hope to get away with them, the home crowd will get on his back.

Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez have given the Old Trafford faithful a glimpse of a pairing that reminds them of the Bruce/Pallister or Ferdinand/Vidic days, times when United were solid at the back.

Now Varane and Martinez have a long way to go to equal those partnerships, but they look like they have something about them.

Harry, unfortunately, looks like a man worried he is going to make a bags of something and have the fans on his back.

It all goes back to the thoughts of pundit Paul Merson when United bought Maguire for £10 million more than Liverpool paid for Virgil van Dijk.

Merson’s words went something like this. “Harry is fine playing for a team where he just has to defend the edge of the penalty box. He’ll tackle and head the ball out for 90 minutes.

Man Utd defender Raphael Verane (left) could build a partnerhip with Lisandro Martinez© Manchester United via Getty Imag

“Can he play for Manchester United, who will be on the front foot in almost every game in which they play, and then can he turn and chase and defend when they are attacked on the break?”

We know the answers to those questions now.

And there is now a huge call for England manager Gareth Southgate to make for the Nations League matches at the end of this month.

Does he name Maguire in the squad, and then pick him to start, even though the player is not part of Manchester United’s first team?

It’s a massive call, given that Southgate’s mantra is about picking everything on form.

And form is what Shamrock Rovers showed on Thursday night in Tallaght in the Europa Conference.

I watched the highlights of the match and was really impressed by them.

The crestfallen faces of the Djurgardens players at the end of the 90 minutes showed that they came to Dublin to win this match, and were unpleasantly surprised when they didn’t.

I suspect that Rovers will pick up more points in the five remaining games in their group and that will give them a financial windfall that, if used correctly, could see the Hoops win nine of the next ten League of Ireland titles.

Now ‘correctly’ is the big word in that paragraph. For other LOI clubs have enjoyed windfalls of one kind or another in recent decades and wasted them on foreign signings and vanity projects.

But Rovers are owned by their supporters, they are developing their ground very well, they have pocketed a nice wedge from Manchester City’s sale of Gavin Bazunu, and have more money to come when Andy Lyons heads to Blackpool at the end of the season.

They are set fair now for a happy few years if they keep doing things right, and if they keep playing on the pitch as they did last Thursday.

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