Manchester United's Tahith Chong runs after the ball during their English FA Cup third round soccer match against Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Molineux Stadium in Wolverhampton, England on Saturday. Photo: Rui Vieira/AP

MANCHESTER – It used to be the case that players only left Manchester United when the club decided it was time for them to go.

David Beckham, Roy Keane, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Jaap Stam were among the United stars who were hurried through the exit once Sir Alex Ferguson decided enough was enough. Cristiano Ronaldo was a rare exception to the rule. Paul Pogba, too, when he went against Ferguson’s wishes to join Juventus in 2012.

Times have changed, however. Pogba still wants to leave — a scenario that seems increasingly likely next summer — but he is no longer alone. United do not have the pulling power of old. Just ask Erling Haaland.

Last summer, Romelu Lukaku effectively forced a move to Inter Milan after missing most of pre-season and then turning up to train with Anderlecht. And one look at the United team sheet at Molineux reminded you of more problems a little closer to home.

Star academy pupils, Tahith Chong and Angel Gomes, have picked up the club’s young player of the year award in two of the past three seasons. Yet both have so far rejected the offer of new contracts. They can leave for nothing in the summer and have been free to negotiate with foreign clubs since New Year’s Day amid interest from Juventus and Barcelona, respectively.

For a club of United’s stature — and one with such a proud tradition of promoting young talent — it has become an awkward situation. To be fair to United, neither Chong nor Gomes have made the same impact on the first team as Mason Greenwood and Brandon Williams, who both started this third-round tie.

Chong did, too, and his performance was typical of the Holland Under-21 winger — full of energy and running but lacking an end product. Gomes, 19, did not make it off the bench to add to his eight senior appearances. But the fact they are open to leaving Old Trafford is a sign of the times.

‘You’re not famous anymore,’ taunted the Wolves fans who have seen Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side fail to win on this ground in four attempts over the last nine-and-half months.

While that may not be strictly true, United no longer call all the shots.

Daily Mail