There’s a mini heatwave in Manchester and things are heating up at Old Trafford in the search for United’s next manager. The two-week international break has given the club the perfect opportunity to push on with their pursuit of a long-term successor to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, with interviews taking place in the last couple of days.
United have interviewed Ajax boss Erik ten Hag about potentially becoming the club’s next permanent manager. The 52-year-old is United’s preferred choice to take over in the summer, but the club has not made a final decision as it continues with its process.
Club sources have reiterated that they remain open-minded in the search for a new manager and that, because of the enormity of the decision, they will speak to many candidates before taking the next steps. United intend to settle on their next manager before the end of the season to help accelerate plans for a summer that will be constrained by the 2022-23 season starting earlier than usual on August 6th, because of the winter World Cup.
READ MORE: Manchester United plan further talks following Erik ten Hag manager interview
Whether the new appointment is Ten Hag, Mauricio Pochettino, or someone else, they will all have the same checklist to go through when they arrive in their office. Most of the focus will be on the players they look to bring in to reshape the squad. However, arguably the most important task will be with regards to those players who will soon be out of contract and all look set to leave the club for free.
United head into the summer with five senior players set to depart for free upon the expiry of their contracts, though there is still the slim possibility of a last minute U-turn if a new manager can convince them they have a key role to play at the club going forward—not that they should.
It still seems highly unlikely Paul Pogba will sign a new United deal, as his predictable comments on international duty this week have reiterated, but the swift appointment of a new manager would at least be able to bring clarity on his situation and establish a firm answer either way.
Jesse Lingard should have been sold in either of the previous two transfer windows, but will now leave for free at the end of the season as he searches for first-team football. He is a perfect example of United’s hesitancy when it comes to sales and proof of why trying to protect a player’s value shouldn’t always be the driving factor.
Edinson Cavani has shown no interest in extending his stay beyond a second season and it would be a mistake for any new manager to even entertain the suggestion of a contract extension for the veteran forward. The same can be said for Juan Mata who, despite being an excellent servant of the club, has no longer played a role to offer.
Lee Grant is another player out of contract this summer and he is effectively a staff member rather than a squad player. If United are to make progress, then they need to be ruthless when it comes to player retention by getting rid of those who offer nothing to the first team on Saturdays or Sundays.
When the next manager arrives at Old Trafford they will not only need to strengthen the squad as it stands now, but also have to sort out the mess of past regimes, which saw mediocrity rewarded with new contracts and players kept on long past their sell- by dates.
The success of United’s next appointment won’t just be about the players they sign, but also those who finally let go.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.