The rebuilding of the once formidable Manchester United has begun, even weeks to the assumption of duty by the in-coming manager, Erik ten Hag.
In the ageing squad are six players who are out of contract are due to leave the club.
Apart from those six, some who are still under contract are also planning to depart. Two of them, Eric Bailly and Phil Jones have outlined their intention to leave to teammates amid the club’s plans to sign a new centre-back.
Bailly, 27, has started five games all season and felt so aggrieved by his paucity of opportunities he openly questioned why under-performing teammates continued to start, primarily referring to fellow central defender Harry Maguire.
Bailly’s resentment of Maguire’s privileges went public when he endorsed the United captain’s possible demotion at Arsenal last month in an Instagram comment. Maguire was dropped but Victor Lindelof retained his place next to the starting Raphael Varane.
Privately, United accept Bailly’s three-year contract renewal last year was a mistake when his previous deal ran out this year. Sources believe it was a continuation of Ed Woodward’s contract strategy of tying down peripheral players on longer deals to increase their resale value.
Bailly has played 113 times in six years for United – an average of fewer than 20 appearances per year. On the morning of the Europa League final last season, Bailly threatened to leave a month after signing his contract if he did not play.
Jones, 30, has started two games in the last two years but he has recovered from a chronic knee injury and remained fit for the majority of the season. Jones has been named in 26 matchday squads and moved above Bailly in the centre-back pecking order.
United remain interested in Villarreal and Spain defender Pau Torres and held exploratory talks with Chelsea centre-back Antonio Rudiger, who is expected to join Real Madrid when his contract expires in June.
Jesse Lingard is already generating intense interest as he prepares to leave United when his deal runs out next month. Juventus, AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and Newcastle are among the clubs interested and sources say negotiations with two clubs are already advanced.
Lingard, 29, has called time on his United career after a difficult three years and is not expected to change his mind if incoming manager Erik ten Hag attempts a late intervention.
Former United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been primarily blamed for Lingard’s regression as he discouraged him from seeking a permanent transfer to West Ham United – who had reserved £25million to spend on Lingard – and then started Lingard twice.
Lingard, who was upset at being denied a farewell appearance at Old Trafford in the win over Brentford, believes there have been ‘too many broken promises’ during his final season at United. Lingard is hopeful regular playing time at a new club could resurrect his England career ahead of the winter World Cup.
Goalkeeper Dean Henderson also intends to leave United, either on loan or permanently, unless Ten Hag makes a beeline for him to become United’s No.1. Ajax were interested in signing Henderson, 25, on loan in the January transfer window.
Nemanja Matic has already announced he is leaving United at the end of the season and Juan Mata, Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani and Lee Grant are also due to go when their deals expire.