Juan Mata heads a group of players who could be on their way out of Manchester United this summer, as manager Jose Mourinho continues his Old Traffold rebuilding job.
The new United boss spoke to a large proportion of his squad at the club’s Carrington training base on Monday, prior to their pre-season trip to China, where Mata was told he would remain a valued member of the squad but could not be guaranteed first-team football.
The Spanish midfielder joins the likes of Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind and Morgan Schneiderlin, who is the subject of interest from Everton, on a list of players who Mourinho could allow to leave – while a number of the squad’s younger players could head out on loan.
Mata’s United future has been in serious doubt since Mourinho was appointed at Old Trafford, given the pair’s history when they were together at Chelsea.
The Portuguese manager was open about the fact he didn’t believe the Spaniard fitted into his style of play, preferring the industry of Ramires and Oscar, and sold him to United for £37million in January 2014 despite Mata’s status as a fans’ favourite at Stamford Bridge
That, along with Mourinho’s pursuit of Paul Pogba and his known desire to work with a first team squad of just 24 players in the coming season, means there will inevitably be departures.
During Chelsea’s Premier League title-winning season in 2014/15 Mourinho used just 22 players, with the same approach being used at United to ensure he is working with a close-knit squad without any players disgruntled by their lack of first team action.
Mourinho has made it clear any player not making his squad of 24 will need to leave, either permanently or on loan, or stay at the club and train with the under 21s.
Guillermo Varela has already been a victim of Mourinho’s axe and has trained with the youngsters ahead of an expected loan move to Eintracht Frankfurt, while defender Tyler Blackett has been with the under 21s and has not gone to China, following his return from a year on loan at Celtic.
Striker James Wilson is also set to leave on a temporary deal, with Fulham known suitors.
Wayne Rooney joined up with the United squad for their flight to China on Tuesday following his post-Euro 2016 break and, while there is little doubt surrounding his future under Mourinho, he insisted he still needs to prove his worth under his new boss.
‘Always you feel you have to prove yourself each season. Of course there’s pressure, there is always pressure to be successful,’ he said.
United play the first game of their eight-day tour on Friday, when they face Dortmund in Shanghai, before a clash with rivals Manchester City in Beijing on Monday.