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five-year drought Who to keep, who to sell and who to release as Manchester United in need of a total rebuild

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Jadon Sancho is the future of Manchester United. Photo: PA/Reuters

Jadon Sancho is the future of Manchester United. Photo: PA/Reuters

Jadon Sancho is the future of Manchester United. Photo: PA/Reuters

Following their elimination from the Champions League last-16 at the hands of Atletico Madrid, Manchester United know that they will now go at least five seasons without silverware. It is the club’s longest trophy drought since 1983.

After last year’s runners-up finish in the Premier League, a serious title challenge was the expectation. The trumpeted ‘cultural reset’ which took place under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was coming up to its third anniversary and approaching the point where it was supposed to bear fruit.

Instead, it could be time to hit that reset button all over again. While the contracts of several players are expiring, others have grown disillusioned with their lack of playing time and some have just reached the natural end of their time at Old Trafford.

Amid suggestions this week that their home of the last 112 years could be demolished and rebuilt from scratch, the same may need to happen with a big, imbalanced squad that has been poorly pieced together. And much like Old Trafford, it isn’t simply a case of fixing a leaky roof.

This is not the first time that United have required an audit of their squad during the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era and it is unlikely to be the last either. But with a new permanent manager to appoint, the coming summer is arguably the biggest since Ferguson’s departure and has to go well.

Goalkeepers

David de Gea

Keep. De Gea is not immune to spells of poor form and is not entirely comfortable with his feet but he has also been a brilliant servant over his 11-year stay at the club and one of their better players this season. At some point, United will have to address their goalkeeping situation long-term, but this summer will bring other priorities.

Dean Henderson

Sell. Henderson is too good a goalkeeper to be a second-choice, though that is what he has been reduced to by De Gea’s form. Both Solskjaer and Rangnick have kept him on the bench. Last summer should have seen a parting of the ways rather than a hefty new contract, though at least there should be suitors for the 25-year-old.

Tom Heaton

Keep. A veteran goalkeeper with one appearance to his name all season, Heaton can step up to be the second-choice if necessary upon Henderson’s likely departure. Lee Grant provides further cover as fourth-choice and combines his playing role with studying for his coaching badges.

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Harry Maguire

Harry Maguire

Harry Maguire

Central defenders

Harry Maguire

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Keep. Maguire is the lightning rod for criticism - and much of that criticism is unfair - but it cannot be denied that he has struggled all season. The ironic cheers of his substitution on Tuesday night were a new low. The United captain still has something to offer but, given everything, his next manager may decide to pass the armband on to someone else.

Raphael Varane

Keep. United’s worst defeats - the 5-0 against Liverpool, the 4-1 against Watford, the 4-1 in the derby - have coincided with Varane being absent. Those absences are still an issue. Availability is key and the World Cup winner’s injury record was a factor in his cut-price £36m move from Real Madrid. But when he has played, he has generally performed.

Victor Lindelof

Keep. Lindelof has so far come through a challenging season off-the-pitch with more good performances than bad despite losing his starting status. During a window where the focus will be on other areas of the pitch, he is an able third or fourth-choice centre-back. With his current deal effectively running until 2025, a decision on his future does not need to be imminent.

Eric Bailly

Sell. Like Henderson, Bailly signed a new contract last season when it was not entirely clear where his minutes would come from. The Ivory Coast international has all the attributes of an elite centre-back but questionable decision-making and a poor injury record mean that any chance of a sustained run in the starting line-up disappeared a long time ago.

Phil Jones

Release. Jones’ return to the starting line-up at the turn of the year was one of the few highlights of the season and he did not discredit himself at all. Yet after the best part of two years without any regular football and no route back to a starting spot, it is finally time to part ways and wish one of the squad’s few title winners all the best for the future.

Full-backs

Luke Shaw

Keep. Shaw was United’s best player last season and their most creative outside of Fernandes. This time around, he has not always shown the same consistency but he remains their best full-back by a distance and has more than enough credit in the bank to be first-choice in his position beyond the summer.

Diogo Dalot

Keep. Dalot may not be the long-term answer at right-back but United have shown greater variety in their attacking play down the right since his re-introduction to the first team under Rangnick. About to turn 23-years-old, the Portuguese right-back still has room to improve and provides suitable cover.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Listen to offers. Wan-Bissaka was the undisputed first-choice under Solskjaer but has since lost that status. Despite being an excellent one-on-one defender, his limitations in possession are too great for the way many elite sides play. Rangnick appears to have realised this, only using him sparingly.

Alex Telles

Listen to offers. Telles is a capable deputy for Shaw but has only really impressed with his set-piece delivery. Even then, he usually has to defer to more senior team-mates. A back-up left-back will not be a priority this summer, making him likely to stay put, though it would be wise to bring in and develop a long-term Shaw replacement further down the line.

Midfielders

Paul Pogba

Release. It is bad enough that United are set to lose their record signing on a free transfer, never mind that this will be the second time Pogba has left for nothing. Though the most naturally-gifted player at the club and a game-changer on his day, a variety of factors mean that his second spell in Manchester will be remembered as a disappointment.

Fred

Keep. Fred is enjoying a new lease of life since being trusted in a more advanced role under Rangnick and was excellent in both the win over Tottenham and the first half against Atletico. Though he has a well-earned reputation for being erratic, he has cut the worst elements out of his game and shown more consistency this season.

Scott McTominay

Keep. Like his midfield partner, McTominay has shown that he is better suited to a more advanced, box-to-box role than the one he was playing under Solskjaer. His minutes will likely be affected if United finally sign the natural holding midfield player they are crying out for, though his playing time can be reviewed as he enters the final two years of his contract.

Nemanja Matic

Sell. Matic’s ability to pick a pass is underrated and he remains the only midfielder at the club well-suited to sitting deep but his mobility is a concern, and that’s before he turns 34-years-old on the eve of next season. With his deal running until next year with the option of an extension, it may be time to search the market for a suitor this summer.

Attacking midfielders

Bruno Fernandes

Keep. Named the club’s player of the year in each of the last two seasons, Fernandes’ importance to Solskjaer’s United was never in doubt. But whereas those teams were built around him, how he fits into United’s future is more of an open question. What’s certain is that he can create something out of nothing and is one of the squad’s few match-winners.

Donny van de Beek

Listen to offers. Currently out on loan at Everton, it is still unclear how exactly Van de Beek was supposed to fit in at United. It may be that Rangnick’s successor finds a role for him - Erik ten Hag, his former manager at Ajax, would surely appreciate his talents - but otherwise, it will be time to end one of the strangest transfers

Jesse Lingard

Release. Lingard is another player who stayed last summer in the hope of more regular opportunities, only to find those opportunities still limited. At the age of 29, it has been a wasted year for a player who appeared to have found form again. With his contract up in the summer, a new start is much needed.

Juan Mata

Release. The defining image of United’s Champions League exit may be the introduction of Mata as a late substitute. Though an indisputably gifted player, the 33-year-old had 171 minutes to his name all season before that cameo and normally watches from the bench. The same was true last season. This contract is surely his last.

Wingers

Jadon Sancho

Keep. One of the few players to clearly respond to Rangnick’s methods, Sancho looks like the future of whatever United hope to build going forward. Whoever the next manager is will need a style of play that not only suits the 21-year-old but accentuates his qualities: something Solskjaer appeared to struggle with.

Marcus Rashford

Listen to offers. Rashford is considering his future at Old Trafford as he prepares to enter the final year of his existing contract, albeit with a year-long extension that will be triggered. It is difficult to imagine him playing anywhere else, but then recently, he has not been playing much at all.

Anthony Elanga

Keep. The player to have benefited most from Rangnick’s appointment. Elanga is keeping the likes of Rashford out of the line-up with his lively wing play, in and out of possession. If the next manager is as much of a fan of him as Rangnick is, United will have another academy product turned first-team regular.

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Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo

Strikers

Cristiano Ronaldo

Listen to offers. At 37-years-old with who knows how long left, Ronaldo may not have the appetite for a year outside the Champions League. His goals have dug United out of tight spots on occasion this season, but given all the expectation around his second coming, it cannot be said to have had the desired effect. It may be best for both if they go their separate ways to focus on the future rather than the past.

Edinson Cavani

Release. Judged solely on his contributions on-the-pitch, Cavani has been one of the better signings of the post-Ferguson era and arguably the most natural centre-forward of that same period. The problem is that he has simply not played enough, often pulling himself out of contention.

Anthony Martial

Sell. Martial’s six-and-a-half years as a United player divided opinion but everybody, including the player himself, now seems to agree that a change would be for the best. The loan to Sevilla marks a suitable cut-off point in an Old Trafford career that has had some sublime moments but has not delivered on its promise.

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