Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho is already busy trying to strengthen his squad ahead of what he hopes is a Premier League title challenge next season. He has a 19-point gap to make up after Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City ran away with the championship. But as well as new recruits, there are also players returning to Old Trafford who are hoping to be part of Mourinho’s plans.
Andreas Pereira, Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Axel Tuanzebe all spent time on loan last season as they looked to gain more senior experience. The trio will return to Carrington in July with sources telling ESPN FC they are likely to be part of the squad to tour the United States this summer before Mourinho and his coaching staff make decisions on their futures.
Here, ESPN FC takes a look at how they got on last season and their chances of breaking into Mourinho’s first-team squad.
Games played: 29
Pereira defied Mourinho when he decided to move to Valencia in a season-long loan deal on deadline day. Mourinho said he was “disappointed” with Pereira’s choice and would have preferred the midfielder to fight for his place at Old Trafford. He might have been picked ahead of Scott McTominay last season had he stayed.
Pereira, 22, got games at Valencia, but Mourinho admitted in January he was concerned that “he’s playing in a position that doesn’t exist at Manchester United.”
“The overall opinion on Andreas Pereira was that his performances were underwhelming,” La Liga writer Andrew Gaffney told ESPN FC. “He was primarily seen as a rotation option on either wing. There were moments when his quality shone through, but those were few and far between. He became more and more marginalised by the club as the season wore on, injuries not helping either.
“There’s no chance Valencia will try to loan him again or pursue a permanent deal.”
Pereira — born in Belgium but a Brazilian youth international — has been consistent in his conversations with United that he needs to be playing regular football. Sources have told ESPN FC that his aim is still to make the grade at Old Trafford, but there are concerns the fierce competition for places could stunt his development.
Chances of being part of United’s first-team squad next season: 7/10
Club: Crystal Palace
Games played: 24
Mourinho was keen for Fosu-Mensah, 20, to get more Premier League experience and he will return to Old Trafford having played 21 games for Crystal Palace last season. He did enough to play under both Frank de Boer and Roy Hodgson, and won a first call-up to the Netherlands senior squad.
“When he joined last summer, there was some optimism around his arrival, given that he had featured for Manchester United at first-team level,” Rob Warlow, Crystal Palace writer at Football.London, told ESPN FC.
“He showed signs of promise, endearing himself to the Palace fans on the opening day against Huddersfield Town with his ability to get back to make a last-ditch tackle to deny Steve Mounie. Despite Palace’s early-season struggle for form, he managed to impress.
“With the versatility he offered in being able to play at full-back or in the centre of defence at times, he was a useful member of the first-team squad for Palace, first during Frank de Boer’s brief spell, and for Roy Hodgson too.
“He did find his opportunities limited towards the end of the season, largely due to the emergence of Aaron Wan-Bissaka to compete with Joel Ward for the right-back spot, but the experience of this season should stand him in good stead for the future.”
Fosu-Mensah can play at full-back, centre-back and in midfield, and his versatility will appeal to Mourinho. Utility man Daley Blind could depart, and offering cover in a number of a positions will help Fosu-Mensah’s first-team prospects next season.
Chances of being part of United’s first-team squad next season: 8/10
Club: Aston Villa
Games played: 5
It tells you everything about how highly rated Tuanzebe is by Mourinho that the United manager was reluctant to let the 20-year-old leave in January. He waited until the last minute to sanction a temporary move to Aston Villa — and not before he was confident Eric Bailly would soon return from injury.
Steve Bruce said he had brought Tuanzebe to Villa Park “to play”, but competition for places and an ankle injury suffered in April restricted him to just five appearances.
“Despite Tuanzebe admitting his preference is to play at centre-back, Steve Bruce didn’t consider him for that position last season with James Chester and John Terry Villa’s first-choice pairing,” Alex Dicken, Aston Villa reporter at Birmingham Live, told ESPN FC.
“He was signed to provide cover for Chester and Terry, and provide competition for Ahmed Elmohamady at right-back. Four of his five appearances for Villa came at right-back.
“His arrival wasn’t deemed to be entirely necessary by many supporters in January. Bruce was keen to add a utility man to his ranks as cover in the event of exhaustion taking its toll in the final months of an arduous Championship season, but you couldn’t see where he was ever going to fit into the starting XI.
“Most fans have struggled to form an opinion on Tuanzebe due to his lack of playing time. They were impressed by him on his full debut at Fulham and in the 0-0 draw at Hull City in late March, but Villa fans haven’t seen anywhere near enough to cast a fair judgement.”
Tuanzebe’s chances at Old Trafford next season depend on who comes in and who leaves. Blind and Matteo Darmian are expected to leave, but incomings — particularly Toby Alderweireld or Diogo Dalot — would add more competition.
Chances of being part of United’s first-team squad next season: 6/10
Rob is ESPN FC’s Manchester United correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @RobDawsonESPN.