Danny Welbeck has been told by Louis van Gaal he can leave Manchester United, with the decision up to the 23-year-old striker who has two years remaining on his contract.

Van Gaal’s decision may cause some surprise because the manager wants to play a 3-5-2 formation that would seem to require four forwards in his squad to provide competition and to mitigate against injury. With Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie the first choice pairing, Welbeck was thought to be ahead of Javier Hernández as the third striker.

“I know what I said to Danny and Danny knows exactly what I said to him,” Van Gaal said, when asked about the decision. “I assume that Danny Welbeck is not saying anything about our conversation and also in that conversation was [the assistant manager] Ryan Giggs and he doesn’t say [anything] either, and that is the way it should be.”

Van Gaal may have decided to look at promoting James Wilson, the 18-year-old who scored twice on debut in last season’s 3-1 win over Hull City at Old Trafford.

There has been speculation that Welbeck may move to Hull, with the forward thought to be priced around £20m, but it is understood that the Humberside club are not high on the player’s list of destinations.

United are yet to open talks with Phil Jones regarding a new deal. Jones also has two years left on his terms with the defender expecting discussions to start some time after the transfer window closes on 1 September.