Manchester United currently have a nine-point cushion between themselves and fifth place, meaning they are set to secure another season of Champions League football.
However, the gap between United and league leaders Manchester City is even wider. Pep Guardiola’s men have opened up a 14-point lead at the top of the table, and it appears that they will not be chased down.
So, how do United start to close that gap?
One way is to be smart in the transfer market. That means bringing in talented players to add to the squad, but also getting rid of those who are no longer needed.
Here, we take a look at the latter part of that equation, and highlight five players who should be taken off the wage bill this summer.
1. Edinson Cavani – Annual salary: £10,920,000
This shouldn’t be too difficult, with Football Insider reporting that Cavani has verbally agreed to join Boca Juniors this summer anyway.
He has managed seven goals this year, but that’s never going to be enough to take United to the title. It’s time to look to the future, and Cavani is not part of that.
2. Juan Mata – Annual salary: £8,320,000
Mata is the eighth-highest earner at United, yet has only featured in seven league matches during the 2020/21 campaign.
The 32-year-old has done a solid job for the club during his seven-year stay, but it seems clear that he is some way down the pecking order, and is no more than a bit-part player nowadays.
And you should not be paying over £8m-a-year to bit-part players. Thanks for the memories, Juan.
3. Nemanja Matic – Annual salary: £6,420,000
The former three-time Premier League winner brings experience but not much else to the current United setup.
He has played 27 times this year, but Solskjaer has two younger and more mobile options to cover Matic’s role in Fred and Scott McTominay.
One of the better holding midfielders on his day, yet those days are getting much rarer. Time to move the 32-year-old on.
4. Phil Jones – Annual salary: £3,900,000
Remarkably, Phil Jones is still at Old Trafford. He has now been in Manchester for a decade, and still has two years remaining on his contract.
Yet it seems best for everyone that Jones is shown the door this summer. He has not got any game time for the team in 2020/21, and that is unlikely to change any time soon with Eric Bailly, Harry Maguire, Axel Tuanzebe and Victor Lindelof all ahead of him.
At 29, he still has time to turn his career around, but it is becoming clearer by the day that any potential upturn in form is unlikely to happen at his current club.
5. Sergio Romero – Annual salary: £3,640,000
Another squad member who United fans may have forgotten is still at the club.
Romero has seen his place as de Gea’s understudy snatched away by Dean Henderson this season, and is surplus to requirements at this stage.
His contract runs out in the summer, and there is no reason for United to offer him an extension.
By offloading these five players, United will be saving £33.2m in wages next season. That’s a pretty large chunk for a quintet that have only made a combined total of 64 appearances this season and it will give John Murtough a bit more to play with in the transfer market.