6 The Daily Telegraph Tuesday 22 September 2020 *** Sport Football Jason Burt selling Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona or Eden Hazard to Real Madrid and to use the proceeds wisely? Instead, United have a bloated, unbalanced squad – a glance at their list shows far too many defenders, a number of very similar midfield players and, actually, not enough forwards. The criticism of the MaguireLindelof partnership was valid, but that pairing cost £115 million. The answer surely cannot be just to buy another centre-half without a forensic clear-out of what is already there. Even among the goalkeepers, it appears bloated, with David de Gea the highest-paid player, Dean Henderson having signed a new contract that earns him £110,000 a week and Sergio Romero still there as No 3. Something has to give and United need to eventually make a choice between De Gea and Henderson rather than fudge it. A clear-out is healthy. United do not seem able to sell to buy. There is almost an approach that they want to “hoard” rather than refresh the squad. Agents and clubs complain that transfers with United often became unnecessarily drawn out. At Chelsea, Marina Granovskaia has a well-earned reputation for getting what she wants when it comes to selling – as does Michael Edwards, Liverpool’s sporting director, with, for example, Diogo Jota efficiently bought for up to £45 million from Wolverhampton Wanderers, but £13.5 million recouped from the same club for 18-year-old Ki-Jana Hoever, who cost £80,000 from the Ajax academy and who is yet to play in the Premier League. They are bold and balance the books and the squad, and suddenly that Jota fee does not look steep. In terms of net spend, United are way out there with Manchester City, but in fairness to City, they have enjoyed far greater success in recent years. The hope for United is that, at least, they have bought better in the past couple of years with the likes of Bruno Fernandes and Donny van de Beek. But they have not sold well enough. And that has to be addressed. have United been with their resources in the past few years? The defeat by Crystal Palace was bad – their worst opening-day defeat for 25 years – and the mood of their fans was made worse by the sight of one of their former players, Wilfried Zaha, running them ragged just as Tottenham Hotspur were announcing the signings of Gareth Bale and Sergio Reguilon. Both were players United held talks over bringing in. After that loss, the verdicts – led by former United defender turned pundit Gary Neville – were clear: they need to buy a centre-half. But United have no fewer than eight on their books – Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Axel Tuanzebe and Teden Mengi, the 18-year-old who has been promoted to the first-team squad. Any reasonable assessment would suggest that number needs to be reduced but, then, United have been rejecting offers for Smalling – who is desperate for a permanent move to Roma after last season’s loan – without the 30-year-old even making the bench against Palace. Rojo, meanwhile, last played for United in November 2019, making nine appearances last season and only seven the campaign before. The 30-year-old Argentine, who is out on loan, has played just 21 times for the club since he signed a new contract in March 2018, which takes him up to June 2021 – with the option to extend for another year. There is an obvious comparison. United’s trading is shamed by the activity at Liverpool and Chelsea. Where is the bravery at United to do a deal such as
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