By Adam Joseph
When a new manager takes charge of a club, it is natural to start making lists of players that are assumed “won’t fit” into the new boss’s vision.
Fans and analysts imagine a style that the manager has used in previous jobs and try to adapt it to the personnel already present. “Oh he’s a goner” they’ll say, and some expect certain stars to be transfer-listed or told to look elsewhere.
It happens everywhere, but Manchester United has become a circus on almost all levels. Every story is a fiasco. No transfer saga is anything less than that nowadays. The Paul Pogba transfer was the typical United summer story that dominated all headlines. It’s just the size of the club that impacts all of this; it is a natural course.
With all expected transfers now completed, the focus shifts to departures. Players were never leaving immediately after Jose Mourinho’s arrival, they would always get their chance. In the case of Bastian Schweinsteiger, his fate was sealed by a poor injury history and cemented when Michael Carrick signed his contract extension.
However, in the case of other potential players for the chop, pre-season training and early games would determine their usefulness. It is also difficult for Manchester United to sell players; there are lots of high wages for squad players that other clubs cannot reach, unless another English club is determined it can be hard to offload sizeable salaries.
This is already becoming an issue. Marcos Rojo did not want to leave European football for the Chinese Super League, and clubs like Villarreal who are interested do not have the financial clout to match his wage demands. United are not looking simply for loan deals with cheap buyouts at the end, they look for return on their investments. Even failed ones.
The Argentinian is sure to go if a buyer can be found. But others are not so certain, thanks to hard work that has made their manager think twice about letting them walk out the door.
Reports via Duncan Castles this week indicated that Juan Mata and Daley Blind had proven themselves with hard work, adaptability and good on field performances. Everything it took to stay, those players did. That is no mean feat under a decisive man like Mourinho.
Blind was superb on Sunday at the Vitality Stadium, tackling strong and displaying his range of good forward passing from defence. He plays balls that not only recycle but bypass basic defence and set up attacks, it is a strength that Mourinho, no doubt, is beginning to appreciate because, at 180cm, he is not the ideal height for a central defender. Particularly one played by the Portuguese.
Mata meanwhile seems to have proven that he’s evolved from the player that the former Chelsea boss sold to United in the winter of 2014. He has displayed determination, tactical variation and willingness to work hard defensively, all issues he had back at Stamford Bridge. His goal on Sunday, whilst not difficult, took endeavour, and it perhaps sealed his fate to stay at Old Trafford as a key part of the squad.
It is not just those two of potential departures that proved that they were useful squad members. Under Herrera, although not in major danger was superb playing deep out of midfield. His energy and movement was impressive, looking a different player to the one alienated by Louis Van Gaal’s methods.
His passing from the middle of the park was a joy to watch, and set up attacks for his teammates further up the park. It is exciting to think what the player seen on Sunday could do with Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan on the pitch.
Alongside him Marouane Fellaini played one of his best games since joining the club. He was tidy in possession, effective in the tackle and recycled the ball to more technical teammates. He also stayed out of trouble, which has been an issue for the Belgian. Despite concerns about his selection, he silenced the boo boys with an effective display.
Finally, Antonio Valencia was incredibly impressive on the right side of defence. He offered an outlet and in the first half was United’s most effective attacking weapon when they were struggling to create a piercing attack. He helped set up the second goal and seems to be the number one right back at the club.
It remains to be seen if Matteo Darmian will remain, with interest from Napoli and Roma. The Italian is a fine defender, but struggles to cross the ball meaningfully. If he is kept though, with no new right back arrival, the Italian and Ecuadorian’s styles could be useful in contrast.
When needing additional protection defensively, the Italian can be selected, whilst when width is required Valencia would be the chosen player. It may mean the club does not have to delve into the market for another player, which is useful considering reports state United will not buy again until they have sold as no big earners have departed yet.
Southampton on Friday night offers the latest chance for players to prove themselves worthy of staying at Old Trafford, and might be their last chance at redemption before the window closes at the end of the month. But it’s clear some are already starting to change their manager’s mind and keep themselves firmly in his plans.
Adam Joseph is a freelance writer from Australia. Manchester United fan from back when they were the only team on Australian TV and it was love at first sight. Manchester United, Oklahoma City Thunder, New England Patriots and Carlton Blues fanatic. If it’s sport related, I’ll talk about it.
Follow him on twitter @AdamJosephSport