The Red Devils have spent an obscene amount of money on players who have played a combined 18 minutes of Premier League football this season.
For the second time this season, Jose Mourinho named an unchanged Manchester United side against Stoke City on Sunday. The Portuguese has not had it all his own way since arriving at Old Trafford, with the 1-1 draw the latest proof that there is still work to be done, but he certainly seems to have a fair idea of his favoured starting XI.
Just as he responded to the 2-0 win over Southampton by naming the same line-up against Hull City the following week, a 4-1 victory against champions Leicester City brought a similar reaction. His preferred XI has seemingly evolved, with Chris Smalling in for Daley Blind at centre-back and the Dutchman replacing the injured Luke Shaw at left-back while Jesse Lingard, Ander Herrera and Marcus Rashford are now getting starts over Wayne Rooney, Marouane Fellaini and Anthony Martial, but his principle of sending out a settled side remains the same.
And this is anything but good news for a whole host of players who have at no time found themselves in the running for a starting shirt so far this season. That list includes a number who have cost Manchester United many millions of pounds in recent summers under Louis van Gaal.
While Mourinho’s ostracism of Bastian Schweinsteiger has courted much of the attention so far this term, his fellow 2015 summer signings have suffered racked up a similar total of league appearances. Morgan Schneiderlin has started two cup games, and Memphis Depay and Matteo Darmian one each, but the lack of Premier League football for the quartet, along with 2014 addition Marcos Rojo, is stark.
Depay has made three substitute league appearances totalling 13 minutes, while Schneiderlin has not featured since a five-minute run-out at Bournemouth on opening day. Darmian and Rojo, though, have tallied exactly the same number of minutes as the excluded Schweinsteiger.
A total of 18 minutes league football in seven rounds does not reflect well on five players who arrived with far more lofty expectations. Rojo cost United £17 million when arriving from Sporting CP little over two years ago, and having failed to successfully make a name for himself at Old Trafford even in light of Shaw’s injury struggles, he seems to have no future under Mourinho.
Add in the £83m spent on Darmian, Depay, Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger one year later and United have a serious amount of cash being frittered away in the stands. Give Herrera a few more games to prove his worth alongside Paul Pogba, and David Moyes’ £28m signing Fellaini may well be worthy of being added to the list of expensive rejects. And one more lengthy injury to Phil Jones, one of the few men left from the Sir Alex Ferguson era, could see his £17m outlay written off.
Mourinho, of course, has to make decisions that fly in the face of supposedly considered steps made by his predecessors, but having £145m of talent playing no real part is a damning indictment on the wastage currently on the books at Old Trafford. Every club will have players who fall down the pecking order, but five players brought in over the last two years and costing £100m are seemingly no longer needed by Manchester United.
While there may be some hope that Depay can regain the run of confidence that attracted United to him in the first place, Darmian and Rojo are clearly no longer considered as long-term United men. And alongside Schweinsteiger’s well-worn story comes his fellow ‘Schmidfielder’, who has fallen down the pecking order while the likes of Herrera and Fellaini jostle for position alongside Pogba.
There were a huge amount of football observers who immediately castigated United for the supposedly wasted £89m fee spent on Pogba this summer. But while the Frenchman begins to thrive in the first team, the club are currently counting the even greater cost of filling the bench and stands of Old Trafford with expensive signings who have very quickly fallen out of favour.