At the start of the season I picked 5 players who I thought were surplus to requirements at Manchester United. Let’s look back at the list and see how much things have changed.
The original list:
- Darren Fletcher
- Mikael Silvestre
- Liam Miller
- Patrice Evra
- Tim Howard
Two of these players – Liam Miller and Tim Howard – have since been sold on. Miller in the final days of the summer transfer season last year and Howard’s sale to Everton (where he’s on loan) was finalised in February this season.
What about the rest?
After a whole season of watching Darren Fletcher I’d be one of the first to admit that Fletch has matured and is now a better player than last year this time. He’s also very young (something that people forget), so you can expect him to improve in the next two years.
However, I don’t see Fletcher becoming first-choice, ever, at Manchester United. He’s also our fourth-choice midfielder – behind Hargreaves, Carrick and Scholes. In addition, if Giggs is used centrally then Fletch drops to 5th.
I don’t think Fletch should be sold just because he’s not good enough to be a backup – and effectively he was picked ahead of David Jones, so there must be something that Ferguson sees in him.
However, if Fletcher wants to play consistent first-team football, he might have to move on (Sunderland anyone?). If not, he’s a fair 4th / 5th choice midfielder, although I’d like to see him hold on to the ball a bit better and improve his passing, AND turn into a raging, tackling bulldog. Then it might even be fun to watch him come off the bench and kick Alonso all over the park. Or Fabregas. Or Lampard.
Verdict: Should leave for his career, but has earned the right to stay another season and improve his game.
I don’t hate Silvestre like some United fans seem to do, but I don’t see how he can be picked ahead of Pique / Evans next season. He’s not even considered in discussions regarding the left-back post anymore, although in my view Ferguson still values Silvestre’s experience.
Silvestre has had irregular spells in the side for the last couple of seasons and as a result he hasn’t had a chance to prove his doubters wrong. He needs consistent football, and he would be a benefit to any Premiership squad outside the top four.
Verdict: Good enough to stay, but his presence could block the paths of Pique and Evans. Should be sold.
A significant portion of Manchester United fans (and football pundits) are in love with Evra. I respect that, and I understand it.
I also strongly disagree with their assessment.
However, Evra offers us a good alternative in the left back position and since United haven’t moved for Gareth Bale, I think Evra should be kept on board and used as an attacking left-back, with Heinze the first-choice for tougher opposition where better defending is required.
Verdict: Should be kept
Other Players who Should Go
Who else do you think should leave? A lot of people have picked out Heinze and Saha (along with Richardson) as their picks to leave this season but I think that both Heinze and Saha are safe. Richardson, Smith and Silvestre are the three players whose positions in the squad are most under threat.
Richardson: A lot was expected of him this season but he didn’t perform – if Ferguson wants to give him another chance he should send him out on loan for an year to a Prem side where he can be a regular starter and get his game together.
However, with Nani, Ronaldo, Anderson and Park in the side, maybe Richardson should move on.
Heinze: Already made a case for him to stay here.
Saha: Already made a case for him to stay here.
Smith: Do we have space for him in the squad? There are big question marks over his ability to perform at the levels expected of him at Manchester United – I’d cash in on him now if he’s unwilling to go out on loan.
Who else do you think could / should leave?
This article is Part 3 of our 7-part Manchester United 2006/2007 season review coverage at Soccerlens.