Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial on path to stardom but one has more secure Man United future

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Are Rashford and Martial still on the path to superstardom?

With Manchester United set for a second straight season without silverware, all signs point to a big summer overhaul from newly-installed manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The Norwegian has spoken of the investment it will take to rebuild the squad so that it bridges the gap to clubs like Barcelona, who dumped United out of the Champions League this week.

While part of the rebuild will involve bringing in new players, Solskjaer and the rest of the club hierarchy will need to make cold, ruthless decisions about the ones already at the club.

Here, we look at how likely the current strikers at United are to remain at Old Trafford beyond this summer. Check out our analysis of the club’s goalkeepers, defenders, and midfielders as well.

Marcus Rashford

The only thing that could see Marcus Rashford leave his boyhood club is if the potential impasse during contract negotiations becomes reality. Rashford is reportedly seeking a new deal worth £200,000 per week, a wage United may feel the player hasn’t quite earned yet.

And whatever happens they are in the market for forward options this summer, which could see Rashford’s playing time reduced. His composure and finishing remain issues but, at 21, he still has time to iron those out, and Solskjaer admires the young Englishman. His combination of talent and determination should help him remain a fixture at United for the years to come.

Likelihood of staying: 10/10

Anthony Martial

Between Rashford and Anthony Martial, the Frenchman is arguably the more talented player. There’s a reason United agreed to a Ballon d’Or clause in his transfer when making him the then-most expensive teenager in history upon signing him from Monaco in 2015.

Yet there’s also a feeling that Rashford applies himself better and has less of a tendency to go missing in games. The impression that he is permanently sulking, like a new-age Nicolas Anelka, doesn’t help, though even the original Le Sulk ended up being an excellent striker. If Martial can focus on harnessing his potential in a similar way, United will reap the benefits.

Likelihood of staying: 8/10

Alexis Sanchez

Alexis Sanchez’s gravest sin as a United player may not be his failure to have any lasting impact, as injuries and a decline in form have reduced him to a frustrating, ineffective footballer. No, the bigger concern is the wages he’s on, which depending on reports are anything between £350,000 and £400,000 per week.

He is United’s highest-paid player by far, which makes negotiations almost impossible with those of his team-mates, like David De Gea and Paul Pogba, who think that status should reside with them. What that means is even if Sanchez does find form, and that already looks like a huge if, he still would be the player who blew up United’s wage structure and made every player demand more money  – perhaps more than United could afford.

Compounding the issue, the Chilean’s wages also make him difficult to sell. And in any case, he’s a 30-year-old who looks like his best form is behind him, which might deter suitors. United will no doubt be trying to cut their losses this summer.

Likelihood of staying: 4/10

Romelu Lukaku

Lukaku had the best season of his career in his debut campaign at United, then went to the World Cup and was one of Belgium’s most important players, and then got struck by second-season syndrome at the club. He’s had two separate runs of six games without a goal, another eight-game goalless streak, and currently hasn’t scored in his last five.

When Solskjaer replaced Mourinho he instantly returned the club to playing with traditional pace and incision and Lukaku – who’d bulked up over the summer – simply looked too clunky and static. He has slimmed down in the last few months and shown flashes of the powerful, pacey and prodigious finisher from his Everton days, but he’s just so streaky, that you wonder whether he can really become an iconic United striker.

On the face of it, 15 goals and three assists isn’t an awful campaign, and there’s still the possibility that he ends this season having topped 20 goals for the second straight campaign.

But whether he fits into Solskjaer’s hard-working, high-pressing, quick-breaking style remains to be seen, and Lukaku himself has hinted at an exit, though not necessarily an immediate one. United are also being linked with other strikers.

Likelihood of staying: 6/10

Jesse Lingard

It’s still hard to know what to make of Lingard. At times there are flashes of real quality, with his movement, ability to press, and penchant for a flashy finish. Not to mention his clear love for the club, his local ties, fun personality and status as the club’s ultimate wind-up merchant, all of which make him a fan favourite.

But compared to the best players at his position, Lingard falls short. He doesn’t produce consistently enough and has a tendency to drift in and out of games. He’s 26, which means in theory he’s about to hit his prime – but there is a sense that the current version of Lingard is the best he’ll ever be.

And if he’s already hit his ceiling, then he’s at best a squad player, not someone who should be starting every week for a side chasing major honours. There’s no danger of a summer exit, but United need an upgrade at his position.

Likelihood of staying: 10/10

Juan Mata

That the man who arrived as a club-record signing is likely to leave on a free transfer shows how poorly United have managed their transfers and contracts in the last six seasons.

Never fleet of foot, the diminutive Spaniard has always relied on his sharpness of thought throughout his career. But even the 30-year-old’s brain seems to have slowed this season as games tend to pass him by all too often. It’s a shame because he’s a great role model for United on and off the pitch and has scored more than his fair share of crucial goals – 44 in 216 games for United.

In truth Mata never seemed like a natural fit at the club and though he has done his best to adapt, and endeared himself to the fans, these are set to be his last months at the club until his post-playing career, when United reportedly have him lined up as a club ambassador.

Likelihood of staying: 1/10

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Midfield reinforcements on their way but Manchester United won't let Paul Pogba leave

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Paul Pogba's future is up in the air.

With Manchester United set for a second straight season without silverware, all signs point to a big summer overhaul from newly-installed manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The Norwegian has spoken of the investment it will take to rebuild the squad so that it bridges the gap to clubs like Barcelona, who dumped United out of the Champions League last week.

While part of the rebuild will involve bringing in new players, Solskjaer and the rest of the club hierarchy will need to make cold, ruthless decisions about the ones already at the club.

Here, we look at how likely the current midfielders at United are to remain at Old Trafford beyond this summer. Check out our analysis of the club’s goalkeepers, defenders, and strikers as well.

Paul Pogba

Paul Pogba is the player Solskjaer wants to build his team around. For all the talk that the Frenchman is inconsistent, fails to turn up in big games and relies too much on having exactly the right personnel around him in order to be at his best, there’s no doubting the 26-year-old’s talent.

He’s managed 16 goals and 10 assists across all competitions this campaign, the best season of his career to date, and should – under the right conditions – get better.

The complication with Pogba is that he’s flirting with an exit all on his own, with recent comments about linking up with Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid raising eyebrows. As fine a player as he is, his ego and attitude can also be distracting and has the potential to derail the re-build Solskjaer is trying to assemble.

He enters next season with just two years left on his current contract, which means he holds the cards in renewal negotiations, and he could force a move if he wanted to. But selling the World Cup-winner a second time might also be a viable option for the club. He has plenty of suitors and if United were to be offered a sum in the region of £120 million plus, they would have a conundrum to figure out.

But the overriding feeling must still be to keep hold of him for now.  United would prefer to keep him this summer, but will Madrid test their resolve?

Likelihood of staying: 8/10

Fred

It’s never easy for a midfielder to come into the Premier League and instantly settle in, and Fred has no doubt experienced some growing pains during his first season at United. But the £50million man has started to come into his own over the last month, despite his grim showing against Everton, and there is faith at the club that he can find his feet.

United are said to be looking for a new central midfielder in any case, but that’s because they’re thin on proven quality at the position with the likely departure of Ander Herrera and the declining form of Nemanja Matic. Fred will get the chance to kick on in his second season and establish himself as an important member of the squad, regardless of who is brought in.

Likelihood of staying: 10/10

Scott McTominay

Scott McTominay has been one of United’s most impressive players this year, proving Jose Mourinho right after being singled out for praise last season. The young Scot starred against Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona – not many can say that.

There are question marks over just how good McTominay can be, whether he’s a limited player who will make up for that with graft, commitment, and desire, or whether he genuinely has the talent to be come a top-tier player. His athleticism and physique have seen him thrive this year and he has coped ably when tasked with marshalling opponents’ key players and breaking up attacks.

Regardless, at 22 McTominay has a bright future ahead of him, and United will keep him on for a while as they look to discover exactly what sort of player they have on their hands.

Likelihood of staying: 10/10

Ander Herrera

United fans have always been split on Ander Herrera, but even more so since rumours of a deal with PSG emerged. The Spaniard’s passion for the club and committed displays have made him a fan favourite, but with his wage demands reportedly rising to £200,000 per week – which PSG are apparently willing to meet – neither the club nor its fans are sure if the 29-year-old is worth the outlay.

It’s a shame, because despite the idea that he is “leaving for money” Herrera truly loves the club and its fans, and he has been earmarked as a potential captain. United will find better players than him in the market but few have the Roy Keane-esque spirit and bite he brings in midfield, in addition to his good vision and impressive passing range.

As a defensive midfielder with the ability to launch attacks he brings genuine quality that at times get overlooked. But unless there’s a surprising U-turn from either player or club, he’s not going to be a United player much longer.

Likelihood of staying: 3/10

Nemanja Matic

Nemanja Matic’s lack of mobility is becoming increasingly glaring, and though he had a mini-resurgence after Solskjaer’s arrival there is now a clear sense that the Serbian could be in a state of permanent decline.

He still brings title-winning experience to the club and is a player constantly able to be called upon for the big games, but it’s more likely that Matic is reduced to fourth or even fifth-choice midfielder next season, someone trotted out for cup games or when the first-choice players need a rest. The 30-year-old may accept that role, or both club and player could decide it’s time for Matic to move on.

Likelihood of staying: 5/10

Andreas Pereira

Despite showing glimpses of his talent Andreas Pereira has never been able to nail down a spot in his manager’s first-choice XI. Is he more of a defensive midfielder who can keep possession, or a wide, attacking player?

Mourinho was playing him out of position as a holding midfielder, to be fair, but even Solskjaer, who knows the Brazil international from his days as United’s reserve team manager, hasn’t quite been impressed enough to give Pereira a run of games.

The club triggered a one-year extension on Pereira’s contract last month, but that was likely only to ensure the 23-year-old cannot leave on a free this summer rather than a vote of confidence in his abilities. If a suitor comes calling, United will likely let him leave.

Likelihood of staying: 4/10

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Man United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer must be ruthless in the summer

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“I can’t wait to get a pre-season done.”

Every Manchester United fan can appreciate Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s primary sentiment in the aftermath of a humiliating 4-0 defeat at Goodison Park.

It was appropriate that the visitors donned their pink kit during the mauling rather than their traditional red because much like one colour is a faded version of the other, this team was a pale imitation of itself.

The players were second best in every individual battle, the ones they bothered to compete in at least. Often enough Everton were allowed free rein to latch onto loose balls, coast into space and operate with ample time under no threat whatsoever.

Gylfi Sigurdsson’s long-range effort for the second goal revealed all. Following a United corner, the hosts broke quickly with the Icelandic midfielder running at an increasingly sluggish Nemanja Matic. He was always going to check back onto his right foot, but the Serbian offered no resistance. Of the three players jogging back to the edge of the box, not one made any attempt to close Sigurdsson down.

There’s a rot at United now and it’s evident that it’s festered beyond tactics and philosophy. United ran 8.03km less than Everton on Sunday, an appalling figure especially with possession split evenly.

One of the first things Solskjaer targeted when he took charge was the desire to work harder than any opposition. A 5-1 victory at Cardiff City in his opening match was the first time United had out-run their opponents this season. Unfortunately, that display proved an anomaly rather than a sign of things to come.

Performances steadily deteriorated but an attacking intent coupled with kind fixtures to begin with papered over the cracks. The reality is United have ran less than their opponents in 15 out of 17 games under Solskjaer and with their injury list growing as the fixtures came thick and fast, they were eventually exposed.

More than any defeat, the lack of intensity, desire and work rate is clearly something the United boss cannot stomach, nor should he. Engineering a well-conditioned unit capable of meeting standards worthy of a United team seems to be Solskjaer’s predominant focus moving forward.

It was convenient to hide behind Jose Mourinho and his attitude that quickly turned toxic. Even though he made legitimate points, the Portuguese’s inherently negative tendencies rendered him an easy target. Of course, producing a fit squad was his responsibility and he failed in that aspect but there were always too many players simply unfit to wear the shirt.

That’s another reason why Solskjaer looks longingly towards the summer. Old Trafford is in desperate need of a clear-out but targeting players with the right profile will be key. With the likes of Manchester City and Paris-Saint Germain walking the Financial Fairplay tightrope, United have the resources to be successful in the transfer market with or without Champions League football.

There’s every possibility to land household names like Gareth Bale, Mesut Ozil or James Rodriguez largely unopposed should they choose to but luxury players are not the need of the hour. This team requires hungry, determined and fierce competitors. This team needs fighters.

A top-four spot is slipping away from them and perhaps that’s for the best. Admitting you have a problem is the first step towards recovery and United must accept that they have no business being on the same pitch as Barcelona at the moment.

There is no quick-fix, you’d think after seven years of fumbling around in the dark United would’ve arrived that conclusion. At least Solskjaer seems to grasp the reality of situation.

“You can’t change your whole squad. One step at a time. I am going to be successful here and there are players who won’t be part of that successful team but many of these do have it.”

Summer is coming, and heads must roll. United need to be ruthless with players who clearly don’t meet expectations. If six, eight or even ten players are shown the door, so be it. Whether it’s Romelu Lukaku, Paul Pogba or even David De Gea, no player should be at Old Trafford next season unless he wants to be – that much is essential.

For now though, the priority should be to finish the season strongly. That may even mean getting the youngsters involved and using their enthusiasm to reignite the team’s desire.

The likes of Mason Greenwood, Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes and James Gardner will play a vital part in breathing new life into a stale squad next season. Solskjaer would do well to make a statement with their inclusions now.

There’s a monumental task that awaits the Norwegian this summer and how he tackles it may well define his reign at Old Trafford. Fortunately for United, he seems like an individual determined to focus on necessities the club have ignored for too long – the basics.

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