Manchester United squad for Premier League 2022/23: player profiles - Bruno, De Gea, Sancho...
After coming sixth in the Premier League last season, Manchester United’s chief aim under new boss Erik ten Hag is to secure a return to the Champions League.
David de Gea
Now heading into his 12th season as a Manchester United player, De Gea enjoyed a return to form last term, having lost his place to Dean Henderson at the back end of 2020/21. At that point, there had been suggestions that the Spaniard’s Old Trafford career might be coming to a close, but he bounced back to play every minute of United’s Premier League season, proving one of the few positives for the Red Devils in an otherwise dismal campaign. The 31-year-old was named United’s Players’ Player of the Year for the fourth time.
A former Manchester United youth player, Heaton returned to the club in July 2021, serving as third-choice goalkeeper last season behind De Gea and Dean Henderson, who has now joined Nottingham Forest on loan. Capped three times by England in 2016 and 2017, the 36-year-old former Burnley number one was limited to a single substitute appearance for United in 2021/22. That run-out, which lasted for 22 minutes, came in the second half of a Champions League dead rubber against Young Boys Bern in December.
Signed from Benfica in 2017, Lindelöf is now just four games away from making his 200th appearance for United. The Swede, capped 52 times by his country, has never really looked like offering a solution to the club’s search for a centre-back partnership to rival Ferdinand and Vidic, Pallister and Bruce, or Stam and Johnsen. “If you put Lindelöf alongside [Virgil] Van Dijk at Liverpool, I think he’s a really good player,” United legend Gary Neville said of Lindelöf in 2021, damning the 28-year-old with praise so faint as to be barely perceptible.
Bought from Villarreal in 2016, Bailly has managed just 70 Premier League appearances in an injury-troubled time at United. Last season was his most innocuous yet, the Ivory Coast international featuring just seven times in all competitions due to a combination of fitness issues, Africa Cup of Nations duty and a slide down the pecking order following the arrival of Raphaël Varane. Bailly could well leave Old Trafford before the summer transfer window closes.
Next to Jones, though, Bailly’s injury problems look positively insignificant. A player who has just completed his 11th campaign as a Manchester United player, Jones has been restricted to five appearances across the past two seasons, a knee problem sidelining him between January 2020 and January 2022. Like Bailly, the 30-year-old is being tipped to leave this summer as United rebuild under new head coach Erik ten Hag. Jones is out of contract at the end of the season, so if he doesn’t move on this month, he will surely leave then.
An £80m ($95m) purchase from Leicester City in 2019, Maguire has been United captain since January 2020, and was one of the most prominent targets for criticism as the Red Devils slumped to a sixth-placed Premier League finish last season. The England defender was even booed by United fans in preseason games in Australia in July, but Ten Hag has confirmed the 30-year-old will remain club skipper. “Of course, I have to get to know all the players and it takes time,” the Dutchman said. “But he is an established captain for a few years and he has achieved a lot of success, so I don’t doubt about this issue.”
Given Maguire has largely played as the left-sided centre-back at United, however, could Martínez’s arrival spell trouble for the Englishman? A left-footer who tends to occupy the same berth in a back four, Martínez followed Ten Hag from Ajax to Manchester in July, joining the club in a deal worth a reported £57m ($67m). A two-time Dutch champion with Ajax, the 24-year-old has been capped on seven occasions by Argentina, and was part of the Albiceleste’s Copa América-winning squad in 2021.
Ten Hag has also turned to the Eredivisie to sign 22-year-old left-back Tryell Malacia from Feyenoord. The Dutch international, for whom the club have reportedly paid an initial £13m ($15.6m), has been described by former United forward Robin van Persie, now a member of the Feyenoord backroom team, as a “huge talent with great fighting spirit”. “I’m certain he’ll be a good fit,” Van Persie said.
When United snapped up world champion and four-time Champions League winner Varane from Real Madrid last summer, there was optimism he was the man the club needed alongside Maguire to create a rock-solid centre-back partnership. The Frenchman’s first season at Old Trafford didn’t go to plan, however. He missed 13 Premier League games through injury or illness - and when he was available, he couldn’t prevent United from conceding a club-record 57 top-flight goals in 2021/22.
Signed from Porto in 2018, Dalot spent the 2020/21 campaign out on loan at AC Milan, before returning to United to make 30 appearances for the club last term - more than in any previous season. The 23-year-old Portugal international started nine of the team’s last 10 league games in 2021/22, and is expected to be in Ten Hag’s maiden competitive line-up when the 20-time English champions host Brighton in their top-flight season opener on Sunday.
Dazzling for England in the Three Lions’ run to the final of Euro 2020 a year ago, Shaw’s form suffered a major dip in a disappointing 2021/22 season for the left-back. He also missed a lot of games through injury, allowing Alex Telles - who began the season as Shaw’s clear understudy - to make just one appearance fewer than him. The 27-year-old will now face competition from the emerging Malacia, who is being tipped to start against Brighton.
The sixth-most expensive defender of all time when he left Crystal Palace for United in a £50m ($60m) deal in 2019, Wan-Bissaka fell out of favour at Old Trafford towards the end of last season, losing his right-back spot to Dalot. The 24-year-old is not expected to start ahead of the Portuguese this weekend, and Palace are reportedly interested in taking him back to Selhurst Park on loan.
Williams, 21, spent last season on loan at Norwich City, playing 29 times for the Canaries as they finished bottom of the Premier League. The Old Trafford youth product missed United’s preseason tour of Thailand and Australia with an injury, and wasn’t involved against Atlético Madrid and Rayo Vallecano, either. Brighton have been linked with a summer move for the full-back, who has made 50 United appearances since his first-team debut in 2019.
Also a United academy graduate, Tuanzebe had two seriously unproductive spells out on loan last season. The 24-year-old began 2021/22 at Aston Villa, where he was a regular starter until Steven Gerrard took over as head coach in November. Under Gerrard, Tuanzebe got just eight minutes of game time, leading his brother and agent, Dimitri, to suggest the Villa boss had allowed his Liverpool past to colour his opinion of the player. Tuanzebe then joined Napoli in January, but things didn’t get any better: he managed a total of 10 minutes of Serie A action for the Partenopei, partly due to a back injury. The defender is also among those tipped to leave United this summer.
Signed from Sporting CP in a deal worth a reported £67.6m ($80m) in January 2020, Bruno Fernandes is easily the most successful United signing of the post-Ferguson era. That said, the attacking midfielder’s production dropped significantly last season, amid the Red Devils’ collective struggles: his total of 10 goals and 13 assists was only just over half his 45 goal involvements in 2020/21. An intriguing subplot this term will be how the arrival of Christian Eriksen, a similar player to Fernandes, affects his role in the team. “I’m looking forward to playing alongside him because I think the best players make you play better, make you improve,” the Portuguese has said.
Eriksen, 30, signed for United on a free transfer in July, penning a three-year deal at Old Trafford after a successful six-month spell at Brentford last season. Having a suffered a cardiac arrest in a Euro 2020 match last summer, the Denmark international made his playing comeback with the Bees in January, after moving to West London on a short-team deal. In 11 Brentford appearances, Erkisen scoring once and supplied four assists, helping Thomas Frank’s side to a 13th-placed finish in their first ever season in the Premier League.
A $25m buy from Atalanta in 2021, Diallo made just one appearance for United last season - against Young Boys in the Champions League - before being sent out on loan to Scottish Premiership club Rangers in January. The Ivory Coast winger, 20, scored three times in 13 games for the Gers, and was part of the side that won the Scottish Cup final three days after Europa League final defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt. Diallo was United’s goalscorer in last Sunday’s 1-1 friendly draw at home to Rayo. He may well go back out on loan this term.
Signed from Shakhtar Donetsk for just under £50m ($60m) in 2018, Fred has, together with Scott McTominay, been a feature of a United central midfield pairing which, let’s face it, is hardly Keane and Scholes. But as the club (and Barcelona) struggle to convince Frenkie de Jong to up sticks from Catalonia and reunite with Ten Hag, his former Ajax boss, a United engine room featuring ‘McFred’ appears a likely prospect on Sunday. Capped 27 times by Brazil, Fred was part of the Seleção squad that finished as runners-up at the 2021 Copa América.
Yet to make a senior competitive appearance for United, Pellistri was sent out for a second loan spell at LaLiga club Alavés last season, the Uruguayan midfielder making 23 appearances for the Basques as they were relegated from the Spanish top flight. The 20-year-old, who has won six Uruguay caps since his international debut in January, can be expected to leave on loan once more as he seeks a spot in his country’s squad for the World Cup in November and December.
Donny van de Beek
One of the stars of Ajax’s run to the 2018/19 Champions League semi-finals under Ten Hag, Van de Beek has so far utterly failed to get going at United. The midfielder has made just four league starts for the club since arriving in summer 2020. In January this year, he was offloaded on loan to Everton, but after initially being a fixture in Frank Lampard’s line-up, the Dutch international succumbed to illness and injury, and in total managed only seven games for the Toffees. Can Ten Hag revive Van de Beek’s career?
At United since 2009, the 21-year-old spent the last 18 months on loan at Nottingham Forest, playing 41 Championship games for the Midlanders in 2021/22 as they secured promotion back to the Premier League after a 23-year absence. Garner has been linked with a return to Forest, although league rules prevent the club from taking him on loan again. An England Under-21 international, Garner has made seven appearances for United since his debut as a 17-year-old in 2019.
McTominay, who joined Manchester United’s youth academy at the age of five, made his first-team breakthrough under former head coach José Mourinho in 2017, and has since become a fixture of a not all too inspiring central midfield (see Fred above). Though born in England, the 25-year-old qualifies for Scotland through his father, and has been capped 34 times by the Scots, starting all three games at Euro 2020. He normally operates as a defender at international level.
Added to United’s youth set-up in 2019, France-born Mejbri is a full Tunisian international, having picked up 16 caps for the North Africans since his debut in June 2021. The 19-year-old had made his United first-team bow the month before, coming on as a late substitute against Wolves in the final game of the club’s 2020/21 Premier League campaign. He was then handed his first start for United at the same stage of last season, playing for an hour in a 1-0 defeat to Crystal Palace. Mejbri is being linked with a loan move to a Championship club.
After scoring 24 goals in 38 games in his first season back at United, Ronaldo wants to leave Old Trafford this summer. However, his search for a club that can offer him Champions League football this term has so far proved fruitless. The Portugal captain missed United’s preseason tour for “family reasons”, and after returning to the team for last weekend’s draw with Rayo, incurred Ten Hag’s ire by leaving the stadium before full time, having been substituted at the break. The United boss, who branded Ronaldo’s actions “unacceptable”, will reportedly leave the 37-year-old on the bench against Brighton as punishment.
Seven years on, it’s never got better for Martial than 21 minutes into his United debut, when the then-teenaged forward slalomed through the Liverpool defence to score a solo stunner and seal a 3-1 win over the club’s arch rivals. Now 26, the France international has just endured a deeply disappointing six-month loan at Sevilla, where he netted just once in 12 appearances. In FourFourTwo’s ‘fan’s view’ season preview, Martial was the player picked by The United Stand editor Jamie Ward in the category ‘the player I’d happily drive to another club’. “He needs a move to resurrect his career,” Ward wrote.
Rashford hit the milestone of 300 appearances for United in 2021/22, but otherwise it was a season to forget for the England forward. Sidelined until mid-October after undergoing shoulder surgery post-Euro 2020, the 24-year-old finished up the Premier League campaign with just 13 starts, four goals and two assists to his name. The forward, who has become a prominent advocate for causes such as the fight against child hunger in the UK, is hopeful Ten Hag’s arrival will be the catalyst he needs to rediscover his form. “For me it is a fresh start, something I am looking forward to,” he said in preseason.
Greenwood, 20, has made 129 appearances for Manchester United since emerging from the club’s youth set-up in 2018/19, scoring a total of 35 goals. He has also earned one England cap, won against Iceland in 2020, but hasn’t played for United since January this year, having been suspended by the club “until further notice” in the wake of allegations he raped and assaulted a young woman. Following his arrest over the accusations, he remains on bail as Greater Manchester Police conduct an investigation.
A product of the youth academy at crosstown rivals Manchester City, Sancho arrived with a big reputation when United splashed out £73m ($85m) to sign the 22-year-old from Borussia Dortmund 12 months ago, but he majorly underwhelmed in his first season at the club. The England winger mustered just five goals and three assists in 37 appearances in all competitions for United last season - a return dwarfed by the 114 goal involvements he registered in his 136 games for Dortmund.
A player who joined United at the age of 12, winger Elanga enjoyed his breakthrough season at Old Trafford last term - and, together with De Gea, was one of very few bright spots for the Red Devils in 2021/22. The 20-year-old, who now has five caps for Sweden, made 27 appearances in all competitions for United, and by the end of the campaign had established himself as a fixture in former boss Ralf Rangnick’s line-ups. Ten Hag is likely to keep Elanga in his XI when Brighton visit Old Trafford on Sunday.
Recruited to United’s youth system from Feyenoord in 2016, Chong was loaned out to Birmingham City last season, playing 20 times for the Blues as they narrowly avoided relegation to League One. The 22-year-old Dutchman was part of United’s preseason tour of Thailand and Australia, appearing as a substitute against Melbourne Victory and Aston Villa. He then started against Rayo at Old Trafford last Sunday. Since his senior debut in 2019, Chong has played 16 times for the club. He seems odds-on to go back out on loan this term.
Shoretire, 18, was not involved in United’s preseason tour, but did get a 17-minute run-out against Rayo a week ago. The academy graduate, who had a spell at City earlier in his youth career, made his senior debut in a Premier League win over Newcastle United in February 2021, and was given two first-team appearances last season, including a 15-minute cameo at the end of United’s final-day defeat to Palace. An England Under-18 international, he is another player who is a good bet for a loan departure this month.
Signed from Atlético Madrid in 2020, Garnacho starred in United’s FA Youth Cup victory last season, scoring twice against Nottingham Forest to win May’s final at Old Trafford. A month earlier, he was handed his first-team debut as a substitute in a Premier League draw with Chelsea, one of two brief run-outs he was given in 2021/22. Born in Spain, Garnacho qualifies for Argentina through his mother - and has not only won five caps for the Albiceleste’s Under-20s, but was also among six teenagers added to the senior Argentinian squad for March’s World Cup qualifiers against Venezuela and Ecuador.