Massive changes are coming to Manchester United over the summer transfer window.
On Wednesday, it was reported that Juan Mata, Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard would follow the likes of Nemanja Matic and Edinson Cavani as players who would be leaving United on free transfers after the expiration of their contracts.
Matic and Cavani both revealed their intent to leave the club when their contracts were set to expire in the buildup to the final home match of the 2022 season. Wednesday marked mass exodus for other longtime starters at the club when the club announced they would not be extending the contracts for the other three players.
Mata joined United in 2014 when he was signed from Chelsea for $46 million, in an attempt to brighten what was then considered one of the most dismal United campaigns in recent memory. Eight years on and not much improvement has been made since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013, marking the last time the Red Devils won the Premier League.
During his eight years in Manchester, Mata made 285 appearances for the club in all competitions and won three trophies including the Europa League in 2017, United’s last major piece of silverware.
In recent seasons Mata played in a peripheral role in the squad only making 16 Premier League appearances in the last two seasons, finding only 743 minutes of action in that time.
Mata could find his way back to Spain following an 11 year absence since he last played for Valencia, with Los Che being optimistic to bring him back to the Mestalla.
Mata has also been drawing interest from other Spanish teams like Real Sociedad and Real Betis, as it looks like Mata could take the same course another diminutive Spanish midfielder in David Silva did when he joined Real Sociedad in 2020 after leaving Valencia 10 years prior.
Another longtime United player Jesse Lingard is set to leave the club following the expiration of his current one year contract at the end of June.
Lingard is one of the longest serving players at United, joining the Youth Academy in 2001 when he was eight years old, now the 28 year old midfielder will be looking for a new club for the first time in his professional career.
Following his first team debut 2014, Lingard went on to make 232 first team appearances for the Red Devils, picking up 32 goals and being directly involved in another 21.
West Ham United are keen to bring Lingard back to the side following an impressive loan spell in 2021 where he found the back of the net nine times in only 16 appearances following a January transfer to the London club that was only for six months before returning back to United.
As he was promised the opportunity of more gametime under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to start the season it was quickly evident that he made the wrong decision to return as he was only able to appear in 22 games in all competitions this season and his production took a massive dip as he was only able to find the back of the net twice.
It’s clear the heights Jesse Lingard was expected to hit when he younger were clearly too massive for him to fill and it appears his professional career has hit a massive roadblock again, even after it appeared like he found his way through the last one leaving it clear that he has to leave Manchester for good in order to get his career back on track as he approaches his 30’s.
Many clubs have expressed interest in the attacking midfielder with current Italian champions AC Milan inquiring about him recently, but he looks to have his sights set on playing in England for a little while longer as Newcastle United has also expressed interest in Lingard, but he looks destined to return to West London and play for the Irons once again.
The final string of players set to leave on a free is one of Lingard’s former youth academy teammates in Paul Pogba.
Much fanfare was met when Pogba rejoined Manchester United for a then world record transfer fee of $115 million USD in 2016 following four seasons with Juventus where he blossomed into one of the best midfielders in the world.
In the years since his departure from Italy, many feel the price tag for him became an unnecessary anchor that always seemed to weigh him down regardless of performance, and the pressures placed on him were a tall order for the midfielder.
Pogba has remained as one of the most gifted players in the world and when his talents show, not many others can compete at his level, the problem for many fans and pundits alike was that his best performances would be sandwiched in-between very mediocre displays as he never was able to find consistent performances, and as a result more blame came his way.
While Pogba might not be the big “flop” that many people unfairly labeled him after a mediocre first season at United, that label seemed to follow him for the rest of his United career, but for what he brought to the table and the type of support he was given one could wonder that his time back in Manchester wasn’t as terrible as many make it out to be.
With 39 goals and 51 assists in 232 appearances during the six years since his return to the Red Devils could certainly have been improved on but in recent seasons his injury troubles and countless reports of him not being happy with the club or management sees the Frenchman depart United once again on a free transfer at the end of June.
He looks set to return to Italy again with Juventus as a deal between the two parties seem to be closing in by the day and it seems to be only a matter of time until Pogba returns to Torino once again, the same way he left Manchester back in 2012.
It appears that Erik Ten Hag is coming in and cleaning house as he looks to transition Manchester United into another new era, and with that that comes with departures of longtime stalwarts at the club.
With five free transfers already, it appears that the exodus is far from complete as the fates of other players at the club are yet to be determined but are close to being on their way out.
Players with uncertain futures at the club include current club captain Harry Maguire linked for a move away, as well as often injured centre back partnership of Eric Bailly and Phil Jones being looked to clear out as well as once highly touted fullback Aaron Wan-Bissaka being linked with a move back to Crystal Palace.
With all of the movement out the United wage bill will surely be coming down in the coming months.
It is also unclear at this time what Erik Ten Hag has planned for Marcus Rashford who is coming off a dismal 2021-2022 campaign, with many feeling that his career progression has stagnated with the Red Devils and looking to move on from him would be a wise decision.
The incoming manager has a lot on his plate for his first transfer window in Manchester and this could be a make or break window for him, and if Ten Hag makes more misses this windows than hits United could be singing the same story it has for close to a decade.