Jose Mourinho has some important decisions to make in the next 12 months regarding the make-up of his Manchester United squad.
Eleven senior players at Old Trafford - including key stars David de Gea and Anthony Martial - are due to leave the club when their respective contracts expire at the end of the season.
However, they along with Chris Smalling, Antonio Valencia, Phil Jones, Matteo Darmian, Andreas Pereira and James Wilson could easily be snapped up for another 12 months via an option in their current deals.
Juan Mata, Ander Herrera and Ashley Young are three other soon-to-be free agents, but without such clauses ready to activate.
It’s difficult to predict whom Mourinho is likely to consider a part of his plans going forward - especially those plying their trade in defence.
The Portuguese boss has made no secret of his desire to bring in an experienced central defender come January, leaving the futures of Smalling, Eric Bailly, Jones, Marcos Rojo and Victor Lindelof far from certain.
Mourinho and United are reportedly at odds over whether an established or promising signing would best suit their current interests, though they have made progress in some respect.
The Daily Mail claims the 55-year-old has made up his mind on Smalling, despite him wanting a significant pay rise to remain at the club.
The report reads: “Smalling's current £80,000-a-week deal runs out in the summer and it's understood that he is looking to increase that figure to closer to £120,000.
“Smalling has been one of United's most consistent defenders during a difficult start to the season after forging a partnership with Lindelof, and Mourinho is keen to keep him at the club.”
The United boss was left frustrated in his efforts to sign Toby Alderweireld, Jerome Boateng and Harry Maguire in the off-season, so he’ll be pleased to secure the services of at least one of his preferred options.
However, the Old Trafford faithful aren’t quite so pleased with the prospect of Smalling being offered a £40,000-a-week raise.
Smalling has played every minute of the Red Devils’ Champions League campaign and ten of their 12 Premier League fixtures this season.
But it seems he hasn’t done enough to justify such a signficant wage increase - at least in the eyes of certain United supporters.
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