COMMENT: So who's next? There's still time. The thing doesn't shut until midnight Monday. Who will be the next player out the door at Manchester United...?
Captains. Cup winners. Premier League champions. They've all been shown the exit at Old Trafford. And there's still almost 48 hours of this summer market to run.
Parma have announced it this morning. Matteo Darmiansold to the Serie A outfit for next-to-nothing. Which is exactly what United tried to do with Chris Smalling and AS Roma. Like Darmian, there's no way back for the England international. His deal with the Giallorosso a loan arrangement in name only. Giulio Meozzi, an intermediary who worked on the negotiations, confirming United initially offered Smalling to Roma for €20m. Eventually compromise was found over a temporary arrangement. But Smalling will get the hint. This is no one-season stop-over.
A million quid for Darmian. Fifteen for Smalling. They're not exactly seeking top price at United - especially at today's rates. Which all suggests this is a determined, conscious effort to clear the decks.
Of course, Antonio Conte now counts Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez among his attacking options at Inter Milan. Ander Herrera walked out on the club for PSG midsummer. While Antonio Valencia was quietly encouraged to leave. The former club captain now back in Ecuador with LDU Quito, where he's quickly been making headlines. Sent off against Barcelona SC, lambasting officials after the Copa Libertadores elimination by Boca Juniors - Valencia is certainly giving local fans their money's worth.
That's five senior players now no longer part of this United locker room. The experience; the leadership; the relationships. All gone. And it's not just at senior level where the broom has swept through.
At least 13 young players at United didn't have their contracts renewed in July. And while the majority have found themselves opportunities at a lower level, some are still deemed to have Premier League potential. Callum Whelan was quickly snapped up by Watford, while Callum Gribbin is currently chasing a deal at Sheffield United. Ben Thornley, the former United winger, telling us last week why Gribbin could yet make it at the top level.
Make no mistake, this is unprecedented. At no time in United's history has such a turnover of players occurred in this short a time. Long time United fans will hark back to the league title winning campaign of 1995/96. The summer of Paul Ince, Mark Hughes and Andrei Kanchelskis all being moved on - and that madcap first day defeat at Aston Villa. But that was it, just the three senior men were ushered way by Sir Alex Ferguson. And the Scot could still bank on Eric Cantona's return from suspension midseason. There's just no comparison between Fergie's decision to clear the way for the Class of 92 and what we're witnessing today.
Too much too soon? For this column, in an ideal world, the answer is no. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Mike Phelan are righting the transfer blunders of the past six years. A cycle of boom, bust short-termism which has never looked beyond the current season. Now you can see the thinking; the planning for a present and long-term future. And it should be exciting for United fans - there is clearly room being made for a new generation. Some will be promoted from within, like Mason Greenwood. Others will be added from outside, like Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka. But it will be done with an emphasis on growth and improvement. And where a player can accelerate that development - as in the case of Harry Maguire - Solskjaer will act. Despite the youth policy, the United manager not shy to think big when needed. That phone call from Christian Eriksen (and it was from the Tottenham playmaker and not vice-versa as some claim) proof enough Solskjaer still has United shopping from the top drawer.
The big question is: how long will he get? The good news is Solskjaer has the full backing of the board and vice-chairman exec Ed Woodward. There's no second guessing the management's decision making. This clearout is as much about culture as it is talent. The top brass convinced by Solskjaer and Phelan late, last season that radical change was needed to return the club to sustained success.
But where the pressure will come will be from the outside: the fans, the shareholders and even Solskjaer's ex-teammates. Twenty-four years ago there was no social media, no NYSE thoughts and Ince was pulling on a Nerazzurri shirt, rather than taking shots at the manager. Yet they were still calling for Fergie's head after the Villa Park meltdown.
Today? Well, it's really going to get down to the nerve of Woodward and the Glazer family. For any young, developing team the only consistent thing about them is their inconsistency. Something today's Prem fans - and the stock exchange - struggle to accept.
But United, with this clearout, are on the right course. It's dramatic. Historic. And was something that needed to happen. The crazy thing is, it might still not be over.
With almost 48 hours left of this summer market, who's next out the door at Manchester United...?
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