By Coral Barry
The pressure is on Manchester United’s stars this season as Louis Van Gaal makes it clear that he intends to shake up his squad next summer.
The ruthless Dutchman has said he will not hesitate to axe more big names from United’s books if he believes it is in the club’s best interests.
So, who could be the next high profile casualties of the Van Gaal regime and follow the likes of Robin van Persie, Angel di Maria and Radamel Falcao out of the Old Trafford exit door next summer.
Football Insider looks at five first-teamers who could be axed as part of the next United clear-out.
Age: 29 Transfer Fee: £25.6 million Previous Clubs: Everton
Honours: 5x Premier League, 1x Champions League, 2x League Cup, 3x FA Cup, 1x FIFA Club World Cup
Captain untouchable? Or past-his-best luxury? Before ending his drought against Sunderland at the weekend, Rooney had gone 954 minutes without scoring in the league and had managed just four goals in 23 games. For someone who has spent most of that time in the No9 and No10 positions, those are not the statistics of a regular matchwinner. The United talisman’s standards have noticeably dropped in the past 12-18 months and his deficiencies are even more stark compared to pacy and fresh-as-a-daisy newcomer Anthony Martial. Van Gaal appears to have great admiration for Rooney as a leader and dressing-room motivator but the manager will be aware that he turns 30 next month and those legs are starting to go.
Age: 27 Transfer Fee: £27.5 million Previous Clubs: Standard Liege, Everton
Honours: 1 x Jupiler League
Has slipped down the United pecking order this season after missing the early part of the campaign through suspension. His two starts include his underwhelming display as an emergency striker in the team’s 3-1 victory over Liverpool. Fellaini’s dwindling status comes after he nailed down a regular starting place in attacking midfield in the final months of last season and appeared a key part of Van Gaal’s plans. The arrivals of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin, combined with the rise of Ander Herrera and Daley Blind, mean Fellaini might have to look elsewhere for regular first-team football.
Age: 27 Transfer Fee: £37.1 million Previous Clubs: Real Madrid, Valencia, Chelsea
Honours: Copa Del Rey, Champions League, Europa League, FA Cup
Has nailed down a regular starting place and appeared in all 10 of United’s Premier League and Champions League fixtures this season. His goals and creativity from a right-flank role give the team much-needed creativity but it remains to be seen just how highly Van Gaal rates Mata. It is noticeable that the Spaniard is never given the licence to design the play from his favourite central role, as he was at Chelsea when playing the best football of his career. Does Van Gaal regard the Spaniard as a permanent solution or a useful sticking plaster while he waits for a more incisive player to become available?
Age: 25 Transfer Fee: £16 million Previous Clubs: Estudiantes LP, Spartak Moscow, Sporting Lisbon
Honours: Copa Libertadores, Argentine First Division
It is difficult to see the Argentine at Old Trafford 12 months from now. Indeed, it is unlikely he will survive the January transfer window. Luke’s Shaw horror injury provided Rojo with a United lifeline but he was quickly sidelined after only 68 minutes of game time in the league this season. Coming on the back of a spell in which he was frozen out of the United squad after he failed to turn up for the club’s pre-season tour of the US and Van Gaal making it clear that the pair are not on each others’ Christmas card lists, Rogo is surely on borrowed time.
Age: 34 Transfer Fee: £18.6 million Previous Clubs: West Ham United, Tottenham Hotspur
Honours: 5x Premier League, 1x Champions League, 1x League Cup, 1x FIFA Club World Cup
Van Gaal has begun planning for life after one of United’s key players over the last decade. Carrick was offered a 12-month extension by the manager after overcoming fitness issues at the back end of last season but the chances of getting a new one are dependent upon the 34-year-old maintaining his form and fitness. Keeping in shape is a high order for a player who spent the majority of last season on the treatment table. Moreover, Carrick’s job can now be done equally well by the more mobile Morgan Schneiderlin, while the similarly experienced Schweinsteiger can provide the nous renowned from the Englishman.