Michael Carrick hasn’t been in charge at Manchester United for long, but he’s already made it clear that the slate has been wiped clean for most players at the club.
After less than three days since the new interim coach replaced Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the club’s former midfielder has a big task on his hands to rejuvenate the players following a torrid campaign so far, and his line-up against Villarreal on Tuesday night was a sign that everyone is getting a second chance.
Alex Telles, Donny van de Beek and Anthony Martial were all handed starts against the LaLiga side, and while they didn’t all impress, they played their part in United’s 2-0 win to secure a place in the Champions League knockouts.
Michael Carrick showed the slate is clean at Manchester United after starting Jadon Sancho (R) and other fringe stars against Villarreal on Tuesday night, including Donny van de Beek (C)
Sancho, also took his chance after starting, scoring in the last minute to cap off an improved display following a difficult season. The former Dortmund star played as though the shackles had finally come off – and now the rest of the so-called ‘outcasts’ have a chance to shine too under Carrick.
Sportsmail revealed this week that there are a number of players – also including Eric Bailly and Dean Henderson – who have put their plans to leave the club on hold after Solskjaer left.
With that in mind, we assess the Manchester United players with something to prove, why things haven’t worked out and what they need to do to turn it around.
Donny van de Beek (bottom left), Anthony Martial (second top left) and Alex Telles (middle) were all handed starts by their new interim boss
Donny van de Beek
Just a third start of the season for the downhearted Dutchman against Villarreal, and while he wasn’t able to showcase the best of his ability in Spain, he will be encouraged to see chances are coming his way after scoring in Solskjaer’s final game at United.
Van de Beek was subbed on 66 minutes for Bruno Fernandes, and was pretty anonymous during his hour on the pitch – struggling to carve open Villarreal and failing to link up well with his team-mates.
But it will take time for van de Beek to find his confidence again after being swept aside by Solskjaer. There is clearly a talented player in there somewhere, and whether it’s Carrick or another manager who takes over for the season, he needs an arm round the shoulder to lift his spirits and allow him to find his best form.
Van de Beek struggled to impress against the LaLiga side but needs man management
He was frozen out by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (L) and could do with an arm round the shoulder
From the offset since his £40m move from Ajax, van de Beek has not had a run of games to show off his talents fully, and it was clear Solskjaer was not a fan of his. A host of European sides were chasing his signature when he burst onto the scene with Ajax in the 2018-19 season, and now he can show United why with the Norwegian no longer keeping him out of the line-up.
Carrick starting him was a positive step to show he can still flourish, but he needs even more game time and better man management to thrive.
When the Frenchman joined United in 2015 – for a fee that could rise to £65m – then-boss Louis van Gaal said he had signed him ‘for my successor’. Well, Jose Mourinho struggled to get the best out of him and the man after him in Solskjaer didn’t have much luck either.
So it falls to the fourth man in line to try and get the forward firing again. We have seen evidence of his quality – just two seasons ago he netted 17 Premier League goals – but hasn’t managed to keep up the consistency.
Injuries have troubled Martial too, missing half of last season with ruptured knee ligaments. He has made just two Premier League starts this term, scoring once in one of those opportunities in the 1-1 draw with Everton.
Anthony Martial didn’t capitalise on his start against Villarreal and must make more of his opportunities under Carrick
His new boss Carrick played alongside Martial for three seasons and knows what he’s capable of – hence why he started him against Villarreal, but also showed him he has to do more when given the chance after hooking him for Marcus Rashford on 66 minutes with the score still level.
Considering regular minutes have been hard to come by for Martial, he cannot afford to waste openings in a similar manner to Tuesday night, when he was largely ineffective and failed to offer any meaningful attacks.
There was a point where Dean Henderson was being talked up as a future England No 1 after catching the eye during two successful loan spells at Sheffield United, and United opted to bring him back rather than sell him as they looked for a strong competitor for David de Gea.
While Henderson played 26 games last season, including 13 in the Premier League, he failed to oust De Gea as the club’s first choice, and hasn’t had much luck this season – despite signs the Spaniard was past his best in recent years.
Dean Henderson has failed to oust David de Gea at United and could look to move in January
De Gea hasn’t been at his best this season but it will still take a few more high profile errors to get him out of the picture, and showed he still has top drawer quality after some fantastic saves against Villarreal.
As is the case for most goalkeepers – Henderson will have just keep impressing in training and wait for his opportunity if it comes. If he decides against that, there should be more than a few clubs looking for a new keeper in January, including the likes of Newcastle.
No one can accuse the Ivorian of not trying after confronting Ole Gunnar Solskjaer over why he had decided to play Harry Maguire over him during the 4-2 loss against Leicester City last month.
Maguire turned out a poor display after being rushed back from injury and Bailly was left questioning why the Norwegian had continued to exile him and instead go for a player who wasn’t fit.
Eric Bailly is hungry to play more games this season and will be keen to put pressure on the underperforming Harry Maguire
Bailly was unhappy the unfit centre-back started over him at Leicester and now has a chance to play alongside him, and possibly replace him if he impresses
Solskjaer continued to keep faith in his captain throughout this turbulent season, despite some woeful performances from the England star, but now the pressure is on Maguire to start finding some consistency, with Bailly now having a chance to come in from the cold.
His only Premier League start this campaign came in the 2-0 home defeat to rivals Manchester City, as he scored an own goal and was hooked at half time, which didn’t exactly help his cause.
But with Raphael Varane still out injured, there is an opportunity for Bailly to come in and start alongside Maguire, although when the star Frenchman returns it is up to the former Villarreal man to ensure he at the top of his game in training to make a difficult decision for Carrick.
Brought in for Luke Shaw following the player picking up a knock in the 4-1 loss to Watford, the former Porto star put in an energetic display against Villarreal, but while he was impressive going forward – he left some space in behind and was guilty of a few defensive errors.
Telles might find it tough to dethrone Shaw, whose injury does not appear to be serious after being left at home as a precaution, and may have to make do with starts in cup competitions.
He is yet to start a game in any competition other than the Champions League this season but that could all change under Carrick if he keeps up his enthusiasm and work ethic on the Carrington training pitch.
Alex Telles will have a tough task replacing Luke Shaw at left back but put in an energetic display against Villarreal
The Portuguese defender has been restricted to substitute appearances this term, starting just a handful of cup games, and the former Porto star has been linked with a move to Roma, managed by his former boss Jose Mourinho.
The Italian club appear keen on Dalot with their director Tiago Pinto refusing to rule out a swoop in January, and United have been linked with England right-back Kieran Trippier in recent months.
Recent reports have indicated that Dalot sees his future at Old Trafford and he certainly won’t get a better chance of making a fist of it with United after four seasons of anonymity.
Diogo Dalot hasn’t played much football this season but reportedly sees his future at United