Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has told Alexis Sanchez and his team-mates that Manchester United cannot afford to carry players if they are to halt the club’s decline.
The manager has made clear that restoring United to the top of the English game will be a long-term project after seeing their Champions League run ended emphatically by Barcelona on Wednesday.
Solskjaer has become increasingly frustrated at the way his squad’s performance has dropped off over the past six weeks, with United losing five out of seven matches as they prepare for Sunday’s trip to Everton.
He is looking at trimming his squad over the summer, with Sanchez’s long-term future up in the air after a poor 15 months at Old Trafford.
The Chile forward has scored just twice all season, and has started only five matches in all competitions since Solskjaer took over at Old Trafford, initially as caretaker-manager, on December 19.
Sanchez, who has been hampered by injury problems since joining United in January 2018, may prove difficult to offload, given that he has a contract until 2022 worth more than £400,000 a week when bonuses are factored in.
Solskjaer, though, will not allow passengers in a squad he has made clear must become fitter and work harder in order to avoid a repeat next season of the 20-plus point gap that has opened up between themselves and the Premier League leaders.
“As a club we cannot carry players,” the manager said. “Everyone has to take ownership, keep improving, show that hunger that you want to get better individually and as a team.
“I’m not just talking about Alexis. Everyone is under the same demands. But if we are talking about Alexis, he hasn’t been lucky with injuries.
“Since I came in, he’s had two long-term injuries and that hasn’t been beneficial to him. Some other players have had injuries as well. But I see the characters we have. I am looking at who we should keep, who we should move on.
“Alexis has got a fantastic talent when he’s at his best level. Now we want him performing for us.”
Solskjaer won 14 of his first 17 matches after being appointed caretaker-manager to replace the sacked Jose Mourinho, earning a three-year contract that was confirmed on March 28.
However, United’s form has dipped considerably since the extraordinary comeback victory at Paris Saint-Germain on March 6 that secured a place in the Champions League quarter-finals.
They have lost five of seven matches in all competitions since the win at the Parc des Princes, going out of the FA Cup at Wolves and the Champions League after a 4-0 aggregate defeat by Barcelona.
United go to Everton sitting sixth in the Premier League, and with ground to make up on Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea in the race for Champions League qualification.
Solskjaer has ruled out a large influx of signings this summer, although several players are likely to leave, with defenders Antonio Valencia, Matteo Darmian and Marcos Rojo set to move on, midfielder Ander Herrera expected to sign for Paris Saint-Germain and doubts about the futures of Eric Bailly and Juan Mata.
The manager said: “I don’t think you can expect six players coming in. No. That isn’t in any club’s wishes and I don’t think any manager you asked would like to have that kind of change.
“We have to take one step of time. Any new player has to be the right player, the right fit. We can’t just take players in because we need a body.
“It is a rebuild. We know it’s going to take a few windows – and we’re not going to get six or seven players in.
“It’s about culture as well. They have to get the culture where players take ownership themselves. I think the players deserve to get the chance to come in for pre-season and show what they’re capable of.
“Are they fit enough? Are they hungry enough? Do they want this enough? Do they want to give everything to the team? Or do they think only about themselves?”