Welcome back to The United Way! Last time out I introduced the save and some of the core principles I’ll be bringing to it. This post will cover some of the earliest decisions I will make, as we have a month to decide on and secure the future of the players with their contracts expiring!

As I mentioned in the save introduction, it’s no secret that the Manchester United squad needs a massive amount of work. There are some incredibly talented players, but there are also a lot of players undeserving of the massive wages they are on. It’s not practical to suggest that we can completely overhaul this in one transfer window, especially starting with zero scouting work done. What we can do, though, is start with the ‘easy wins’, letting go of any players we can who aren’t on long contracts and don’t offer the value or performances we’re looking for. 

In order to do that, we need to identify those players, so I’ve taken a look at the squad as a whole and split them into different categories.

I’ve included a couple of younger players who have either had a little bit of first-team involvement or I can see potentially getting some next year, but I think the split in the chart above speaks for itself, and not in a good way.

Out of a 34-man first-team squad, there are just eleven players that I would not entertain offers for and would want to see here next season no matter what. This is nowhere near a good enough ratio, and really puts into perspective how many unsuitable players will still have to be in the squad for next season.

Expiring Contracts

These are the players who will be set for release, and will definitely leave upon the expiry of their contracts. Although it seems like an obvious choice to let all of them go, some decision making did have to happen in a couple of instances. 

Ideally I would like to keep Tom Heaton and Jonny Evans at the club; both are academy players and would serve to be excellent role models for the younger players we’re looking to continue bringing through. However, there has to come a point where the financial aspect becomes the priority, and with neither willing to discuss a pay cut I will be reluctantly showing them the door. Over £100k per week is too much for two players who will have next to no game time, despite the other upsides that they bring.

A very large part of me wants to keep Raphaël Varane at the club, especially as there is a one-year extension that I could trigger. Despite being slightly injury prone he is still an exceptional defender and I would definitely not hesitate to play him next season. However, extending a £350k per week deal for a 31-year-old doesn’t sit well with the new direction we’re trying to take the club in, and as is shown in real life also doesn’t suit INEOS’ decision making. There is better value to be had by letting an excellent player go before he starts to decline rapidly, and using the money saved to look at bringing in one or two really good squad reinforcements.

As it stands at the moment Sofyan Amrabat will return to Fiorentina at the end of his loan spell, although there is potential that I could revisit this before the loan expires if the funds are there and I decide he’s a player who could fill a role next year. An optional fee of £17m seems a decent price for an experienced holding midfielder with reasonable wage demands, although he would demand an increase on his current £31.5k salary in Italy.

As another homegrown player, Brandon Williams may feel aggrieved to be on the way out. However, despite being a decent full-back, he isn’t going to ever reach the level I would expect from a Manchester United player, and a wage of £50k per week is far too much for the ability that he has.

There was never going to be any outcome for Anthony Martial other than release. He is a prime example of the sort of player Manchester United have kept around for far too long, on way too much money, and never been close to getting a transfer fee for. Exactly the kind of situation I’m looking to avoid going forwards. Martial has had some great moments for United, but for me it never got better than his debut, and although I don’t dislike him as a player, I won’t miss him.

Charlie McNeill and Shola Shoretire aren’t first-team players, but I’ve made mention of them here simply because they’re on a significant wage compared to their peers, and although there is still potential there in both of them, I’d rather let them go and forge their careers elsewhere as I don’t feel they will become United calibre players.

Having a guaranteed £810k per week with which to supplement the squad next season is a huge boost, especially as the transfer budget is currently non-existent. We could easily bring in two or three strong free transfers and still convert some money to put towards transfer fees, should the right targets be out there.

Looking to Sell

Manchester United have a terrible record of selling players for anything resembling good value. The list of their top ten highest transfer fees received in history still includes Jaap Stam and Juan Sebastián Verón, who were sold in 2001 and 2003 respectively. Add to this the fact that four of the top ten were also sold at a loss and it makes for pretty grim reading. 

Of course, some context should be added; for a lot of players Manchester United will be a side they want to join and never leave, not a stepping stone in their career. From the top ten, only Cristiano Ronaldo could be considered a player that United would have been desperate to retain. (David Beckham and Jaap Stam would have been too if not for infamous arguments with Sir Alex Ferguson.)

We have five players that I would consider sellable assets who I don’t see a future for at the club. Under the previous regime, they would almost certainly just stick around, possibly go out on loan while the club covered some or all of their wages (a la Martial to Sevilla), and then leave on a free at the end of their contract. I’m looking to change that immediately. That won’t be simple, considering these are players who are unlikely to garner a lot of interest and they all have just twelve months remaining on their contracts, but I feel actively trying to ship them out is a step in the right direction, and any fee we can gain for them will help.

Let’s start with the elephant in the room. I’m reluctant to mention him for obvious reasons, but the player formerly on loan at Getafe is still a club employee who I could get a good transfer fee for. He will not be at the club next season, come what may.

Victor Lindelöf is by no means a bad defender, but is on huge money for the level of performances he has produced for the club, and while there is interest in him I would rather sell him on than lose him for a free next year. On day one of the save there is interest from Tottenham Hotspur and Inter Milan, so there is definitely scope to get a decent fee while also getting his wage off of the bill. 

Christian Eriksen could conceivably fall into the Tom Heaton and Jonny Evans bracket of being a useful older head to keep around as a mentor to the younger players. As a Model Citizen he would be excellent in this regard, but I cannot justify a wage of £170k per week for a player who’s positioning isn’t strong enough to sit in the pivot, especially in tougher games, and isn’t mobile enough to play behind the striker. If we can’t move him on then cup and possibly late substitute appearances would be the best he could hope for.

At just 22, Facundo Pellistri is young enough that he could probably be given another year to prove his worth and earn a new deal, but I just don’t see him coming back to the club from his loan at Granada and pushing Antony and Amad for much game time, especially when Garnacho and Sancho can also play on the right. With this in mind, it seems sensible to try and get as much for him as we can, and wish him well with his career. 

I didn’t agree with the signing of Donny van de Beek when he joined the club back in 2020. He was never going to get into the team consistently considering his competition was a certain Bruno Fernandes, and also didn’t suit playing in the pivot, despite many fans thinking he should be given a chance there. As a result, his career has completely stagnated, and even his former boss ten Hag coming to United couldn’t get him back on track. His loan at Eintracht Frankfurt does have an optional future fee of £8.5m but I don’t expect them to activate it, as in this save he has had a poor loan spell, so it will be a case of ‘welcoming’ him back to the club and then seeing what we can get for him. 

If, and it’s a big if, I can get the fees I want for all five of them, then we’re looking at nearly £65m in transfer fees and more than half a million a week extra saved in wages. Even if we have to sell for lower fees, the free wage budget alone would be a huge boost to the recruitment operation. 

Combined with the expiring contracts, all of these players leaving would bring us £64.5m in transfer fees and free up nearly £1.4m a week in wages –  absolutely incredible numbers considering there is not one player there that I would be disappointed to be without.

Entertaining Offers

The rest of the squad comprises players that I would be happy (in a lot of cases willing is a better word) to have at the club next year, for a number of various reasons. Some I believe won’t attract interest if I try to actively sell them due to their wages (Antony, Sancho, Casemiro), some I see as good squad players who I’d accept suitable offers for but aren’t a priority to move on (Bayindir, Maguire, Wan-Bissaka, Malacia), and some are homegrown players who are worth keeping around for depth and registration reasons unless we get offers above market value for them (McTominay, Hannibal).

I do believe we could see some offers for a few of these players – Casemiro especially I’d happily move on should a Saudi club come knocking, for example. However, rather than moving these players on just to bring in funds, these sales would need to be considered in the context of who would/could conceivably replace them. For example, if we sell Casemiro for £40m then we could easily bring in a quality young player for the same money or less, and save a lot in wages, so the sale makes sense. However, should we accept a bid of around £15m for Altay Bayindir, only to find that any potential number two we could bring in to replace him would cost similar money, then there would be no point in making the deal, especially as Bayindir’s wage is incredibly reasonable and likely to be less than what we would have to pay a replacement.  

With all that being said, there is some really good money to be made if clubs do come in for some of these players, especially if we could convince somebody to take on Casemiro, Sancho and Antony’s wages. However, I think offering them out will damage any chance of getting good offers and therefore these players will all be given opportunities to be a part of the squad if they perform well. 

Willy Kambwala and Omari Forson will both be offered new deals, as I believe they are both high potential players on the cusp of more regular first-team involvement. However, we won’t be bullied into giving them excessive pay rises, and will let them leave if terms cannot be agreed. There are also concerns around whether Kambwala would get a work permit, so he may leave the club regardless. 

Álvaro Fernández will also be offered a new deal as his contract is expiring; ideally I would like to keep him at the club next season, but Benfica have an optional future fee of £5.25m as part of his loan deal and if they trigger it then I am powerless to stop him. If we do manage to retain him, then this could be a factor in whether we actively look to move on Malacia. 

So with these early decisions made, the earliest building blocks are in place. I have no idea what kind of transfer window we have in store for us, we may well be stuck with a lot of the existing squad and therefore a lot of compromises in the first season. However, if we can sell well, it could be a very exciting window indeed! The next post will cover our recruitment strategy, both for season one and beyond!

Until next time…


  • adam_otbfm

    Adam, known in the Football Manager (FM) realm as @adam_otbfm, is a fervent gamer and content creator. With a penchant for football simulations, Adam delves into the intricacies of FM, sharing his findings on his blog "On the Break." His creative ventures include replicating football legends like Kaka in the virtual pitch, showcasing a blend of nostalgia and modern gameplay. Adam's musings extend to social platforms like Twitter, where he actively engages with the FM community, sharing his gaming journey with @SJK_Seinajoki. His insightful content and avid participation enrich the FM community, making him a valued member in this virtual football world.

    View all posts

4 thoughts on “The United Way – Early Decisions

  1. Actually really enjoying reading this! Loved how you’ve categorised your squad, I do something similar for my saves. Can’t wait for the save to crack on

  2. First time I follow one of these. It’s a lot of fun for the reader and I really appreciate the amount of work. Thank you

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *