Manchester United’s abysmal campaign is almost over – much to the relief of their fanbase.
It has been a dreadful season that started with hope of an improvement on a second-placed finish in 2020-21. But the wheels soon fell off under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and he was axed in November. In his place came Ralf Rangnick on an interim basis but the German’s tenure has failed to bring with it an improvement in results.
Most Manchester United supporters are looking forward to life under incoming boss Erik ten Hag next season. Before then though, the Dutchman has plenty of decisions to make with a big squad revamp on the cards.
That could well include re-integrating a clutch of players who have spent the current season out on loan, with a number having spells out in the EFL. Here, Mirror Football runs the rule over those players as they prepare for a summer of change at Old Trafford.
Arguably the stand-out performer in this list, midfielder Garner returned to Nottingham Forest at the start of this season after impressing in the second half of 2020-21.
He initially struggled to get going under Chris Hughton but a change of manager suddenly had Garner purring. Since Steve Cooper’s appointment at the City Ground, Forest have surged up the table. Garner’s form has been a big reason for that with the 20-year-old chipping in with four goals and 10 assists.
He has regularly caught the eye not only in the league but also during FA Cup upsets over Arsenal and Leicester.
He will now be hoping for a fairy-tale end to his second loan stay by aiding Forest’s play-off bid. They face Sheffield United over two legs, with a potential final at Wembley set for May 29. His United future looks bright too, having signed a long-term contract last summer and with a number of high-profile central midfielders poised to depart in the off-season.
Defender Mengi was tipped to join Derby on loan again this season but a move never materialised. Instead he played the first half of the season for United’s under-23s before joining Birmingham for the second half of the campaign.
However, he was limited to just ten outings for the Championship club after sustaining a hamstring problem. He is under contract for another two years and another loan spell, once back fit, looks likely next term.
Chong was enjoying a superb run of form for Birmingham at the start of this season. He had picked up a string of man-of-the-match awards for Lee Bowyer’s side before a cruel injury struck. Chong suffered a serious thigh injury in training that required surgery. It resulted in him being sidelined for four months but he was able to return before the end of the season.
In total he made 20 appearances, scoring once and assisting twice. United covered their backs by recently triggering a one-year contract extension for the Dutchman, who had been approaching the end of his stay at Old Trafford.
Bowyer has intimated at looking to bring Chong back in some capacity next season but it remains to be seen whether he will get a look in at his parent club under his compatriot next year.
Does Tahith Chong deserve a run training with the Manchester United first team next season? Have your say in the comments!
Bishop has enjoyed a superb season with League Two side Mansfield.
The goalkeeper has made 50 appearances across all competitions, featuring in every single league game and keeping 14 clean sheets.
He has come in for praise at numerous times from Stags boss Nigel Clough and the 22-year-old will now be looking to end his temporary stint on a high when Mansfield enter the play-offs.
They face Northampton in the semi-finals before a potential final against either Swindon or Port Vale. Bishop’s role at United is pretty unique in that he is widely regarded as a ‘practice squad’ player. The exact definition of that is hard to pin down but his only appearance for the Red Devils so far was for the Under-23s in an EFL Trophy win over Salford in September 2020. He is under contract until 2023.
Laird has had a strange 2021-22 season.
The first half of it was spent on loan at Swansea City where he played regularly and caught the eye, albeit in a team hovering in mid-table. The second half was spent at another Championship club, Bournemouth, and although the Cherries sealed promotion to the top flight, Laird played just six times.
The decision to move Laird mid-season did seem to make sense at the time with United clearly wanting him to test himself in a side higher up the division, but his lack of game time shows it might not have necessarily been the correct call.
Still only 20, Laird is under contract until 2023, with the option to extend for a further year.
Defender Bernard, like Laird, enjoyed a season of two halves despite spending the entirety of the campaign at just one club.
Bernard arrived at Hull City and would make 28 appearances for the Championship newcomers, but just five of those came after the mid-season arrival of head coach Shota Arveladze.
Bernard, 21, did not start a game after February 22 and played a grand total of just nine minutes across the final 12 games. Prior to joining the Tigers, United confirmed Bernard had signed a ‘long-term contract’ but gave no indication of the exact length.
Northern Ireland international Galbraith made 36 appearances this season for Doncaster Rovers but experienced the pain of relegation from League One.
There was talk about a mid-season switch of clubs, similar to Laird’s, but this never materialised and Galbraith had a clutch of niggles in the second half of the season.
Aged just 20, he is under contract until 2023.
Defender Fish joined Stockport at the start of this season but featured just twice before the loan was curtailed in January.
He was recently called up to join in with first-team training at United after a number of centre-half injuries, but was not involved in the squad. His future looks uncertain.
Mellor endured a wretched time on loan at Salford this season. He played just three times, all as late substitute appearances.
The deal was ended in January with Mellor, who signed an Old Trafford contract extension last summer, returning to play for United’s under-23s.
Another loan move, this time to Crawley, fell through in January with then-boss John Yems saying: “We had some disappointing news concerning the Manchester United player, there was a right balls-up with the paperwork from their end and I don’t think that will go through.”
Czech goalkeeper Kovar joined League One side Burton in January but had to wait until last month to make his debut.
When he did, he strung together an excellent run of four straight clean sheets for the Brewers. He is under contract at United until 2023 with the option for another year.
Devine spent the first half of the season up in Scotland with St Johnstone, facing Galatasary in the Europa League before a mid-season switch to League Two Walsall.
He made just eight outings for the Saddlers but said of his spell in the Midlands: “I’ve learnt a lot in many ways, both on and off the pitch. United have a loan officer who keeps in touch twice or three times a week. He has come down to the training ground a couple of times, so there has been a lot of contact.”
Devine is out of contract this summer.