How every player sold in Man Utd’s £48m summer clear out is getting on so far this season
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Erik ten Hag’s efforts to rebuild Manchester United’s squad saw 12 senior players leave over the summer, and while many were on free transfers or loan deals it still meant a lot of talent departing Old Trafford as the Dutchman looked to mould his first team and make room for new signings.
Given that United have quite a few on-field issues right now – and that quite a few of their new signings haven’t really hit their straps yet – it’s fair to ask whether they were right to move their former players on. With that in mind, let’s check in with the departed dozen and see how they’re adapting to their post-United lives, and whether any of them are proving that perhaps they shouldn’t have been asked to leave at all…
Eric Bailly – Beşiktaş
The injury-riddled Ivorian joined Super Lig outfit Beşiktaş in the summer and has played four matches so far as he works his way back to fitness. The statistics behind those outings suggest some solid if unspectacular showings, and his side have yet to keep a clean sheet in a game he started. At 29 years of age, he still has time to revive his career, but sustained fitness has been so elusive for him so far in his career.
David de Gea – free agent
Remarkably, a goalkeeper who was not so long ago considered one of the best in the world has yet to find a new club after being released by United. Still just 32 years old, rumours have it that De Gea wants to move back to Spain and even turned down the chance to join the Saudi Pro League, but a potential move to Real Betis fell through and he has yet to find a new home. Will surely be given a chance to prove that his fall from grace wasn’t terminal somewhere or other, but may yet retire if the right opportunity doesn’t present itself.
Anthony Elanga – Nottingham Forest
The young Swedish international scored the winner against Chelsea not long after moving to the City Ground, but that’s been his only real highlight – he’s played in every game for Forest, but often from the bench, and while he’s shown some flashes of excellence he’s yet to put in a truly commanding start-to-finish performance. Elanga has plenty of time to blossom into a top level player, but on current evidence he wasn’t ready for a starting berth at United just yet.
Mason Greenwood – Getafe (loan)
Greenwood’s loan move to La Liga came in the wake of a fan outcry against his potential return to the United fold following allegations of rape, assault and controlling and coercive behaviour (which Greenwood denies). Recently scored his first goal for his new club in a 2-2 draw with Celta Vigo. Given that his temporary departure was based on serious off-field accusations, his form and level of performance isn’t really relevant.
Fred – Fenerbahçe
It took a while to find the Brazilian midfield a new club, but he eventually pitched up at the Turkish league leaders, for whom he has become an increasingly important presence. He’s been typically energetic, getting all over the pitch and linking up play with growing assurance. Granted that the Super Lig is undeniably at a lower level than the Premier League, but Fred has looked good, and if not quite a player reborn then certainly a player getting his confidence back. The 30-year-old has also kept his nose remarkably clean, making no major errors in a blue and yellow shirt so far, something which might surprise some United fans…
Dean Henderson – Crystal Palace
After several frustrating years warming the bench at Old Trafford, Henderson departed to Crystal Palace in pursuit of some first-team action – but has so far been frustrated by injury and the form of Sam Johnstone. A thigh problem has kept him out of Palace’s last two matches but before that he found himself in a familiar position, watching on from the sidelines as Johnstone put in some impressive performances. Henderson will get his chance eventually, but between the injury and Johnstone keeping three consecutive clean sheets, he may have to be very patient.
Zidane Iqbal – FC Utrecht
The 20-year-old had made it as far as the fringes of the first team but never really broke through – perhaps weighed down by being given a name that was almost impossible to live up to. The 20-year-old Iraqi has only played six minutes for Utrecht since joining thanks to two separate injuries. Far too early to judge whether he will develop into a player United regretting allowing to leave.
Phil Jones – free agent
Poor Phil Jones – once one of the most talented young defenders in England, his injury-ravaged career is finally at an end at the age of just 31. Jones is currently working as an Under-18 coach with United after failing to find a new club following the end of his contract. Will forever be remembered as a case of ‘what could have been’, but at least now gets to impart his experience to the next generation.
Matěj Kovář – Bayer Leverkusen
A fourth-choice goalkeeper’s departure is seldom mourned, and the Czech stopper still hasn’t played in the Bundesliga – but he has immediately become their second choice and has played both of Leverkusen’s matches in the Europa League, keeping a clean sheet against BK Häcken. Could well turn out to be a very useful player in Germany, and will be thrilled at his increasing chance of bagging a league winner’s medal, as Xabi Alonso’s side sit top of the pile seven games in.
Alex Telles – Al-Nassr
The 30-year-old wing-back never really established himself at Old Trafford and, after a loan spell at Sevilla, was probably delighted to get the chance to jump onto the Saudi gravy train and join former team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo at Al-Nassr. Has so far played six matches for his new side, winning five and drawing one, and has by all accounts been playing rather tidily so far. Given the injury crisis that has developed in the United defence, perhaps Ten Hag should have held on to him.
Axel Tuanzebe – Ipswich Town
The versatile defender was released as a free agent after loan spells at Aston Villa, Napoli and Stoke City, and has recently signed a one-year deal with Ipswich Town. Has yet to feature for the Tractor Boys so far, rendering any judgement of a 25-year-old who was once viewed as hot prospect quite impossible.
Brandon Williams – Ipswich Town (loan)
Williams is establishing himself gradually as an important player at Ipswich, who have been the surprise package of the Championship season so far, sitting in second place having only been promoted from League One this year. Has scored twice in the last three games while playing at right-back, and may be another player that United wish they’d held on to with all the injury issues ravaging the squad. Now 22, this may be his last chance to impress the United hierarchy enough to earn a longer stay at Old Trafford, but he’s taking it so far.