The countdown to the new Premier League season is well underway, as clubs look to conduct their summer business early in the transfer window ahead of the start of the campaign. One club that has bigger issues than most is Manchester United and Erik ten Hag. The Dutchman was announced as the new first-team boss towards the end of the 2021-22 season, and he has moved quickly to offload unwanted stars such as Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, and Edinson Cavani.
However, the latest sports news shows that the Red Devils are still in the market to improve their squad, with stars such as Anthony, Frenkie de Jong, and Christian Eriksen all linked with moves to the Theater of Dreams. However, what are the biggest issues facing ten Hag ahead of his first season at Old Trafford?
Refine The Squad
Ten Hag will bring with him new ideas on how he wants this Manchester United side to play. During his time at Ajax, he typically played with a 4-3-1-2 formation, with every player knowing their role in the setup.
The current squad needs coaching, as they have looked more like a team that is unfamiliar with each other over recent seasons and just meet up to play 90 minutes. Ten Hag’s first main issue this season is to refine the squad with his ideas at the forefront.
If he is to play the same system as last season, then the additions of de Jong and Eriksen could be paramount. Meanwhile, Bruno Fernandes looks like a solid contender for the number ten position.
He also operated with a 4-3-3 formation throughout the season, which means we could see Anthony playing on the right, Jadon Sancho on the left, and Cristiano Ronaldo through the middle. However, in both systems, a strong defensive midfielder is required.
Whether United have that in their current squad remains unlikely. Ten Hag must also determine the players that he wants to depart the club, which means we could see squad players such as Phil Jones, Eric Bailly, and Dean Henderson all shipped out.
The morale inside the United changing room last season was at an all-time low and wouldn’t have been helped by humbling results against Manchester City, Liverpool, and Arsenal. A shift in culture is needed within the club before United can even think about challenging for any major honor. This includes working in unison to achieve their goals for the season and not holding any fear when pulling on the United shirt.
On too many occasions last season, players looked scared to play for the club, and they didn’t want to be on the ball and take chances in order to make the decisive moments in the games. All that will need to change, especially given the way that ten Hag likes his teams to play, as he will expect confidence and players willing to take a chance when they have the ball.
Impact Must Be Immediate
Ten Hag won’t have long with his United players before the season gets underway on August 7 at Old Trafford against Brighton. However, there will be pressure on the Dutchman to get off to a quick start at the Theater of Dreams, as the run of fixtures doesn’t look comfortable if United don’t win either of their first two games.
After United’s trip to Brentford, the Red Devils come up against Liverpool, Leicester City, and Arsenal over the following three weeks. A disastrous start to the season would lead to immediate questions surrounding whether the team has improved, and the weight of expectation could mean that the players may be tempted to throw another manager under the bus.
In contrast, if United starts quickly, and manages to go through that tricky run of fixtures without losing, then fans will believe that the process could be right, and the right man may finally be in place to deliver a much-needed title challenge for the first time since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson. But, any talk of a title may still be very premature, as a Champions League finish in 2022-23 would be considered an achievement.