This summer, David Moyes will conduct the most significant overhaul of a Manchester United squad in recent memory. Up to 10 senior players will be allowed to leave Old Trafford in a renovation project of staggering proportions, Goal UK reports.
Put simply, Moyes is ripping the champions up and starting again.
Nemanja Vidic, whose exit this summer was confirmed Thursday, is set to be joined by Rio Ferdinand, Rafael, Nani, Anderson, Patrice Evra, Shinji Kagawa and Alexander Buttner on the list of players that the United manager will tell to look for other clubs over the coming months. His pursuit of Luke Shaw, reported by Goal on Saturday, is merely the beginning of a six-month process during which he intends to transform his roster.
Having conducted a series of high-end meetings with executive vice chairman Ed Woodward and other senior United stakeholders following the end of the January transfer window, Moyes has a blueprint and a budget with which he intends to rebuild a team which has at times this season showed signs of scandalous, irreversible decline.
The fact remains that the Glazer family has never given Moyes anything other than its full, unwavering support — albeit from a distance — since he started work as United manager July 1. Any suggestion that the woeful form has led to the club's owners considering his position is, those close to them insist, untrue. Moyes has at least a season, a 150 pound million transfer war chest and another summer, to make it work.
There will be casualties, and the profile of each matters little to Moyes. Vidic, Ferdinand and to a lesser extent Evra have been highlighted as players no longer able to perform at the very highest level and, with little to no sale value, are better kept off the wage bill than on it. In addition, fullbacks Buttner and Rafael will also be able to leave.
It is the uncertain future of United's defense that indicates just how significant a summer this will be for a club which under Sir Alex Ferguson lived in a state of perpetual, meticulously planned motion for 26 years. Moyes is preparing to bring in at least three starting defenders to be the base of a new team. David de Gea and Jonny Evans have impressed Moyes, while it is hoped Phil Jones and Chris Smalling will soon prove they are worth the 24 million pounds United paid for them.
Southampton youngster Shaw leads Moyes' shortlist, while pursuits of Nicolas Otamendi and Leighton Baines came to nothing in January. Ezequiel Garay, Davide Astori, Seamus Coleman and Eliaquim Mangala will also be monitored between now and the end of the season.
Elsewhere, the 37 million pound arrival of Juan Mata has all but confirmed to Shinji Kagawa that he does not figure in Moyes' plans going forward. Anderson has been loaned to Fiorentina with a view to the midfielder joining the Serie A side on a permanent basis while Nani, who nearly joined Inter and AC Milan toward the end of the transfer window, will not come close to seeing out the five-year contract he was encouraged to sign by his new manager in September.
Although it is being discussed in hushed tones around Carrington, the true, final link to the club it once was in Ferguson's early years could also find himself playing his final game for the club at Southampton on May 11 or, to the eternal optimists, Lisbon's Stadium of Light two weeks later. Ryan Giggs, 23 years after his United debut, is said to be considering a full-time coaching role with the club. A decision on his future has not yet been made, however.
If Giggs does indeed hang up his boots and Ferdinand, as is almost certain, leaves Old Trafford, Darren Fletcher will become the club's longest-serving player. Yet Wayne Rooney is the odds-on favorite to become the club's new captain once Vidic has left the club.
The striker's attempts to leave the club for Chelsea in the summer have frustrated many of those in and around Old Trafford.
However, after a long wait, the former Everton man now looks like he will take the mantle as the figurehead of Moyes' United. Terms of a new deal are currently being discussed between Rooney, his agent Paul Stretford and club officials. United is more than hopeful of tying down a player who wriggles in these situations far more than most.
Whereas on paper — quite literally — the future of Robin van Persie seems far simpler for United, with the Dutchman's contract not due to expire until 2016, in reality the champions could be facing up to a second consecutive summer of trying to extinguish talk linking one of their biggest players away from the club. And talk, with Van Persie, is the operative word.
The former Arsenal man, notoriously savvy and strong-willed in equal measure, will spend the early part of his summer in a Netherlands World Cup camp, away from his club's PR machine. His relationship with Moyes is, at present, strained, with concerns regarding his training schedule and injuries central to the Dutchman being unsettled under his manager.
This summer, like last, will be unprecedented for Manchester United. To decimate such a significant portion of a squad that is still, if in name only, the champion is indicative of just how much needs to change at the club for it to challenge for the title in earnest.
But it is necessary change. It is time for Moyes to reverse the decline.
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