Which Man United players should be sold, who should stay and whose futures are unclear

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Manchester united boss Jose Mourinho at Wembley.

Now the dust is settling on another season for Manchester United after Saturday’s frustrating FA Cup final defeat to Chelsea, the emphasis now moves onto the future.

Central to this will be the transfer moves made by the Premier League’s runners-up. But it is not just expensive additions that will define whether 2018/19 is an improvement or not.

A summer refresh of the squad is set to be carried out by a notoriously impatient figure in Jose Mourinho.

Here we look at which stars should be retained at all cost, who should be moved on and those whose futures remain unclear.

UNTOUCHABLES

For a side that has had nearly £300 million (Dh1.5 billion) spent on it by the current boss and finished a comfortable second in the top flight, there are surprisingly few players who feel untouchable.

Top of this list is inspirational Spain No1 David De Gea. A new contract cannot be signed soon enough by the 2017/18 Manchester United Players’ Player of the Year, whose continued stupendous form saw him earn a first Premier League Golden Glove award courtesy of a leading 18 clean sheets.

At centre-back, Argentina’s Marcos Rojo appears to be the only lock – and that’s solely because of March’s contract extension rather than his ability. For the second-meanest defence in the Premier League, this uncertainty is indicative of a lack of direction under Mourinho.

A pillar in this part of the team must be Eric Bailly next term. The Ivory Coast international is a raw talent of intoxicating depth, no matter how hamstrung he’s been by repeat injury – missing exactly half of United’s league games since arriving.

But his mixture of speed, aggression, commitment and technical skill make him a world-class player of the future.

Serbia anchor man Nemanja Matic proved an outstanding addition from Chelsea. He made the most average passes per game (72.3) and third-most average tackles per game (1.9) in the Premier League for United.

Alongside him must be Paul Pogba. Thousands of column inches were dedicated to the France centre midfielder last term, dissecting everything from his haircuts to performances on the park.

For Mourinho to achieve the unthinkable and overturn runaway champions Manchester City’s 19-point lead, he has to unlock the best out of Pogba.

To finish with 10 top-flight assists from a season curtailed by injuries, suspensions and indifference speaks volume of what remains in the locker.

Placing an emphasis on one and two-touch football would be a start.

There was a breakthrough campaign for attacking midfielder Jesse Lingard that now sees him pushing for England’s XI at World Cup 2018. That’s what 13 strikes in 48 run-outs will do for you.

Chile superstar Alexis Sanchez deserves a chance to demonstrate his true worth after an erratic four months. The fact a player of such raw talent feels like a spare part at present is a glaring issue that Mourinho must solve in pre-season.

Up top, Romelu Lukaku showed himself to be a natural fit for United thanks to 27 goals in 51 games. Bar a goalless month from early October to early November, the £75m (Dh371.1m) addition from Everton provided a regular threat, focal point for the attack and leadership qualities.

Patience must be afforded to Marcus Rashford for 2018/19. An electric talent is short-circuiting under Mourinho.

In 2017/18, he never made more than two successive starts. How can a 20-year-old of true promise be expected to blossom under these conditions?

OUT THE DOOR

Too many sub-par players have managed to dodge the bullet at United, for too long.

Chief among this number are centre-backs Phil Jones and Chris Smalling. The former is a fine defender when match sharp, but he cannot be entrusted to stay fit – nearly 30 spells of inactivity, be it illness, injury or bans, have been suffered since his summer 2011 move from Blackburn Rovers.

When rusty, he is at risk of conceding ungainly fouls like that inflicted this weekend on Chelsea forward Eden Hazard.

Smalling is an adequate defender. Yet performances like that witnessed in February’s 1-0 defeat at Newcastle must be imprinted on Mourinho’s memory, plus the fact England head coach Gareth Southgate has rejected his services because of an industrial ability on the ball.

At left-back, Luke Shaw must be put out of his misery. The regular object of Mourinho’s ire has to cut his losses before it is too late – the last four years have been a washout for a talent that once promised so much.

On the other flank, right-back Matteo Darmian must be considered one of the worst signings in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson vacuum – and there is fierce competition. The Italy international is utterly uncomfortable in possession and clumsy in the tackle.

Now is also a good time to cash in on utility man, Daley Blind. The Netherlands international possesses the technical acumen to excel, but the raw physicality of the Premier League remains a challenge he cannot surmount.

The repeat overtures to Belgium centre midfielder Marouane Fellaini about a new contract are emblematic of Mourinho’s United. There should be no chasing to convince an object this blunt to renew.

Former Spain playmaker Juan Mata chipped in with five assists and three goals in the top flight. A decent return.

Yet at 30 years old, he is taking up a squad spot that could be held by loan returnee Andreas Pereira. His spell at Valencia showed signs of promise.

Now is the time to cash in on the decision in January to extend Mata’s attachment by a year.

Andreas Pereira (r) in action for Valencia.

Andreas Pereira (r) in action for Valencia.

MYSTERY MEN

A binary decision is tough to make on several United squad members.

France forward Anthony Martial has been the biggest victim of Sanchez’s January recruitment. His body language can often leave plenty to be desired, while his last 14 displays for club and country have produced just one assist.

Yet, the 22-year-old plundered a decent nine goals and five assists from 30 top-flight games this term. His pace on the counter-attack and threat off the substitutes’ bench were key facets of a lightning start to 2017/18.

This is a talent coveted by many heavyweights. A major judgement call awaits on whether this is a player who can consistently do justice to his ability.

Another player currently showing flashes is Sweden centre-back Victor Lindelof. Assimilation after a summer move from Benfica was never truly achieved.

Glaring errors like those recorded against Newcastle and Huddersfield reside in the mind. But clear signs of coming up to scratch physically have been apparent in 2018, while he’s easily United’s best defender with the ball.

With buys in his position expected, an English loan could be a smart move for the 23-year-old. Rumours about such a switch to promoted Wolverhampton Wanderers could suit all parties.

Spanish centre midfielder Ander Herrera is a player whose mastery of the dark arts is appreciated by all who follow United, as well as a typical poise on the ball.

The 28-year-old has his uses. But links to the likes of Shakhtar Donetsk’s Fred point to increased competition next term.

Cutting him loose could add funds to Mourinho’s transfer pot, without being too detrimental.

A player in a similar situation is new Scotland cap Scott McTominay. Mourinho’s golden child registered an impressive 25 appearances last season, aged just 21-years old.

But an addition of numbers into midfield could hamper opportunity. Rather than a permanent exit, a temporary stop elsewhere in the Premier League would not hurt a youngster who shows some promise.

Veteran wingers-turned-full-backs Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young boast a combined age of 64 and made 77 appearances between them in 2017/18. Diminished roles are a must for both of these players next term, as elitist specialists are recruited to take up positions.

But are they also holding up reserve spots that could be taken by emerging players? Netherlands youngster Timothy Fosu-Mensah is back from loan at Crystal Palace and raring to take the next step.

A similar tale exists for Argentina No1 and United No2, Sergio Romero. An escape from the bench is fully merited after four years on the sidelines, allowing Portugal Under-21 international Joel Pereira to fulfil his duties.

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Man United heading in right direction, says Ander Herrera after FA Cup loss

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Ander Herrera believes Manchester United need to keep calm and carry on in the wake of their FA Cup final defeat.

Saturday’s season-defining trip to Wembley ended in a galling 1-0 loss to Chelsea, leaving Jose Mourinho lamenting a trophyless second campaign in the Old Trafford dugout.

United won the Europa League, League Cup and Community Shield in the Portuguese’s first season at the helm, although they also stumbled home sixth in the Premier League.

The Red Devils kicked on to finish runners-up this time around, with Herrera focusing on such positives rather than the FA Cup defeat and 19-point gap to champions Manchester City.

“I think we are going to the right way,” the Spanish midfielder said. This season, we cannot take credit out from what Man City have done because they deserve to be champions and they have been almost perfect this season, or perfect.

“I think we have to keep going in this way. I think we are doing things right and try to be back playing finals.

Jose 234

“I think I’ve been here already four seasons and I have played a lot of finals here, which is very good. This club is about trophies but first of all to win trophies you have to play finals and I think we are doing that.”

Pushed on whether he was pleased with United’s progress this season, Herrera added: “I think we’ve done good.

“Normally in a normal Premier League we should have been fighting for the title with the amount of points we had. But Man City did perfect, so the only thing we can do is try to do the same next season.

“Try to not make some mistakes that we made this season – some games that we should have won against teams that – with all my respect for the team – we should win those games.

“As I told you, keep fighting for titles, keep coming to Wembley – hopefully – and that’s all we can do.”

There is, though, no doubt that United could have done more this weekend at Wembley.

A dejected Marcus Rashford

A tepid first-half response to Eden Hazard’s penalty was followed by an improved display after the break, yet sustained pressure rarely threatened to bring an equaliser.

Herrera bristled when it was suggested that United had failed to create many clear-cut chances, listing their attempts in painstaking detail after a match he felt his side deserved to win.

“Really disappointed because I think we were the better team by far,” he added.

“I think we controlled the game. We played really well, we created a lot of problems and we were the better team.

“But in football, not always the better team wins the game, so I can congratulate them and hopefully we can come back next season.”

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Manchester United legend Paul Scholes criticises Alexis Sanchez after FA Cup final loss to Chelsea

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Former Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes has laid into Alexis Sanchez following the FA Cup final, claiming his performances “can’t get any worse”.

Chile international Sanchez was singled out for criticism following his poor display as United lost 1-0 to Chelsea at Wembley on Saturday.

Scholes believes Sanchez will have to improve vastly next season if United are to have any chance of challenging champions Manchester City.

“His performances, well they have to improve,” Scholes told BT Sport. “They can’t get any worse to be honest with you.

“I think the next few games of next season are vital to him, he needs to get fans believing again and believing they are going to get close to City. They need a big player.

Hazard of Chelsea celebrates

“Paul Pogba does not win you games on his own. (Eden) Hazard does. Alexis Sanchez doesn’t, he’s shown that since January, they thought he could, but what we’ve seen…

“They need two magical players. I think they’ve got really good players, they haven’t got a Hazard, (Cristiano) Ronaldo, (Lionel) Messi, and I know many teams haven’t, but the difference between the two was the quality in Hazard, we saw that in big games. United don’t have that.”

Hazard scored the only goal of the game from the penalty spot early in the first half after he was fouled by Phil Jones.

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