Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal will have to make a quick assessment on whether the so-called fringe players in Tom Cleverley, Javier Hernández, Shinji Kagawa, Darren Fletcher, Luis Nani and Ashley Young should be offered contract extensions, with all of them waiting anxiously to discover their futures as the new manager arrives in Manchester on Wednesday.
All have two years left on their current contracts apart from Cleverley and Fletcher whose terms expire next summer, while Nani penned a new long-term deal last summer that would keep him until the summer of 2018. While others in the United squad also have deals that end over the next 24 months, it is these six players whose respective futures are in the balance, with Bebé and Anderson two others who are free to leave. Because Van Gaal has joined the club only four weeks before the start of the season, he needs to act fast to decide if all the aforementioned players are part of his long-term plans.
Tom Cleverley, often the scapegoat and one that gets all the stick, has had a very poor season under David Moyes, putting in mediocre to unacceptable performances in the last 12 months. His contract expires next season and this season could well be his last at United if he doesn’t perform when given the chance. Louis Van Gaal has a reputation of a person that loves to develop raw potential and turn them into world beaters but one could wonder if Cleverley really has the quality a Manchester United midfielder should have. With rumours that Everton are interested in him gathering pace, the club can also look forward to cashing in, in order to recoup a small portion of the money they have spent this season. That said, I’d like the club to give him one more season, play him in a midfield 3, get him to pass vertically and see what he can offer, because I genuinely believe Louis Van Gaal can get the best out of this academy graduate.
Verdict – Keep (One last chance)
Javier Hernandez has been an incredible player for the club, popping up with late goals and crucial winners more often than not. But then, even his impressive goals to games ratio hasn’t seemed to help him nail down a place in the starting 11 last season as he fell below Welbeck in the pecking order. He was quite vocal about his lack of starts as well, something you would not expect from a player like him that seldom lets emotions get the better of him. With just 4 PL starts under his belt and 12 appearances off the bench, one could understand what he was worried about. His frustrations are understandable and it is expected the club would sell him for the right price as he definitely deserves to play in a club where he could be offered a more regular playing time.
Verdict – Sell (for the right price)
How do I even start? Kagawa was the first signing that unanimously excited the entire fanbase since Ronaldo and Rooney. A vital cog in Klopp’s Dortmund machine, he was bound to bring creativity and an attacking fluidity to the United midfield, something it was deprived of. But it was not meant to be, as the Japanese often failed to live up to his billing and often played down the left where he was unproductive, and sometimes a mere spectator. This led the club to sign a similar player in Juan Mata, which has put Kagawa’s United career in jeopardy now. Recent reports suggested that Kagawa was happy at United and was ready to rebuff interest from Napoli and Borussia Dortmund to stay at Old Trafford. But it is likely that he would want to hold talks with the new boss and like to know about his role in the side next season, with United trying to add more quality to their midfield.
Kagawa made 26 appearances in all competitions for United (14 in the PL) this season but was often unhappy at being played out of position under David Moyes. Indeed, the situation is unlikely to improve under Van Gaal with Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and even Adnan Januzaj possibly ahead of the Japanese international in the pecking order to play behind the striker. And unless the Dutchman gives Kagawa a massive vote of confidence after the World Cup, it seems that he could be on his way before the start of next season. I would want him to stay at United as would most of you, as I feel he could be a real asset to the team if he’s played where he is allowed to express himself.
Verdict – Keep
The futures of Fletcher, Young and Nani at Manchester United will be discussed in the second part of the article..