Man United Keep or Dump: What will Ten Hag & Co. do?

Despite winning the FA Cup, Manchester United are coming off one of the worst campaigns in the history of the club, and plenty of change is on the horizon. There’s a new minority shareholder in charge of the football side — Sir Jim Ratcliffe — and he has either brought in, or is in the process of bringing in, a raft of executives: Dave Brailsford (the former cycling coach turned all-around sports performance guy), Omar Berrada (who was Manchester City‘s football operations man), Jason Wilcox (who will take over as technical director) and Dan Ashworth (the new sporting director, though his start date will depend on getting his old club, Newcastle, to release him).

That’s a lot of change off the pitch to go along with what will inevitably be major changes within the playing squad.

What’s not changing, however, is the coach. After strongly considering other candidates (including Gareth Southgate, Thomas Tuchel and Mauricio Pochettino) news emerged that Erik Ten Hag was staying and that he may extend his contract for another year, to 2026. The last part may be a formal, operational decision rather than a sign of trust: Ten Hag reportedly had “final say” on transfers written into his contract, but now the club wants to shift to a front office-driven model. It’s probably a wise choice, though it means that this summer’s personnel decisions will be more about squad management rather than bespoke decisions to fit Ten Hag’s vision.

For all the criticism Ten Hag received, many match-going fans blame the players (and the Glazers, the usual whipping boys) as much as they do the manager. That’s not a bad thing in terms of shipping players out. In fact, Ratcliffe is trying to introduce a culture of accountability to the club; you saw it with reports of non-football staff who are at risk of being laid off and no longer allowed to work remotely. It applies to Ten Hag, too: Failure to qualify for the Champions League means he’ll take a pay cut, and there’s definitely a sense that he’ll be coaching to keep his job.

We believe the club’s transfer budget is around £50 million, plus whatever is raised through transfers and the shedding of high earners whose contracts have expired (Raphaël Varane, Anthony Martial). They may be able to squeeze out some more money, too, since most players have clauses whereby their salary goes down if they fail to qualify for the Champions League.

That’s the (sort of) good news. The bad news is that they still have to stay within profit and sustainability regulations (PSR), and their prize money will be way down given they finished eighth in the Premier League and were knocked out of the Champions League in the group stage. (Obviously, they’ll have no Champions League this year either.)

The squad is broadly split between very promising young players and expensive veterans, many of whom only arrived in their late 20s and are now difficult to shift. (Famously, until they moved to bring in Robin van Persie from Arsenal back in 2012, Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill would never sign outfield players over the age of 27.)

Make no mistake: This is a huge summer in terms of personnel decisions, but there are so many hurdles, and they’re paying such a high price for past mistakes, that it will likely take several transfer windows to “fix” United.

Editor’s note: This is the fifth in this year’s series, Keep or Dump, over the coming weeks on which players to keep, extend and move on from for all the top clubs in the Premier League and Europe. Find the Man City version here, the Arsenal version here, the Liverpool edition here and the Chelsea version here.


Keep/dump ground rules

Remember: This is our assessment of what we think the club should do, player for player, with the squad at their disposal. It’s not what we think they will actually do, though sometimes the two will align. That said, we take into account what we know of the club, coaching staff and player preferences, as well as their financial situation and any other factors that we think will impact personnel moves.

Where we disagree, or where we think our rationale is worth explaining, we’ve noted below.


Goalkeepers

André Onana (28, contract expires in 2028 with a one-year club option)

Ogden: He did have a shaky start but got better as the season wore on, and he’s more confident — as well as a better communicator — than his predecessor, David de Gea.

Verdict: Keep

Altay Bayindir (26, contract expires in 2027 with a one-year club option)

Ogden: He only played 90 minutes all season, against Newport County in the FA Cup, which suggests Ten Hag may not rate him much. It’s unusual for a No. 2 goalkeeper to play so few games.

Marcotti: He’s in his mid-20s and has four seasons as a starter for a big club, Fenerbahce, under his belt, so you obviously don’t give up on him just because Ten Hag didn’t give him many minutes. However, it seems obvious to me that getting him on the pitch occasionally is one of those things the club will need to impose on Ten Hag.

Verdict: Keep

Tom Heaton (38, contract expires in 2024)

Ogden: He almost joined Luton a season ago but was persuaded to stay with a coaching role on the table. He’s a reliable third keeper who is rated and relatively inexpensive to keep.

Marcotti: I’m fine with him being United’s version of Scott Carson, the longtime veteran at Man City, but only if he’s happy with being No. 3 and never playing. At this stage, if Onana needs a break, it’s more important that Bayindir be given a chance.

Verdict: Keep and extend


Defenders

Lisandro Martínez (26, contract expires in 2027 with a one-year club option)

Ogden: United badly missed his leadership in defence last season. He is a big part of their plans, though his injury record is a worry.

Verdict: Keep

Raphaël Varane (31, contract expires in 2024)

Verdict: Will be released this month as his contract expires

Jonny Evans (36, contract expires in 2024)

Ogden: He brings organization, professionalism and experience, and it won’t cost much to extend his time at the club for another 12 months. United were mocked for signing him last summer, but he was actually their best defender last season.

Marcotti: It’s one of the dysfunctions of the club. Evans turns 37 in January, was signed as an afterthought and yet made more league appearances than any United central defender. I wouldn’t bring him back just because I’d rather give minutes to a younger player who can develop, like Willy Kambwala. On the other hand, if it’s a very team-friendly deal and he accepts his role, whatever …

Verdict: Split (Extend for a year/Release this month as his contract expires)

Harry Maguire (31, contract expires in 2025 with a one-year club option)

Ogden: Maybe if he had a good Euros with England, you could have shifted him out afterward, saved some wages and received a small fee. But that’s going to be difficult now that he’s injured.

Verdict: Keep

Victor Lindelöf (29, contract expires in 2025)

Ogden: If they extend Evans — and I think they will — you’d have three first-team center-backs all getting to the end of their contracts at the same time. Well, you can’t have that. He’s the least able of the three, and he’s the only one whose exit will recoup some money.

Verdict: Move on

Willy Kambwala (19, contract expires in 2025)

Ogden: You have to extend him, because there’s promise there. He’s very raw, but he can be a good option as a fourth- or fifth-choice central defender.

Marcotti: Totally agree on extending him, but I think whether you keep him or not depends on who the other central defenders are. If he’s fifth-choice because you’ve shifted Lindelof out and added two guys to go with Martinez and Maguire, then I don’t think you need Kambwala around because he’s not going to play and I’d rather loan him. If he’s fifth-choice because you brought back Evans and couldn’t ditch Lindelof, then sure, but then I’d expect him to play more than those other guys.

Verdict: Split (Keep and extend his contract/Loan and extend his contract)

Luke Shaw (28, contract expires in 2027)

Ogden: He signed for United 10 years ago this summer and played 191 times in 10 seasons, which means he missed basically half of United’s games. While a good player when fit, that’s a dismal track record.

Marcotti: Shaw actually made 30 league starts twice in the past four years, which is better than I thought, but obviously he’s not durable and not someone you can count on. And because of this — as well as his wages — you can’t shift him either. You have no choice but to keep him, and hope that he can be a utility left-back/central defender for the next few years.

Verdict: Keep

Tyrell Malacia (24, contract expires in 2026 with a one-year club option)

Ogden: He looked decent to me when he arrived, but then he missed all of last season. Nobody will sign him injured, so you just have to get him fit. From there, he has some catching up to do.

Marcotti: There’s a big call to be made this summer based on his fitness. If they think he can be United’s left-back, then maybe you can muddle through another season with some combination of Shaw, Diogo Dalot (when he’s not playing right-back) and him at left-back. It’s suboptimal, but resources are limited and you have other needs. If he’s nowhere near convincing you and you can’t pick up a decent left-back, then you’ve got a serious problem. You may need to look at a loan solution.

Verdict: Keep

Brandon Williams (23, contract expires in 2024)

Verdict: Will be released this month as his contract expires

Diogo Dalot (25, contract expires in 2028 with a one-year club option)

Ogden: He has improved, he plays both full-back positions and is good going forward. But his defensive shortcomings mean he should not be first-choice.

Marcotti: Dalot is valuable because he’s a reliable backup at two positions, though you may end up needing him as a starter.

Verdict: Keep

Aaron Wan-Bissaka (26, contract expires in 2025)

Ogden: Move on. There is a market for him since his wages are relatively low. Maybe you can use him in a deal to get Michael Olise from Crystal Palace? With a year left, Wan-Bissaka could fetch £15-20m in fees.

Marcotti: That fee might be a little optimistic with a year left, but I agree. Otherwise you have to extend his contract, and that makes no sense.

Verdict: Move on

Álvaro Fernández (21, contract expires in 2027, was on loan at Benfica last season)

Ogden: Benfica have triggered the option to make the move permanent at £5.1m plus £2.6m in potential add-ons. That’s some more money for the transfer kitty.

Marcotti: There’s another left-back option gone, though that’s not a bad price for a guy who was on loan in the championship in 2022-23 and spent the first six months of last year on a bad Granada side in LaLiga before moving to Benfica. You just hope he doesn’t come back to haunt you.

Verdict: Moving on

Will Fish (21, contract ends in 2025, was on loan at Hibernian last season)

Marcotti: Spending 18 months as a regular player at Hibs in Scotland is promising. Evaluate him in preseason, and maybe he can be your extra defender and you loan Kambwala instead.

Ogden: Fish is slightly undersized, but the fact that he played significant minutes at a young age bodes well. Give him a shot.

Verdict: Keep and evaluate whether he’s first-team quality


Midfielders

Scott McTominay (27 years old, contract expires in 2025 with a one-year club option)

Ogden: He’s honest and gets around the pitch, but he’s not United quality, which is why the club tried to shift him a year ago. He’s an example of how club standards have plummeted, but because he scored some goals last season and because many like him, I think you can get a good fee for him for maybe £25m.

Marcotti: He’s not playing up to his wages, that’s obvious. You don’t want to extend him, so move him on.

Verdict: Move on

Sofyan Amrabat (27, on loan from Fiorentina with option to make move permanent)

Ogden: He had the odd good game, but this is just not his level. Send him back and don’t do a permanent deal.

Marcotti: I wasn’t bowled over by him either, but I’d see if I could work out a deal simply because if we shift all the central midfielders we want to shift, we’ll only have three left and we need bodies. The loan fee was huge and the option to make the deal permanent is enormous (£20m), but I think you have a lot of leverage to negotiate it down, since he only has a year left on his Fiorentina deal. If you can get that down to half that price, and if Amrabat accepts a reasonable deal, maybe you keep him as a squad player since your resources will be stretched, you’ll be short on bodies and Ten Hag likes him.

Verdict: Split (Send him back and terminate loan/Send him back, but negotiate)

play

1:29

Ogden: The Premier League is too demanding for Casemiro

Mark Ogden explains why it is the right time for Casemiro to move on the from Manchester United and the Premier League.

Casemiro (32, contract expires in 2026 with a one-year club option)

Ogden: Both he and the club want a move, plus he’s losing his legs and commits too many fouls. What’s really difficult to tell is what fee you can get for him. If someone in Saudi Arabia wants to spend silly money, great; if not, you’re going to take a massive hit, and I do think he’ll take a pay cut to go elsewhere.

Marcotti: If he doesn’t want to be there and is willing to cut his wages, it’s open-and-shut for me. You may need to loan him and subsidize a deal, but it’s less painful than keeping him around, for both parties.

Verdict: Move on

Kobbie Mainoo (19, contract expires in 2027 with a one-year club option)

Verdict: Keep

Christian Eriksen (32, contract expires in 2025)

Ogden: He contributed little in the second half of the season, and there’s no point keeping him. There’s some interest from clubs in Turkey, so let him go, though I doubt you’ll get much, if anything, for him.

Marcotti: With Mason Mount fit, there’s no need for him in this squad and I assume he wants to play at this stage of his career, so a deal can be worked out. You may have to let him leave for little return at this stage, but so be it.

Verdict: Move on

Bruno Fernandes (29, contract expires in 2026 with a one-year club option)

Ogden: He’s United’s best player, but there’s nobody out there who could pay his wages and a big fee if he tried to force a move. Keep him, but challenge him to be more consistent and defensively disciplined. Then maybe offer him a new contract later if he steps up.

Marcotti: He’s entering the final two years of his deal and has been linked with a move, but I think that’s just agent talk. The club option gives Manchester United significant leverage here, so it’s best to use it and not extend his deal even though he’s arguably the club’s best player. Three years — with the option — is plenty, and who knows? Maybe Ten Hag won’t be there next summer and the new boss might not be a Bruno fan, so you can move him then.

Verdict: Keep and evaluate

Mason Mount (25, contract expires in 2028 with a one-year club option)

Marcotti: Cross your fingers that he’s fit and stays fit.

Verdict: Keep

Hannibal Mejbri (21, contract expires in 2025, was on loan at Sevilla last season)

Ogden: I don’t care how little the fee might be … He needs to go.

Marcotti: Agree that it’s best to cut ties. He couldn’t get on the pitch for a poor Sevilla side on loan and he only has a year left on his contract, but I guess given his age you can probably still get £3-5m for him in transfer fees.

Verdict: Move on

Donny van de Beek (27, contract expires in 2025, was on loan at Eintracht Frankfurt last season)

Ogden: You have to get rid, even if you only get a few million in return for him. He’ll go down as one of the club’s worst signings, though there’s plenty of competition for that title!

Marcotti: I agree, and even that is going to be tough. He didn’t do well in Frankfurt, he’s older, has a year left on his contract and has had a very rough time with injuries over the years. It sounds incredible, but he has made 15 league starts for three different clubs in the past four seasons.

Verdict: Move on


Forwards

Marcus Rashford (26 years old, contract expires in 2028)

Ogden: He has been terrible since he signed his new contract, but he’s young enough to turn it around. Both he and Ten Hag need to work on their relationship and dial down the egos on both sides.

Marcotti: Agree. Then there’s the fact that nobody will take him on those wages or given recent performances.

Verdict: Keep

Alejandro Garnacho (19, contract expires in 2028)

Verdict: Keep

Antony (24, contract expires in 2027 with a one-year club option)

Ogden: His wages are relatively low despite the enormous fee they paid for him. You can loan him out.

Marcotti: That’s your best solution. Given the gigantic fee, you’d need to get back close to £60m for him, and that’s highly unlikely to happen. Best to find him a home somewhere on loan, especially since his off-pitch issues are still around.

Verdict: Loan him out

Amad Diallo (21, contract expires in 2025 with a one-year club option)

Ogden: He has played well, but you don’t want to fall into the trap of rewarding a few performances with a deal you later regret. You have the option year: Maybe see where you are in a few months and maybe extend him at Christmas.

Verdict: Keep and evaluate

Rasmus Hojlund (21, contract expires in 2028 with a one-year club option)

Ogden: He still has a lot of improving to do, but in his defence, he has had no experience around him that could help guide him along. If United sign a proven forward, it will help make Hojlund a better player.

Verdict: Keep

Omari Forson (19, contract expires in 2024)

Marcotti: He’s joining Monza as a free agent.

Verdict: Released

Anthony Martial (28, contract expires in 2024)

Ogden: Rightly or wrongly, fans view him as the personification of United’s recent problems. He has been there forever, he has continued at the club through a string of managers and has failed to realize his potential. Jose Mourinho tried to ditch him way back in 2018 — how has he survived another six years?

Marcotti: Nine years at the club, was brought to United after a huge transfer fee and started more than 18 games in a season just twice. And still he got several contract extensions. It’s a massive cautionary tale everyone should remember.

Verdict: Release as his contract expires

Jadon Sancho (24, contract expires in 2026, was on loan at Borussia Dortmund last season)

Ogden: Ten Hag’s new deal ends any hope of him coming back, and while it would be nice to get a fee for him, I doubt that’s going to happen. United are in a weak position because of his wages and the reality of his relationship with Ten Hag.

Marcotti: The economics of the deal — his unamortized book value is probably £30m, and Dortmund won’t give you much more than that — are such that even if you could get a fee, it’s probably not in your interest to do it. So better to loan him out. If he does well, you’ll maybe get something next year or, maybe, next summer there will be a new boss who likes Sancho and you extend his deal then. Not a great situation, but it is what it is.

Verdict: Loan

play

1:59

Why another loan would make sense for Jadon Sancho

Gab Marcotti and Mark Ogden discuss why it makes sense for Manchester United keep Jadon Sancho on loan from the club.

Mason Greenwood (22, contract ends in 2025 with a one-year club option, was on loan at Getafe last season)

Ogden: He can’t come back to the club for obvious reasons, but the situation is not United’s fault. I have no problem with triggering the option to extend his deal and preserve his transfer value. He scored 10 goals last season; if you find someone who will give you a decent fee, great, but more likely you loan him again.

Verdict: Loan and extend

Facundo Pellistri (22, contract ends in 2025, was on loan at Granada last season)

Ogden: He’s slow and not good enough for this level. Move him on.

Marcotti: It’s probably time to move him on. He was a starter at Granada, and if he has a good Copa America (given he’s only 22) maybe you get in the £5-8m range for him. If worst comes to worst and you don’t find a taker, keep him around as a fourth winger if you shift Antony and don’t bring anybody in.

Verdict: Split (Move on/Keep and evaluate)


Overall verdict

The above makes for pretty depressing reading. And when you consider that many of these players were injured last year, you might even have some sympathy for Ten Hag. There’s major surgery to be done.

That said, 2024-25 will inevitably be a transition season, given the number of new faces on the recruitment side. They’ll have to shift players and bring guys in without knowing who their manager in 2025-26 (and going forward) will be. To some degree, that means getting younger players with an upside who are adaptable. Equally, though, United are running a business. And finishing outside the Champions League spots two years running would hurt them, so they have to keep an eye on results as well.

Between loans, players moving for a fee and players being released, we reckon as many as a dozen guys, ideally, wouldn’t be around next season. We think that would probably raise somewhere between £70-100m in transfer fees.

Add in the wage cuts from not qualifying for the Champions League, the salaries of released high earners such as Martial and Varane, the fact that there are no big players to extend this summer, maybe the odd loan fee and the £50m net budgeted for transfers and maybe you can spend, in gross terms, between £150-200m on new players. That’s a very ballpark figure, and it’s not a huge amount for what needs to done.

At the back, you’d prioritize bringing in a top-drawer central defender to pair with Martinez as well as a long-term solution at right-back. Preferably, you’d add another central defender and a left-back option, but only if budget allows. And those should be squad players, either cheaper guys — maybe even on loan — or younger players with an upside.

In midfield, if you execute or plan, you end up with just three players: Mainoo, Mount and Fernandes. Obviously, you need bodies. One of them should be an authoritative starter, like Casemiro, only significantly younger. You will probably need another two players to round out the squad, hence why we floated a permanent move for Amrabat as a short-term solution or perhaps somebody on loan (more of this later).

Up front, you’ll definitely need another center-forward, because Hojlund is the only striker you have and another option on the right wing would be nice too.

Can you swing all that on this sort of projected budget of £150-200m? Certainly not in terms of getting established young superstars who are dead certainties to succeed (assuming such a thing exists).

We would look to prioritize a starting central defender and a starting central midfielder and be willing to pay substantial fees for those roles. Beyond that, you will need to be creative.

The worst thing United could do is commit significant resources to players who turn out to be average, just to fill roles. If you don’t find the player you want and the price point you want, it’s best to get a little creative, particularly since you don’t know who the long-term manager will be. That could mean loans and free agents to plug gaps even just for a year (never underestimate the lure of United). Or perhaps the loan of a gifted younger player with an option to make the deal permanent: There are clubs who will take a loan fee for their kids in order to give them a “shop window” in the Premier League, and if it doesn’t work out, the downside is limited. Be patient.

Like we said, United are in a very difficult spot right now. It’s going to take three or four windows to get them anywhere near where they want to be.