December 5, 2023
Many of last season’s Manchester United squad will feel they have a point to prove

Paul Pogba left Manchester United this summer, saying he wanted to show the club “they made a mistake”.

The French midfielder, who is expected to join Juventus on a free transfer, lifted the World Cup with his country in 2018 – but only won the Europa League and the Carabao Cup at club level during his second six-year spell at Old Trafford.

His last three campaigns yielded only eight goals.

But Pogba is far from being the only big name in the major European leagues who has a point to prove this season.

From players who have had disappointing loan spells to others who have barely played, who really needs a big campaign?

Daily Alli

Daily Alli
Dele Alli has scored one Premier League goal since football was paused in the first coronavirus lockdown in March 2020.

Dele Alli’s stock has fallen dramatically in the past four years.

His first three seasons at Tottenham – as a teenager and in his early twenties – scored 46 goals from midfield.

But instead of kicking, he seemed to be holding back, scoring just 21 goals in the next three and a half years – to the point where Spurs allowed him to go to Everton without any upfront fee.

However, the change of scenery didn’t help Alli much, and he failed to score in any of his 11 matches – with only one start in half a season.

With Everton under pressure after avoiding relegation, could the 26-year-old do better with Frank Lampard’s squad this year? And who knows what’s next for the one-time England international if he doesn’t?

Donnie Van de Beek

Donny van de Beek and Eric ten Hag
Donny van de Beek and Eric Ten Hag reunited at Old Trafford

It’s hard to imagine a better managerial appointment at a better time for Donny van de Beek than Eric ten Hag’s arrival at Manchester United.

The Dutch midfielder played 110 games with Ten Hag at Ajax and scored 32 goals before leaving for United.

But he made just four Premier League games in the nearly year-and-a-half year under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer before moving to a disappointing loan move to Everton.

He may have been expected to leave Old Trafford this summer – but under Ten Hag he has a great chance of becoming an essential part of the team and proving Solskjaer wrong.

Billy Gilmore

The loan period is meant to help kick-start the young player’s career, but if anything it appears to have damaged the reputation of Scottish midfielder Billy Gilmore.

After 22 teenage games with Chelsea, many expected a loan spell at Norwich and a season of regular football to be Gilmore’s making.

But he has played only 60% of Norwich’s Premier League games where they have gone down without much fighting and failing to score a goal.

Whether he stays at Chelsea or tries his luck elsewhere, this is a big season for the Scot.

Romelu Lukaku

Romelu Lukaku’s second spell at Chelsea was disappointing.

The Belgium striker was supposed to be the missing piece in the Chelsea jigsaw when he joined from Inter Milan for £97.5m last summer.

He was clearly unhappy at Stamford Bridge, and although he scored 15 goals, there was a feeling that Chelsea were not using his strengths and that he was left out of the squad altogether.

He is now back at Inter on loan, and although it was his choice to leave, he would want to show coach Thomas Tuchel what he could have had if he had built a squad around him.

Marcus Rashford

Marcus Rashford could indeed do a major season at Manchester United to prove those who claim that his work off the pitch has hampered football wrong.

The 24-year-old made headlines in 2020 with his role in persuading the government to offer free school meal vouchers to pupils over the summer holidays.

It was awarded Book of the Year at this year’s British Book Awards for “You Are a Hero,” which was written to inspire young people.

But Rashford scored just five goals in all competitions last season – none since January – and was left out of England’s squad for this summer’s Nations League matches.

Rashford should have a strong start to the season if he shows he should be part of the Three Lions squad for the World Cup in Qatar this winter.

Dean Henderson

Dean Henderson
Dean Henderson had to watch how David de Gea played all 38 Premier League games last season

Manchester United goalkeeper Dean Henderson is another goalkeeper who has about three months to play in the England squad for the World Cup after joining Nottingham Forest on loan.

At the end of the 2020-21 season, he appeared to overtake David de Gea to become United’s number one goalkeeper – and was named to England’s Euro 2020 squad, although he had to retire due to injury.

It came after three full seasons of football during loan spells with Shrewsbury and Sheffield United.

But last season he did not make a single appearance in the Premier League, taking part in only three cup matches, and he has not yet added to his singles match for England.

Alexander Mitrovich

So good for the Championship, isn’t he good enough for the Premier League?

For the third time in five years, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Fulham have arrived in the Premier League to emulate the format of the tournament.

In 2018-2019, the Serbian scored 11 goals in the Premier League. In 2020-21, the number was only three.

But last season was his best season in the tournament so far, scoring 43 goals in 44 matches. Is this the season he finally overtakes the First Division?

Jesse Lingard

Jesse Lingard will be desperate to show Manchester United they should have given him a bigger chance last season – when he finds a new club.

The 29-year-old’s career seemed to be fading until he joined West Ham on loan 18 months ago. He scored nine goals in 16 matches and won the Premier League Player of the Month award and Goal of the Month in April 2021.

He returned to Old Trafford in confidence last summer – scoring two goals off the bench in September – but then made just four appearances all season in all competitions.

Manchester United won’t sell him in January to Tottenham, Newcastle or West Ham – but it hasn’t given him a proper performance in the squad.

He left Old Trafford at the end of his contract and is now considering several options.

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