There is little doubt that Louis Van Gaal has brought a sense of optimism to Old Trafford, yet a couple of issues are increasingly agitating Manchester United supporters. The desire for the Dutchman to abandon the three centre-backs is well-documented, but a slightly more concerning situation has developed regarding a host of players whose contracts are rapidly running down.
The furore around David de Gea and the possibility he may return to La Liga with Real Madrid has been incandescent, and with just 18 months left on his contract, United fans are rightly distressed at the thought of losing the club’s star performer from the past season and a half.
This situation is also hugely important in that the Spaniard is an Atletico Madrid man, having joined the club aged 13 and risen through the ranks. A transfer to Real would be a pure career move for De Gea, and indicative of United’s decline as a European powerhouse. However should he commit his future, with reports that a five-year-deal is close to being signed, it would be a major boost for the Reds, and a sign that everyone at the club fully expects a swift return to the heady heights of the Ferguson era.
There appears to be much more certainty around Michael Carrick, whose contract is up in the summer but appears set for a customary one year extension, particularly considering van Gaal promoted him to the role of vice-captain. The man he replaced, Darren Fletcher, seems certain to be on his way out of the club, possibly in the next few days. As a much-loved figure at Old Trafford, supporters will be extremely sad to see him go, yet happy for the Scot if he gets more playing time elsewhere.
It is some of the talented youngsters that are coming to the end of their contracts that are more of a worry, including centre-backs Tyler Blackett and Paddy McNair. Both players have broken into the first team setup this season, and have put in some very encouraging performances, especially considering the lack of Premier League experience that pervades United’s backline.
Additionally, highly-rated Brazilian midfielder Andreas Pereira is in the final months of his contract, and free to talk to other European clubs, one of which that is rumoured to be interested being Paris St Germain. Having just turned 19, the Belgium-born playmaker has impressed for United’s Under-21 side, and supporters of the club would be loath to see a similar situation to that of Paul Pogba, where a player they had on the books goes on to set the world alight elsewhere.
Even in the case of Robin van Persie, the debate has begun about whether he will extend his stay at the Theatre of Dreams beyond the currently agreed 2016, an unnecessary distraction for a player seeking to return to optimum form on the wrong side of 30. The likes of Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Jonny Evans and Rafael are on a similar timescale that could see huge upheaval at the club.
Perhaps United’s money men are playing hardball over figures, perhaps they’re trying to save a few quid by not raising wages sooner than necessary, or maybe van Gaal is demanding each player proves his worth right down to the wire. Whatever the reasons, supporters are being left to debate the decisiveness of contract negotiations too frequently, not a topic of conversation that should be expected at Manchester United.
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