Juan Mata and Daley Blind among the Man United stars who could move on
Jose Mourinho did not say so explicitly, but he gave the impression that, politely speaking, he thought Louis van Gaal's total-football principles were total rubbish. Manchester United's previous manager was known for quixotic choices, reinventing and rebranding his players by deploying them in a variety of positions. Mourinho arrived promising simplicity and straightforward choices.
"I am very clear in my approach," he said at his unveiling last week. "In my model of play, I need specialist and not multi-functional players."
So what does that mean for Van Gaal's "jacks of all trades" in an era when Mourinho expects them to master one?
Van Gaal began last season with Rooney as his main striker but ended it with him as a central midfielder. Rooney even operated as the holding player in April 2015's defeat to Chelsea; it's not a role he will reprise soon. If the sense was that Rooney's move deeper was a permanent affair, Mourinho was clear that United's second-highest goal scorer will be back in an attacking role.
"For me, he will be a No. 9, a No. 10, a nine and a half, but not a No. 6, not even a No. 8," he said. In other words, Rooney won't even be used as a box-to-box midfielder. With Zlatan Ibrahimovic arriving, the centre-forward role seems occupied. The 30-year-old will presumably be the No. 10.
Van Gaal believed the Frenchman could play in four positions (striker, No.10, left winger and right winger) and that he had to convince the 20-year-old that he was capable of operating as the latter. Mourinho will probably not need to use his persuasive powers. With Ibrahimovic the obvious striker, and Marcus Rashford his likely deputy, Rooney seemingly earmarked as the No. 10 and new signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan the obvious candidate to play on the right, Martial seems a shoo-in for the position on the left.
Crucially, he displays the willingness to track back that Mourinho wants in his flair players.
The man who delivered United's only meaningful trophy since Sir Alex Ferguson retired began 33 games last season, but the door to the starting 11 may have slammed in Lingard's face. Instead, it may bode well for him that his FA Cup winner against Crystal Palace came as a substitute.
Van Gaal even picked Lingard as a wing-back, but it's safe to assume that Mourinho will not follow suit. While he spoke of "specialists," Mourinho often finds a use for squad players who can operate in any of the three positions behind the main striker. That seems to be the immediate fate for the willing, defensively sound 23-year-old, even if the speed with which Mourinho parted company with Chelsea counterparts like Andre Schurrle and Mohamed Salah may not be auspicious.
Alas, poor Mata. Van Gaal saw him as a multi-functional player and a quandary. Mourinho is unlikely to have a function for him at all. The Dutchman went through periods of picking him on the right, spells using him as a No. 10 and times when he left the Spaniard on the bench. The new manager's mind already appears made up.
When Mourinho returned to Stamford Bridge in 2013, the World Cup winner was Chelsea's reigning player of the year, an automatic choice as the No. 10 and a player who had scored 20 goals and created 25 more the previous season. Yet he still decided Mata was too slow and not robust enough for his liking. He was sold six months later. If history doesn't repeat itself, it will be because United could find a buyer sooner.
Depay made his United debut as a No. 10, briefly filled in as a striker, appeared on occasions on the right but was usually used on the left by Van Gaal. There's a possibility that like Lingard, the Dutchman could understudy the three first-choice attacking midfielders in the way that Joe Cole and Damien Duff did at times in his first Chelsea team. Yet history suggests he may be bound for the exit. Mourinho is quick to exile those he feels lack either the fitness, work rate or commitment he demands.
Depay acquired the wrong sort of reputation in his first year at Old Trafford. As Kevin de Bruyne can testify, talent on its own is not enough to earn a place in Mourinho's plans. Nor is versatility.
Tried as a defensive midfielder for David Moyes and used further forward by Van Gaal, the Belgian was used as a box-to-box presence, an inside-left, a No. 10 and even an out-and-out centre-forward. Ibrahimovic and Rooney have taken two of those roles and United's obvious intention to bring in a central midfielder seems to rule out another, especially as Michael Carrick's contract was extended.
Selling Fellaini would undoubtedly be a populist gesture, though Mourinho said he could do with one or two multi-functional squad players. It's tempting to wonder if Fellaini will be one. Like Van Gaal, he shares a fondness for players who follow his tactical instructions, hence why the Belgian figured so often for him. Mourinho's pragmatism means he is unlikely to be worried by Fellaini's ungainly approach and he has often found the use for a striking substitute who allows his teams to adopt a more direct approach. Fellaini may be used as Didier Drogba was for Chelsea in 2014-15.
A left winger who excelled at that position for Van Gaal in 2014-15, collecting Rooney's vote for United's player of the year, Young's outings last season came mainly at full-back though he was selected as a striker at White Hart Lane. It was almost deliberately weird.
If Young (under contract until 2018) has a future under Mourinho, it's less likely to be either in defence or attack. Instead, he may be charged with reacquainting himself with his old specialism. Young would be a plausible deputy for Martial on the left. His accurate crossing should suit both Ibrahimovic and Mourinho, who likes a winger with an end product.
More of a multi-functional player for Moyes than for Van Gaal, Valencia ended last season in the side and was arguably the outstanding player on the pitch in the FA Cup final. And yet Mourinho's defenders rarely tend to be converted midfielders: With solidity prioritised, Valencia could either be a backup or revert to his original duties on the right wing. With his pace and stamina, he may seem United's answer to Willian (albeit without the excellent free kicks) and could be Mkhitaryan's understudy. If not, his outings might be few and far between.
Van Gaal was enthused by the Italian's ability to play on either side of defence and even used him as a centre-back in an injury crisis. Mourinho has shown a fondness for using right-footers at left-back (see: William Gallas or Cesar Azpilicueta) but this one seems simpler: If Darmian can recapture the form he showed before exposure to Van Gaal rendered him a lesser player, he should be the first-choice right-back.
Van Gaal had an obsessive interest in "balance" that Mourinho doesn't seem to share. The 53-year-old lacks his predecessor's determination to acquire left-footed centre-backs and while Rojo's ability to play left-back or in the middle of the defence helped explain his signing in 2014, his United career so far suggests he is not particularly adept at either.
Daley Blind displaced Rojo as the preferred partner for Chris Smalling in the centre of the defence last season. Luke Shaw's broken leg gave him an opening at left-back, but it's worth remembering Mourinho wanted to sign the Englishman while still at Chelsea. If Rojo survives, it may be as backup for Shaw. It would be no surprise if he is surplus to requirements.
At times, it felt as though his full name was "the versatile Daley Blind" -- he appeared to be precisely the sort of player Mourinho had in mind when he talked about wanting specialists. That said, after a year of alternating between midfield and left-back, Blind became one last season, cementing a position at centre-back and being arguably United's outstanding player after David de Gea and Martial. But Mourinho was quick to buy a taller, quicker centre-back in Eric Bailly and unlike Van Gaal, he prefers those with a defender's skill set and attitude first and foremost.
It may also count against the former Ajax man that he is a Van Gaal ally and while Mourinho could ask Blind to remain as a back-up centre-back, left-back or midfielder, he could be a victim of the regime change. It would be harsh, but after being United's most-used player last season, Blind could make a swift transition to fringe figure or ex-player.
This will be a test of Mourinho's willingness to develop young players. Fosu-Mensah appeared across the defence for Van Gaal and has also played in midfield at lower levels. The 18-year-old's wholehearted efforts were undermined by a rashness (understandable at his age) and a lack of positional sense, something Mourinho is likely to frown upon: His debut against Arsenal came ostensibly at left-back and Fosu-Mensah spent much of it everywhere except left-back.
For these reasons, it's hard to imagine him in a Mourinho back four, but the new boss does like physically imposing players, often defenders by trade, in midfield on occasion. Like Pepe and Kurt Zouma before him, perhaps Fosu-Mensah will be a rare example of a player Mourinho likes using out of position. Or, like many an emerging player at Chelsea during his two spells, the 18-year-old could be sent out on loan.
Van Gaal used many another United player in a variety of the oddest of roles but inherited an odd-job man in Jones and saw him as a specialist centre-back. Ferguson had used Jones in midfield, at right-back and as a specialist man-marker; that may appeal to Mourinho. With Bailly and Chris Smalling surely pencilled in as the first-choice centre-back pairing, perhaps Jones will become United's answer to Branislav Ivanovic, one with the build of a strapping centre-half but used as a marauding right-back instead. Or maybe he will be the exception, one Mourinho likes deploying as a multi-functional player.
Richard Jolly covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. Twitter: @RichJolly.