Erik ten Hag has hinted that Harry Maguire may leave Manchester United this summer if the defender decides he is not happy with a lack of playing time.
The club captain played only 16 Premier League games this season and has been culpable of a number of high-profile errors, most recently in last month's Europa League exit to Sevilla.
Ten Hag has consistently praised the influence of the 30-year-old – who joined in 2018 from Leicester for £80million, a world-record fee for a defender, and is under contract until 2025 – around Old Trafford, even when he has endured long spells out of the team.
When fit, Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane have been the preferred central-defensive partnership in the former Ajax boss’s first campaign, with Luke Shaw sometimes filling in, as the team racked up 17 top-flight clean sheets – the most of any side in the division.
Now the manager has made the strongest suggestion yet that Maguire’s time at United could be coming to an end.
"No-one would be happy with this situation," Ten Hag said in an interview with The Times. "He is not as well. He trains always on best levels, so with 100 per cent effort.
"So he handles that situation well and he’s in that manner and in his captaincy he’s important for the squad.
"But he has high competition there (at centre-back) with Raphael Varane, who’s fantastic."
He added: "Let’s say I’m happy he’s here and when we needed him he did his job. But it’s also a decision he has to make."
Ten Hag also said that David De Gea, who himself has made costly mistakes including in Seville and in the recent defeat to West Ham, will remain at the club, though may not be guaranteed a place in the team.
The team finished with the third best defensive record in the Premier League with 43 goals conceded, bettered only by Newcastle and champions Manchester City. De Gea was ever-present and collected the Golden Glove for the goalkeeper with the most clean sheets.
Asked if the 32-year-old would still be at United next season, Ten Hag replied: "Yes, but I will not say he will always be my number one because in a club like United there must be competition in all positions."
United face City at Wembley on Saturday in the first all-Manchester FA Cup final, looking to foil their city rivals' bid the match the Treble won by Sir Alex Ferguson’s team in 1999.