Ian Darke made an appearance earlier in the week on ESPN FC. Among multiple topics that he spoke on, one was four players he expected to move in January. Two of those players were from Manchester United: Luke Shaw and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Ian Darke Expects Luke Shaw, Henrikh Mkhitaryan to Move in January: Pros and Cons
The reasoning that Mr. Darke provided was fairly similar for both. That is that both Shaw and Mkhitaryan have fallen out of favour with Jose Mourinho, albeit for much different reasons.
Both fill very different roles in the squad currently, and it is because of that there are very different pros and cons to selling them. To be able to make a sound decision, all aspects should be examined.
There are multiple reasons this looks like both a good and realistic move. Shaw has seldom been selected this season. However, when called upon he has been able to perform nicely, with two Man of the Match honours in his last two appearances.
Using his recent performances as a segway into selling him in January would be a smart idea. It is highly unlikely that he will continue to feature in the squad, and his stock will not be any higher than it is with a few good, and recent, performances like he has had as of late.
While United certainly does not need the money, that is never a reason to avoid selling someone on the out when their stock is the highest. If profit is going to be a deciding factor for Shaw, January is the right time to sell.
On top of the profit that could be made off Shaw, Mourinho does not look to favour him. He was heavily criticized by the manager earlier in the season for an apparent lack of work ethic, something that Mourinho will never tolerate.
If his work ethic is truly an issue, Shaw will never be able to push his way into the squad. And if he is struggling to push his way past Ashley Young, who is not even a natural left back, then there is certainly a reason for that, and his technical ability and athleticism is surely not the main factor there.
All in all, the profit that could currently be made off Shaw and the fact that he cannot force his way into the squad make this a very realistic possibility. It must be said that there is virtually zero chance that United make as much off selling Shaw as when they purchased him from Southampton.
The one major con to selling Shaw would be the lack of depth already being encountered in the squad. And with the Red Devils making it into the Champions League Round of 16, depth is going to be pivotal to continue competing on all fronts later in the season.
Selling Shaw would leave the fullback position with less depth, but this is something that could be sorted in January as well. There are plenty of solid options that could be brought in during the transfer window, even if Mourinho is well-known to not prefer spending money midseason.
The other option would be to call upon youth in the domestic cups and allow players like Young and Matteo Darmian to be rested during these competitions. Players like Demetri Mitchell could be called upon from the reserves and youth ranks to fill the void in terms of depth.
Other than the obvious loss in depth, there are no glaring cons to selling Shaw in January.
The major pro to a possible sale of Mkhitaryan is the same as Shaw: profit. While his transfer value is certainly lower than it could be, United could surely make a pretty penny off the creative midfielder.
Notifying clubs around both the Premier League and around Europe that a player of his attacking quality is available will attract interest almost immediately. This would be an easy sell.
Depth. Once again, there is a lack of depth. When the Round of 16 rolls around this is going to be a vital area of the squad that United is going to need to rely on to continue keeping pace with Manchester City atop the table.
While Mkhitaryan has not been featuring as much as of late, partially due to recovering from injuries, he will certainly be needed later on in the campaign. It has become rather obvious that when United is without key players in the midfield that they struggle to impose themselves, even on the lower level teams in England.
This is something that cannot happen against clubs in the Champions League.
The final decision for each of these players moving should not be a decision made lightly. However, it must be said that moving Shaw is both more realistic and an easier player to lose with the squad that Mourinho currently has at his disposal.
Shaw, while obviously a talented young player, does not look to be a piece of the future. It is because of this, and the fact that he would do well to continue his career elsewhere, that moving Shaw would be a smart decision.
As for Mkhitaryan, this would be an ill-fated decision for Manchester United to make. Unless there is a January purchase of a top quality midfield replacement, getting rid of the Armenian attacker would leave United with a void in depth. That would almost certainly come back to haunt them in the latter portions of both the domestic and European campaigns.
Verdict: Sell Shaw, keep Mkhitaryan.