12 Feb, 16:00
Manchester United have vastly improved this season as compared to the last one. The difference between them and leaders Manchester City is that of consistency and the underwhelming performances of certain players. While City can rely on any player in their squad to step up and deliver a stellar performance, the same cannot be said for Manchester United.
Following yesterday's defeat to Newcastle United, Manchester United still lay claim to second place in the league but are a massive 16 points off the top. Their arch-rivals, Manchester City have been ruthless this season and are showing no signs of slowing down.
Here, we take a look at 4 such players and why they should be offloaded this summer and replaced by better ones:
At the top of every Manchester United fan’s most hated list at present is English centre-back, Chris Smalling; who has been topsy-turvy for the majority of his career.
Though his statistics this season have been good, he is prone to far too many high-profile errors which unfortunately occur at crucial junctures in a match. Case in point, in yesterday’s match against Newcastle, he inexplicably dived and was booked for simulation, handing Newcastle a set-piece opportunity. While the free-kick was defended poorly and cannot be entirely attributed to that one event, it did play a huge part.
Having been at United since 2010 and still unsure of a spot in the starting line-up speaks a lot about his credentials as a defender. United should cut their losses and listen to offers for him in the summer.
Matteo Darmian’s arrival in the summer of 2015 was deemed a great piece of business by then manager, Louis van Gaal. The Italian full-back had been steadily building his reputation with confident displays for Torino and his value skyrocketed when he tormented England at the 2014 World Cup.
Fast forward three years later and Darmian looks like a pale shadow of the promising full-back he was once made out to be. Though it can be argued that he was played out of position multiple times in a back-three or at left-back, the truth is he did not grab the opportunities presented to him.
He does produce the occasional defensive masterclass (remember the Europa League final) when played at right-back but those have been sporadic and not good enough for a top club like Manchester United. The decision to sell Rafael da Silva to Lyon seems even more baffling now considering Darmian’s poor displays
Fellaini’s stay at Manchester United has been a roller-coaster ride right from the beginning. Signed by David Moyes in an ill-fated deadline day of the summer window of 2013, the afro-sporting Belgian had always been deemed as a panic buy and rightly so.
He had worked well with Moyes during their time together at Everton, so there was still some hope that he could flourish under the same manager. But it was not to be. Moyes was sacked 10 months into his tenure and Fellaini’s performances did not do much to raise the spirits of the fans.
Then came Louis van Gaal and Mourinho who used him in different ways. He was used as a focal point in rebuilding play by LvG and as a Plan B whenever United fell behind and wanted a target man by Mourinho. He seemed confused about his position and could never quite cement his place in the starting XI.
It seems the time to offload Fellaini is appropriate this summer, considering that he has hardly featured for United this season with a combination of injuries and different formations keeping him out of United’s squad.
Daley Blind was a sought-after man after his brilliant displays for the Netherlands in the 2014 World Cup. He was pivotal and helped them reach the semi-finals. United beat Liverpool to his signing and it was supposed to earmark a new era at the club with an influx of new players and also a new manager.
The Dutch have fallen and so has Blind. Though he is the captain of the national side, his best games for United have been few and far between. Lauded for his versatility and intelligence, Blind was considered to be adept at playing left-back, centre-back and defensive midfield.
But to play in a back four, a player has to be quick and strong, qualities which are not associated with Blind. He may get away with it against smaller teams but in games against title-contenders, he is a definite liability. This season, he has been woefully out of form and has only featured in 19 games.
He was offered to Roma in January, so clearly the United hierarchy are unimpressed with him. Mourinho seems reluctant to play him in his best position of a defensive midfielder and if he intends to continue with this stance, then it is best that he sell Blind this summer