Manchester United have one of the highest wage bills in Europe, a reported annual gross figure of £215million being spent on the squad, £70million more than the current Liverpool squad and Manchester City squad, despite not having much success in the Premier League or Champions League to show that the amount the players are receiving regularly is more than deserved.
The Red Devils’ lack of silverware over the last decade and the lack of football experts across the board and owners, has resulted in the current situation of offering players extortionate wages, to convince them to join or remain at the football club. They have also made huge losses financially, failing to ship out the deadwood when required to do so and their constant change of managers.
As a new era takes place under Erik Ten Hag, someone who has shown tactical flexibility and the qualities of a modern football manager during his time at Ajax, questions will be raised on will the big-name individuals and the highest paid players be suited to his proactive style of play or not.
We now investigate into the top five earners at United and whether they should be kept or sold…
5) Paul Pogba (£290,000 a week)
With his contract coming to an end in June, and no indications of a potential renewal taking place, Paul Pogba leaving Manchester United would be ideal for all parties involved. The Frenchman’s return to Old Trafford for a second spell has not gone as planned, as both Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have failed to effectively build the team around him, whilst the board’s inability to rebuild the squad to a world class level has shown with their lack of success over the last ten years.
However, the whole blame cannot be placed on the board and the previous managers, as the player himself has not shown the signs of an individual who has adapted to the fast-paced nature of the Premier League, with the opposition targeting him with a two-man press and his lack of tracking back. Now, Ten Hag has the freedom to deal with one less player to facilitate his team around whilst having the fantastic opportunity of buying a central midfielder who can meet his expectations.
Conclusion: Allow the player to leave as a free agent.
4) Raphael Varane (£340,000 a week)
It has not been the perfect debut season for Raphael Varane at Old Trafford, missing just over 15 league matches due to injury issues. Though, the side have been much better with his presence in the backline, as they conceded fewer goals when he has been in the line-up (22) than when he has been on the bench or on the sidelines (35). On top of that, the team has completed more clean sheets with him (5) than without him (3), despite the defensive issues they have had all season.
The team have been held back with the missing aura of a natural holding midfielder whilst attempting to play a defensive high line with a goalkeeper who is not confident of coming out the penalty area, to complete sweep away any potential danger from the opposition. Nevertheless, Varane remains as the best centre-back at United and one of the best in the league, and he is expected to be a key individual within the tactical system that Ten Hag is looking to implement.
3) Jadon Sancho (£350,000 a week)
It took a long time for Jadon Sancho to hit the ground running, due to adapting to the intensity and physicality of the Premier League, whilst Solskjaer did not have a specific style of play in place and had constant changes made to the line-up. On the other hand, he statistically sits as one of the most effective wide players in the league, with his progressive passes and carries into the penalty area.
The 22-year-old is expected to be one of the most important individuals within Ten Hag’s system, someone who is well known for his trickery, productivity in the final third and moments of brilliance when desperately required, which he has shown during his four seasons at Borussia Dortmund. It is too early for United to give up on Sancho, as he has had difficulties playing with players who are not on his wavelength, and he has a higher ceiling than both Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford.
2) David De Gea (£375,000 a week)
Completing the third most saves (126) compared to the rest of the Premier League goalkeepers, David De Gea has been regarded as United’s best player this season by the Old Trafford faithful. For sure, the side have not been stable enough defensively, with the opponents being able to create chances with ease, though, the Spaniard’s concerning limitations have been exposed in the long run.
De Gea is commonly known for his shot-stopping ability, but he has been underperforming in this aspect of the game, whilst continuing to show his weaknesses in claiming high crosses, playing out from the back under pressure and coming out of the penalty area when required to do so. The fact that he does not have the qualities of a modern-day goalkeeper, it could lead to the possible outcome of Dean Henderson starting from the beginning of the season, which should progress to the potential departure of De Gea, as it would be difficult to keep someone on high wages on the bench.
1) Cristiano Ronaldo (£510,000 a week)
Cristiano Ronaldo was hoping to be the final piece of Manchester United’s jigsaw to returning to their old ways of winning. Although that has not been the case, the former Juventus and Real Madrid forward was directly involved in 21 of the 57 Premier League goals the side had scored this season, which is more than impressive for a team that was not playing to the strengths of the 37-year-old.
Despite no Champions League football next season, and doubts over whether he would be in Ten Hag’s plans or not, it makes absolute sense for the Portuguese international to remain in England for one more year. Whilst there is a lack of quality strikers available within the market for United, there aren’t many realistic destinations for Ronaldo to pursue this summer, leading to the outcome to keep everything the how it currently is. The club needing a proven goal-scorer and an experienced leader in the dressing room, and the player needs to be recognised as the main man of the team.