The 2023 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) is here and a number of Premier League clubs are releasing their players to participate in the premier competition in the Confederation of African Football (CAF) calendar. One of those clubs is Manchester United, who have to let go of their first-choice keeper Andre Onana. The goalkeeper has clearance to feature for Cameroon after earlier announcing his international retirement following a fallout with national team coach Rigobert Song at the 2022 World Cup. Manchester United will feel let down by the fact that Onana reversed this decision after signing him but find themselves between a rock and a hard place, given the need to understand Onana’s sense of national pride and loyalty to his country. Having played every minute of United’s season so far, and on the back of a rocky start to his career in England after moving from Inter Milan, Onana’s imminent departure makes for interesting times at Manchester United.

Struck a deal

Curiously, Manchester United managed to strike a deal with Cameroon to have Onana leave late for the tournament. As a result, he will leave after the game against Tottenham Hotspur on January 14th, a day before Cameroon faces Guinea in their first AFCON game. He already featured against Wigan in the FA Cup, a match many fans thought second choice keeper Altay Bayindir to get a chance. Onana hasn’t kept many clean sheets since his arrival but the best bookies on Cheekypunter backed United for one against Wigan and you too can check this list before making up your mind about your football bookie. Well, United didn’t thrash Wigan, but Onana did get his clean sheet in the 2-0 win, and he will want to replicate the same against Tottenham before making his swift departure to Ivory Coast for the AFCON finals. While United are trying to make full use of their prized asset, one signed with the understanding that he had retired from international football, this move creates another headache. How is Bayindir expected to take in all this, with fans feeling he’s being snubbed despite his respectable rating?

Valued member

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag and the club have shown by way of words that indeed, Turkish international Bayindir is a valued member of the United squad. “We are totally happy and we constructed this group of keepers because we are comfortable with this”, ten Hag once said. However, you wouldn’t know it from his actions. The efforts made to keep Onana in the team for as long as they can suggest otherwise, and Bayindir, save for being professional, would be damaged by all this. Onana leaving for AFCON still, isn’t a guarantee that Bayindir will have his chance. The major guarantee the Turk has, is if Cameroon progress past the group stages of the competition. If they don’t, it means Onana will not miss any of United’s listed matches. United are scheduled to play their FA Cup fourth round game on January 24th, a day after Cameroon’s final group game at AFCON. If the same thing as pre-AFCON is applied, it would mean in the event of a group stage elimination, Onana travels immediately for the game. This remains highly unlikely though.