According to Ralf Rangnick, “there is a core of quality players that are well worth and talented enough to play at this club.” Manchester United has six of them.
1. David de Gea,
He has literally and metaphorically stood still, and in 11 years has only been credited with one Premier League assist (that Bruno Fernandes grazed en route to Edinson Cavani ). Even if an Exocet were launched at a goalframe, De Gea would be the most dependable goalkeeper to stop it.
De Gea’s dedication to United has grown with his tenure, and he spoke to fans at Crystal Palace when he told some colleagues, “‘If you don’t want to remain, go.”
De Gea was the top goalkeeper in the world for four years, and while he lost that title four years ago, he is still on par with Alisson, Thibaut Courtois, Ederson, Manuel Neuer, and Jan Oblak. The goalkeeping position at United could be re-evaluated next year, but Dean Henderson has already left, and Erik ten Hag requires a fully committed squad.
2. Raphael Varane
Varane sustained his sixth injury or ailment since joining United on Friday night when France lost 2-1 to Denmark in the Nations League. Varane, 29, is at risk of being lumped in with previous high-profile acquisitions whose careers ended at United. Varane’s reputation was intact for the majority of the season since he avoided participating in the first five four-goal thrashings, but he was all at sea by the Brighton seashore.
Until then, it was reasonable to attribute the thrashings to Varane’s absence against Leicester, Liverpool, Watford, and City. Varane makes United a superior defensive team, and they have never lost when he and Harry Maguire start and finish a game together. That happened only 11 times.
Varane joined United ten years later than they would have liked, but he is a serial winner and their only center-back who has consistently performed at a world-class level throughout his career. The Varane-Maguire axis has potential, but it needs serious competition to keep both on their toes.
The criteria of a “top player” was reconsidered when Sir Alex Ferguson stated in his 2013 score-settler that he was “one of the few who felt Steven Gerrard was not a top, top player.” Gerrard had been. Fred is not, and at the age of 29, he may never be.
However, the finest players are not always the best team, and United’s undoing in last year’s Europa League final was Fred’s absence from the starting XI. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer moved Paul Pogba from the left to the center of midfield and refused to drop the fading Marcus Rashford, who had one of the worst individual performances in a European final.
Fred is the only regular United player that developed under Ralf Rangnick in a more forward role, which Michael Carrick first used him in. Fred gained a better sense of adventure, dishing out commendable assists and scoring crucial goals that secured seven points.
There is already enough (necessary) turmoil in midfield, and Fred may serve as a bridge between a defensive-minded partner and a controller.
4. Bruno Fernandes
United must be tempted to ask Fernandes and his reps for their money and commission back or to subtract the wage increase they gave him in March. He’s become worse, and Fernandes has played his best football for United when the fans aren’t there.
Fernandes must improve his leadership skills if he is to be named captain indefinitely. He whines at officials and teammates without having any effect on either, and Fernandes looks to lack accountability, at least in-game.
The only advantage of Fernandes’ deal is that it indicates he is committed. His influence in 2019-20 was revolutionary, and his second season was so successful that he was named Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year. Fernandes can make something out of nothing, and he has saved United almost as often as Cristiano Ronaldo.
Although mastering a controlling style linked with Ten Hag’s strategy may be beyond Fernandes, many teammates might benefit from his mentality, and he is a crucial player.
5. Jadon Sancho,
After four years at Bundesliga underachievers Borussia Dortmund, the United pressure cooker was certain to make Sancho sweat. It was no coincidence that he began to improve almost immediately after Solskjaer was fired and, unlike United, benefited from the mid-season break in January.
In 2020, United identified Sancho as a right-wing priority, and a year later, he was a winger. Solskjaer appeared unsure whether to go left or right and dropped Sancho in September. Under Rangnick, Sancho played his best football on the left, but his season was so disappointing that he was left out of the England squad.
Still, United fans will want to see Sancho’s name in the starting XI on the first day of the season. Talk of potential in the squad almost applies to the 22-year-old, and Ten Hag has gotten the most out of inverted wingers at Ajax.
6. Cristiano Ronaldo
“How does Ronaldo contribute?” Ten Hag was questioned last week. “Goals!” he exclaimed emphatically.
Ronaldo is 38 in eight months, but he scored more goals for Manchester United in 2021-22 than he did in 2006-07, his first world-class season.
There have been questions about Ronaldo’s future, and he is obviously dissatisfied with United’s slide, but in a club-approved video released on Friday, he reaffirmed his commitment and praised Ten Hag.
Ronaldo told everyone in 2008 that he would stay at United before attempting to arrange a transfer to Real Madrid. He offered the same response the following year and went. If any agent can make the unthinkable happen, it is Jorge Mendes, yet all indications point to Ronaldo doing one last step-over dance at United.
Climbing the Premier League table is critical, and Ten Hag can keep Ronaldo fresh for weekends by resting him in the six Europa League group stage games and the League Cup before the season concludes on November 13 for the World Cup.