Belfast Telegraph

Jose Mourinho in Manchester United clearout to pave way for Paul Pogba transfer

Schweinsteiger tops five star list for sale

By Jim Gracey

Germany captain Bastian Schweinsteiger is set to be first high profile departure of Jose Mourinho's Manchester United reign.

He looks like being followed out of Old Trafford by Holland winger Memphis Depay, Argentine defender Marcos Rojo and Belgian winger Adnan Januzaj with Spanish midfielder Juan Mata, sold by Mourinho at Chelsea, the only player on a list of five under threat still in with a chance of staying at the club.

Mourinho is now under pressure to recoup some of the rising cost of bringing back Paul Pogba from Juventus whose asking price has edged towards a world record £100million as they, in turn, look to claw back a large chunk from their £79million raid on rivals Napoli for Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain.

That massive outlay is a clear signal Juve believe the Pogba deal to United will go through imminently and that will leave Schweinsteiger most under threat as the 31 year old faces the prospect of dropping to fifth-choice in midfield under Mourinho.

The former Bayern Munich player is yet to return to pre-season training under Mourinho after being handed an extended summer break following Germany's run to the Euro 2016 semi-finals in France earlier this month.

But when he reports back at Old Trafford later this month, he is likely to find himself behind Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini and Morgan Schneiderlin in the midfield pecking order, as well as the world-class midfielder that Mourinho is pursuing, with Pogba the priority target, before the transfer window closes on August 31.

And with Dutch international Daley Blind being deployed in a holding midfield role by Mourinho during United's pre-season friendly defeat against Borussia Dortmund in Shanghai on Friday, Schweinsteiger's prospects may become even bleaker if the former Ajax player is restored to the midfield department after performing at centre-half under Louis van Gaal last season.

Schweinsteiger started just 13 Premier League games for United last term after arriving in a £5m transfer from Bayern last summer.

Despite his lofty reputation, Schweinsteiger struggled to make an impact under Van Gaal and he ended the campaign with team-mates unhappy at his contribution in the second-half of the season, when his absence from the club during rehabilitation from a knee injury prompted the belief that he was being afforded special treatment by Van Gaal.

His lack of mobility was also regarded as an issue within the club and, with Mourinho determined to boost the fitness and athleticism of his squad, Schweinsteiger faces a crucial period when he returns to United in order to persuade the new manager that he can make a significant contribution this season.

The World Cup winner is not the only player needing to convince Mourinho of his value to the club, however.

Depay (pictured), Rojo, Januzaj and Mata all have points to prove to Mourinho.

And while the Portuguese has been an admirer of Phil Jones, the defender has to convince the manager of his ability to remain fit enough to challenge for a place at centre-half alongside Chris Smalling and summer signing Eric Bailly.

Rojo’s inconsistency and concentration levels proved a concern for Van Gaal and his coaching team and the former Sporting Lisbon defender did little to banish those question marks during an erratic substitute performance during the 4-1 defeat against Dortmund.

Depay was withdrawn at half-time after a poor first-half display against the Germans and the £25m signing from PSV Eindhoven has yet to persuade Mourinho of his potential, with Januzaj also needing to offer more evidence of talent to the former Chelsea manager.

Mourinho has moved to reassure Mata that he will be in his plans at United having sanctioned his £37.1m move to Old Trafford from Chelsea in January 2014, but the Spaniard’s prospects have been affected by the £26.3m arrival of Armenian international Henrikh Mkhitaryan, with Mourinho also preparing to use captain Wayne Rooney in the number 10 role favoured by Mata.

Rooney, meanwhile, is expected to make his first appearance for Mourinho today when United conclude their two-game tour of China in the International Champions Cup encounter with Manchester City in Beijing’s Bird’s Nest Stadium.

Belfast Telegraph


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