The lowdown: Man Utd’s defensive woes
The Red Devils struggled for consistency at the heart of their defence during the 2021/22 campaign, conceding 57 goals in the Premier League – the second-worst tally among the top 10 finishers.
Raphael Varane, Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof all had issues with either injuries or form at various points in the season, leading to Erik ten Hag attempting to address the problem area with the signing of Lisandro Martinez from his former club Ajax.
Off the back of the Argentine’s arrival, three central defenders are seemingly surplus to requirements at Old Trafford…
The latest: Three could be axed
As per the Daily Mail, United are ‘willing to listen to offers’ for any of Phil Jones, Axel Tuanzebe and Eric Bailly this summer.
It’s claimed that all three ‘could be allowed to leave’ the club as Ten Hag looks to ‘kickstart a rebuild’ in Manchester and overhaul an underperforming defensive department.
The report added that Jones – who was hailed by Luke Shaw for a ‘phenomenal’ 7.60 Sofascore rated display containing two clearances, three blocked shots and two interceptions in the Red Devil’s defeat to Wolves at the start of 2022 – has ‘attracted tentative enquiries’ from DC United, now managed by United legend Wayne Rooney.
The verdict: Two must go
Ultimately, selling out-of-favour stars such as the aforementioned trio, and in turn releasing them from the wage bill, is imperative if the club are to move forwards from the previous era, particularly those such as Jones and Tuanzebe who have entered the final 12 months of their contracts (Transfermarkt).
Once regarded as a bright prospect at Old Trafford and having submitted an extraordinary performance against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, 24-year-old academy graduate Tuanzebe has never truly held down a place in the senior plans – making just 37 first-team outings – and a sale could be the best next move for all parties.
If you could keep one...?
While Bailly’s future also appears on the line, he is under contract until 2024, so the 46-cap Ivory Coast international must surely be keen to impress Ten Hag and be given a stay of execution to prove his worth at United.
However, despite being a veteran of 228 appearances over 11 years for the Red Devils, only five of those have come in the last two years, and time certainly appears to be up on Jones’ career in Manchester. The former Blackburn Rovers man should be free to leave with the blessing of all associated with the club.
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