The impending arrival of Louis Van Gaal at Old Trafford means that a number of misfiring United players could be facing the end of the line in their United careers.
The no nonsense Dutchman is known for his ruthless and fiery attitude in management, so any under-performing player will not get the luxury of time if they fail to impress the 62-year-old.
For me, five players if given the season are drinking in the last chance saloon and need to show Van Gaal and the United faithful that they have something to offer. Time and patience are two things in short supply this season after their worst Premier League finish to date.
1. Rafael Da Silva
After seeing his brother exit the club, Rafael has always been the one who showed more promise and potential to succeed at Old Trafford. However, after a season where United’s defence leaked more than a broken tap, Rafael has come under fire for his defensive capabilities.
On too many occasions, the young Brazilian switches off and finds himself out of position. His and Patrice Evra’s positional awareness contributed to the bombardment of crosses into our box last season.
The 23-year-old has showed little attempt to mature into the role and continues to make rash decisions. It’s common to see the right-back flying into tackles with a complete disregard for the consequences.
If he can balance his enthusiasm and attacking flair with a stable, reliable approach at the back then maybe he can turnaround his form at Old Trafford.
2. Luis Nani
If Nani does not move this summer then surely he has one last campaign to prove himself. I would be hard pressed to find another player which has infuriated me more during the past four of five seasons. The only consistent element of his game seems to be giving the ball away. At times, his lacklustre attitude makes me think he just doesn’t care sometimes.
The last two seasons has seen him strike up an underwhelming 22 appearances in the league with only one goal to show for it. This is a player that was meant to provide the flair and attacking dominance that one, Cristiano did.
But with midfield additions top of Van Gaal’s supposed shopping list then it’s hard to see where Nani will fit into his plans.
3. Phil Jones
This may sound harsh on the young England international but his inclusion focuses on the need for him to find an identity within the side. Three seasons have passed since Sir Alex earmarked his leadership and commitment in the heart of Blackburn’s defence but he has yet to establish himself at United.
A lack of consistency in playing position has had a detrimental effect on his progress. Despite the few stand-out performances as a defensive midfielder stifling opposition, it is clear to see that he doesn’t have the credentials with the ball to hold down a position there, especially when Carrick is alongside him.
Jones is now facing a critical season at the club and desperately needs to find a role within the team in order for him to develop and justify the £16 million price tag. His commitment to tackles is unquestioned but this has come at a price as he seems to be injured frequently throughout the season.
If the 22-year-old can have a settled season and hold down a preferred centre-back role then maybe we can finally see him grow into the role and show the leadership qualities that Sir Alex saw in him as a teenager.
4. Ashley Young
Another England international which finds himself in the wilderness. A 31st England cap couldn’t look less likely at present with only a handful of substitute appearances to boast during the second half of the last Premier League campaign.
It feels like an eternity from his days at Aston Villa which saw him propelled to the heights of a first-team England international. As his time at United has progressed, Young has found himself become more of an outcast at the club limited to mainly League cup starts.
It might be an issue of predictability which has let him down. Playing on the left, Young tends to make his way down the flank to then only cut back in on his right almost every time. Whatever it is, he has not managed to find the formula to be affective on the wing. The introduction of Adnan Januzaj last season only led to Young falling further down the pecking order.
Criticisms of his perceived diving have only managed to make him a villain in supporter’s eyes all over the country, including that of his own. It’s hard to see how the 28-year-old can reignite his career at Old Trafford but if he does get the chance then time is definitely not on his side.
5. Tom Cleverley
I’m not sure if Tom would still be drinking in the last chance saloon, I’d imagine he has been kicked out by the barman a long time ago for being too drunk and annoying other customers. However, if he does manage to find himself still at the Theatre of Dreams come September then it is going to take an almighty turnaround for United fans to believe in him.
It’s easy to forget that this is a man who was starting for England this time last year against Scotland at Wembley and played a magnificent through ball to Theo Walcott for the opener. A year on he is now the laughing stock of English football and is pretty much in football limbo over where his football career goes.
He’s had an unjustified amount of criticism with a torrent of abuse almost every time he steps foot onto a football field this past year. He hasn’t even done anything particularly bad, he just doesn’t do anything at all outside eight metre sideways or backward passes.
I would be amazed if he remains at United over the summer, especially as Ander Herrera’s arrival seems imminent.
N.B. Other players who could have been included: Patrice Evra, Danny Welbeck, Javier Hernandez. But I think at least two of those three will have left come September.