Manchester United’s summer sales begin as defender joins Benfica with INEOS seeking to raise funds to reshape the squad

  • Left-back Alvaro Fernandez, 21, has made permanent his Benfica loan for £5m 
  • He was regarded as a promising talent but didn’t play a first team game  
  • Kane first, Saka second… which player in Gareth Southgate’s squad has the third most goals for England? Listen to the It’s All Kicking Off! Podcast 

Manchester United’s summer clear-out is underway with the sale of Spanish defender Alvaro Fernandez to Benfica after a successful loan spell in Portugal.

The 21-year-old left-back didn’t make a first-team appearance for United, instead spending time on loan at Preston North End, Granada and then Benfica.

United signed him into their academy from Real Madrid in 2020, with Fernandez regarded as an exciting prospect.

He played 16 times for Benfica during the second-half of the season, enough to trigger a mandatory buy clause in the terms of his loan, reported to be around €6 million [£5.1m].

Fernandez made Erik ten Hag’s bench for United’s Premier League game against Nottingham Forest back in August before he was loaned to LaLiga club Granada on deadline day.

Alvaro Fernandez has made permanent his loan move to Benfica for around £5million as Manchester United begin their summer squad clear-out

The Spanish left-back made 16 appearances for Benfica during the second half of the season

The Spanish left-back made 16 appearances for Benfica during the second half of the season

United recalled him after 14 outings in Spain and brokered the deal with Benfica, where Fernandez helped Roger Schmidt’s side finish second in the league, 10 points behind champions Sporting Lisbon.

Fans grew excited about Fernandez when he won the Denzil Haroun Reserve team player of the year award in 2021-22, making the first-team bench several times towards the end of that campaign.

At Preston, he won the Championship club’s Young Player of the Year accolade after a series of strong performances.

But with Luke Shaw the first-choice left-back and Tyrell Malacia also coming in after Ten Hag’s appointment in 2022, Fernandez faced stiff competition at United.

Ironically, an injury crisis in the position this season might have seen him progressed to the side had he not been out on loan.

Fernandez is likely to be the first of several United players to leave this summer with co-owners Sir Jim Ratcliffe and INEOS seeking to raise funds for new recruits.

Reports have suggested United’s summer transfer budget is just £35m in cash, a figure that is expected to be swollen by player sales.

It remains to be seen whether Ten Hag is the man to spend that money, with his future still uncertain despite Saturday’s FA Cup final win over Manchester City.

Fernandez was named on United's bench by Erik ten Hag at the beginning of the season

Fernandez was named on United’s bench by Erik ten Hag at the beginning of the season

Signed from Real Madrid's academy in 2020, there was hope Fernandez would prosper

Signed from Real Madrid’s academy in 2020, there was hope Fernandez would prosper 

The Dutch coach is under serious pressure after United could only finish eighth in the Premier League, their lowest position since 1990.

That meant they initially missed out on European football next season but the FA Cup win means they’ll be in the UEFA Europa League.

United’s owners have held talks with candidates including Thomas Tuchel, Mauricio Pochettino, Kieran McKenna and Thomas Frank as they weigh up whether Ten Hag should stay on.