The second part of the discussion will feature the likes of Darren Fletcher, Luis Nani and Ashley Young – players whose futures are not sorted yet and players who might/might not get a chance to prove themselves under Louis Van Gaal. Manchester United will begin their pre-season preparations in the United States, against Los Angeles Galaxy and will go on to feature in the International Champions Cup – against the likes of AS Roma, Inter Milan and Real Madrid. As of now, the aforementioned players have made it to the squad but as Louis Van Gaal had mentioned earlier, he’d take his time to assess the squad before making any decision regarding further tinkering.
Darren Fletcher did make an inspiring comeback after missing almost an entire season of top flight football owing to a chronic bowel illness condition, adding immense work-rate and temperament to a rather disinterested side. He made his first appearance for nearly a year when came on as a substitute for Ryan Giggs in a 3-0 victory over Aston Villa. Another substitute appearance followed in the 2–0 League Cup win against Stoke City and made his first league start in a 3–2 win away to Hull City. Though he could never replicate the form of 2009-10 season last year, he managed to move the ball well and keep the game ticking alongside Michael Carrick/Marouane Fellaini.
Under Louis Van Gaal, it could be a different setup altogether where the manager would want his midfielders to be more industrious as well as creative. While Darren Fletcher is not and has never been a destroyer in the middle, it is highly unlikely to expect killer passes and 40-yard long balls that would unlock defences or switch the play, quite simply because he is not that kind of a player. Fletcher as much as we’d love to see him flourish is already past his prime and is unlikely to cement a place in the starting 11 with the side looking to add more numbers as well as top quality in the middle. These pre-season games could be very vital for Darren as they are for a few other players that want to rejuvenate their Man United careers in a bid to play a part in the Van Gaal revolution.
Verdict – Sell
Unlike Fletcher, Nani had recently signed a long-term contract that could keep him at the club, until the summer of 2018. The consistently inconsistent winger has been linked with a host of European clubs, especially Juventus who have been the monitoring the situation the last 18 months or so. His agent remains coy about the rumors despite the signing of a long-term deal which quite clearly suggests the Portuguese winger is still weighing up his options. He had a typical ‘Nani’ season last year, putting in inconsistent performances often accompanied by flashes of tenacity and brilliance.
Having signed a 5-year contract one would expect him to stay and feature more regularly under Van Gaal next season. He’s had a decent World Cup and has flown with the squad to the States to take part in the pre-season preparations. Nani, on his day can be as good as anyone and if Van Gaal can get the best out of him, he can add a new dimension to the Manchester United attack, an effective plan B. Or it could be a case of using him in a part exchange deal to land Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal which would certainly make a statement of intent. I for one would want to see him at Manchester United next season as him leaving would leave the club short of genuine wide players – players the club has always based its game on.
Verdict – Keep
“What did I say he was worth before? Was it £75 million? Well, let’s make that £82 million now. Ashley Young is priceless– absolutely irreplaceable.” – Martin O’Neill
Brilliant chap, ain’t he? The fact that Aston Villa was paid a fee in the region between £15 million and £20 million by Manchester United to secure his services should be one of the bizarre signings of Sir Alex Ferguson’s managerial career, hands down. And the fact that he was handed a shirt number that was previously worn by a club icon in Paul Scholes could not make it any worse. Besides the 8-2 rout against Arsenal at Old Trafford and 3-1 win at WHL, I don’t think anybody would be able to recall a game where Ashley Young has stood out or has taken the game by the scruff of his neck.
Young’s contract expires in the summer of 2016 and not delving any deeper into the issue, I’d reckon this is the perfect time to cash him in and part with the cash – promote an youngster, say Jesse Lingard who has had a few productive loan spells in the last year or Tom Lawrence who has already made his senior team debut only to be replaced by club veteran Ryan Giggs late into the game.