After spending such lavish amounts of money in the summer transfer window, Manchester United were never expected to give their chequebook such a hammering this month.
And that has proven to be the case. With time running out for clubs across Europe to get their last-minute transfer business done ahead of Monday evening’s deadline, United are not expected to be calling upon their club photographer to be snapping pictures of any new arrivals holding a Reds scarf aloft.
Instead, United could be waving goodbye to up to four members of the first-team squad on deadline day, with Dean Henderson, Phil Jones, Jesse Lingard and Donny van de Beek all facing the prospect of leaving the club in pursuit of regular first-team football.
Allow four of them, should they depart, are only expected to leave on loan, although the prospect of Lingard leaving on a permanent basis cannot be distinguished if somebody is prepared to meet United’s financial demands.
Although the aforementioned quartet deserve to be granted exits as a result of their lack of game time at United this season, their departures threaten to leave Ralf Rangnick and his squad vulnerable in certain places.
In the event of Henderson, Jones, Van de Beek and Lingard all leaving United on deadline day, According to MEN Sport below is the squad Rangnick will have to work with between now and the end of the season.
Players: David de Gea, Tom Heaton & Lee Grant
Players: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Diogo Dalot, Harry Maguire, Raphael Varane, Eric Bailly, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw & Alex Telles
Having missed almost all of this season whilst on the comeback trail from a long-term injury problem, United, despite their struggles at centre-back, have managed to cope without Jones’ presence.
Arguably fifth in the pecking order for a centre-back berth, despite impressing on his long-awaited return to Wolves earlier this month, Jones is not likely to be at the forefront of Rangnick’s mind when it comes to deciding on a central-defensive partnership, especially when you take into account that the former Blackburn Rovers man has had to settle for a place on the bench in the three Premier League games that have followed his return.
With Varane, hopefully, over the worst of his injury troubles and Maguire showing signs of life again against West Ham last weekend, Jones could find opportunities hard to come by, especially when Lindelof and Bailly are in position to provide support.
Meanwhile, United are well-stocked in the full-back areas on both sides of the pitch.
Players: Paul Pogba, Scott McTominay, Fred, Nemanja Matic, Bruno Fernandes & Juan Mata
The prospect of letting both Van de Beek, who is poised to join Everton, and Lingard leave before the bell carries a weight of risk, as highlighted by the lack of options available above.
However, neither Van de Beek or Lingard have played often enough this season for United to suggest that they still have a part to play this season. Their only hope of getting into the team, similarly to Henderson and Jones, would be as a result of an injury crisis or suspension.
Rangnick’s recent decision to include Matic in the starting line-up for the 2-2 draw with Aston Villa at the expense of McTominay’s absence due to suspension summed up Van de Beek’s United career, with the Dutchman having made a telling difference in the FA Cup clash against the same opponent just a few days earlier.
United are reasonably well stocked in defensive-midfield, with McTominay, Fred, Matic and Pogba, who is edging closer towards a return, all capable of playing there. However, United could find themselves light on the attacking side of the operation if Fernandes picks up an injury.
However, Van de Beek and Lingard cannot be begrudged moves as a result of United’s mismanagement.
Players: Jadon Sancho, Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Elanga, Edinson Cavani & Cristiano Ronaldo
With Anthony Martial and Amad having already left United on loan this month, no further departures are to be expected from the attacking department before the window closes.
United have depth both out wide and through the middle, meaning Rangnick will not have any concerns about his attacking options over the coming months.