When the next permanent manager of Manchester United finally sits down at their unveiling press conference, you can bet there will be inevitable questions about the transfer window and how they plan to strengthen the squad.
After a decade of wild spending that has seen United accumulate a £1.4 billion gross spend on signings, it is a dangerous narrative to suggest their rebuild relies on more money being thrown at their star-studded squad, but there is mitigation this time around. Not only has United’s squad failed to deliver the goods this season, but it’s currently a group of individuals that will only get depleted at the end of the season when the likes of Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani and Jesse Lingard all see their contracts expire.
United’s rebuild is not only about strengthening what is already at their disposal, but it will also be a case of replacing the talent set to leave. A clear long-term strategy needs to be decided upon and whoever is in charge needs to be given full licence to execute it properly too.
The next permanent manager’s first few months will no doubt be defined by the players they manage to lure to Old Trafford. However, perhaps the most important factor in their immediate success will be deciding who at the club deserves a new contract to reflect their long-term role at it.
Seven senior stars will see their current deals expire in 2023, and a priority for the next manager will be to establish clarity about their futures before they can even begin to think about new signings.
David de Gea, Fred and Luke Shaw should all be offered new deals to reflect their importance to the side, even though the club could trigger an optional one-year extension on their current contracts. All of them have shown enough over the last 12 months to indicate they still have a key role to play in the years ahead.
Diogo Dalot is another player who should see his current deal extended, even if there are obvious doubts about his ability as a defensive option. He still offers plenty going forward and, even if he isn’t the first-choice option on the right side of defence, a new deal would at least protect his valuation, although the club do again have a one-year option.
Protecting a player’s valuation could also be a factor in deciding what to do next with Marcus Rashford. The England international is considering his future at the club and time is running out to cash-in on him before he has total control over his next move.
It seems almost certain that United will trigger an extension on his contract until 2024, though right now it would be hard to justify offering a new long-term deal when he does not represent a regular and consistent option in the starting line up.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Nemanja Matic are two other senior players who will see their current deals expire next year, although the club do not have the option to extend their contracts beyond the summer of 2023. Ronaldo (who will turn 38 by then) would need to have an exceptional final season at the club in order to be offered another deal, while there seems little sense in hanging on to a limited squad player like Matic, despite his unquestionable professionalism and experience.
Axel Tuanzebe, Phil Jones, Andreas Pereira, Ethan Laird, Teden Mengi, Nathan Bishop and Tom Heaton will all see their contracts expire next year, though it is hard to argue any of them represent a pressing issue for the next manager.