Manchester United are always evolving and a change of manager mid-season highlights the challenges ahead.
There will be outgoings as well as incomings next summer, with a handful of big name players’ contracts due to expire. In other cases, it is simply time to move on.
Expected departures mean there could be four big Manchester United squad numbers becoming available for the 2022/23 season, and beyond.
Here is a look at the four potentially soon to be vacant numbers and a look at who could fill them…
The number 4 shirt has been occupied by Phil Jones for the last decade – although he has not been seen on the pitch since January 2020.
Jones’ contract is set to expire at the end of the season, meaning one way or another, the shirt will become vacant.
Who takes it over? Many United supporters wanted Raphael Varane to get the shirt when he signed. Instead he took 19.
United don’t need another centre-back, so 4 could remain vacant until one is needed – or Varane could simply switch and upgrade his number to 4.
Paul Pogba’s contract is hanging in the balance and at present it looks like he will leave when his deal expires next June. In the process the number 6 shirt would get freed up.
United have long been in need of an extra midfielder, and that’s before Pogba leaves the club.
Who takes it over? An as yet unnamed new signing will likely be wearing the number 6 for United next season.
Another long-serving player, Juan Mata, is set to leave when his deal expires. He could even leave the club in January.
Mata leaving will free up the number 8 shirt – to the likely excitement of Bruno Fernandes, who has made no secret of the fact he wants it.
Who takes it over? Bet everything on Fernandes to ditching his 18 for 8 next season.
Anthony Martial is still under contract, for now. He is likely to be sold next summer amid a desire to leave the club in pursuit of first team football. He could leave in January, although Sky Sports report an initial loan is more likely.
Martial’s exit will free up the much-desired number 9 shirt, opening up an interesting battle to see who wears it.
Who takes it over? Marcus Rashford is happy with 10, Cristiano Ronaldo with 7, and Mason Greenwood with 11.
With Edinson Cavani (number 21) also leaving, United will need to sign a new striker. It’s possible we could see Erling Haaland wearing United’s number 9 next season.
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