Juan Mata’s time at Man United appears to be drawing to a natural close.
The 32-year-old has been increasingly pushed to the fringes at Old Trafford and has less than six months remaining on his contract.
United have the option of extending Mata’s deal by a further year but it seems unlikely they will do so before it expires in the summer.
Mata has only started six matches this season and has now essentially been usurped as United’s back-up right-winger.
Boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said: “The decision is very difficult every time with Juan. You know he’s got the quality. If he plays, he scores goals, he’s contributed this season.
“Then again, we’ve had other players who have taken his role as well – Mason [Greenwood] has done well in that position, Paul [Pogba] now, and Juan really contributes in and around the group.
“So it’s one of those that I have discussions with all the time, it’s difficult to leave him out but unfortunately that’s where it is at the moment, so no decision has been made there yet.”
While there is still plenty of time for United to exercise their option to keep Mata at the club, but the fact they have already done so with other players in a similar situation does not bode well for the midfielder.
United extended Timothy Fosu-Mensah’s contract at the end of last season to ensure he did not leave on a free transfer, before selling him this month to Bayer Leverkusen.
They have also triggered the one-year extension in Jesse Lingard’s contract but are still expected to offload him in the summer.
The obvious difference with those two players is Mata’s advancing years, which diminishes his potential sell-on value.
Mata is on a salary worth £160,000 per week, so it would not make little sense financially to retain him purely for the purposes of selling him on in the short-term.
The arrival of youngster Amad Diallo has further reduced Mata’s chances of earning a new contract.
According to Spanish publication La Razon, Mata’s former club Valencia are keen on taking him back to the Mestalla.
Discussing United’s recruitment policy, Solskjaer added: “We’re not here for a quick fix, we have players who have a long-term role to play.”