(Photo Credit: Reuters/David Klein)
What you do you think about when you think about José Mourinho? Do you remember the olive skin and seductive smile, or the greying temples and crows’ feet? Do you remember the sight of him bounding down the Old Trafford touchline in celebration, or do you remember his sullen face sinking into an overcoat as the heavens open?
Mourinho has aged, but so has his football too. Manchester United have been grimly effective since his arrival as manager in2016, but there is precious little enjoyment to be found in their suffocating style. As his ashen revolution continues, here are five players likely to depart the club in the Summer.
1 Anthony Martial
Anthony Martial became United third most expensive signing three years ago.After a blistering start to life in England, the £38 million fee seemed like a snip.
The former Monaco man has struggled since those early heights, however.Stifled under successive managers, he is ill-suited to the defensive drudgery being served up at Old Trafford and needs to seek a move to reinvigorate his career. With Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard ahead of him in Mourinho’s thoughts, an exit is the only solution.
2 Chris Smalling
At 28, Chris Smalling will not get any better. Given his precarious displays this season that should be reason enough to show him the door in the summer.
It’s easy to forget that the Greenwich man was once the subject of a bidding war between United and Arsenal, before eventually plumping for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side in2010. Gunners fans have had no reason to regret his choice since then.
3 Matteo Darmian
The Italian was one of Louis van Gaal’s most notable signings, arriving in England with a reputation enhanced by some sterling displays with Torino.
A natural athlete who can play in any position across the backline, he felt like a solution to United’s leaky defence. The 28-year-old, however, has been inconsistent since signing in 2015, with his stamina and work rate undermined by a lack of footballing technique. With Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young nailed on as first choice full-backs, a return to Italy feels like a sensible solution for all parties.
4 Phil Jones
Phil Jones recently bought a new Range Rover. Well, he has to do something with his time after being dropped from the squad for recent games.
Another man who had piqued the interest of Arsenal scouts, Jones was an enticing prodigy when he left Blackburn for Manchester back in 2011, but injury and inconsistency have prevented the 26-year-old from living up to the hype. With United closely monitoring the situation of Toby Alderweireld, the England international could attract a decent transfer fee.
5 Paul Pogba
In his lowest moments, Paul Pogba might withdraw to a quiet place and open Netflix on his laptop. Scrolling through the options, his eyes might rest on the documentary "First Team: Juventus".
Checking to confirm that nobody’s around, the Frenchman might then decide to binge on every episode of the behind-the-scenes look at his former teammates’ season. The tears will flow, and the nostalgia will pulsate. Why did he ever leave?
There’s an uncomfortable thread in the criticism of Pogba this season. Commentators who criticise his efficacy also focus on his flamboyant hairstyle and flash demeanour. He doesn’t care enough, they say, too obsessed with his personal brand than the team objectives.
It’s nonsense. Pogba is a wonderful player playing at a club that is ill-suited and unwilling to cater to him.
“I can still do better” he told SkySports last week.
“I am not young but I can still improve, learn and get more experience”.
If he chose to do that outside Old Trafford, who could blame him? He is too good to be stifled by a safety-first manager and too talented to be wasted in a restrictive system. For the sake of his career, he should seek a move.
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