The Premier League is finally back on the 11th August and with that in mind, we’ve done a season preview of every club and their chances for the upcoming season. Here, we’ve taken a look at Erik ten Hag’s Manchester United.
Last season: 3rd
Top Scorer: Marcus Rashford (17)
Transfers In: Mason Mount – Chelsea (£50m), Andre Onana – Inter Milan (£45m), Rasmus Hojlund – Atalanta (£64m), Jonny Evans (free transfer)
Transfers Out: Zidane Iqbal – FC Utrecht (£1m), David de Gea (released), Axel Tuanzebe (released), Ethan Galbraith – Leyton Orient (free transfer), Phil Jones (released), Alex Telles – Al-Nassr (undisclosed), Ethan Laird – Birmingham City (undisclosed), Anthony Elanga – Nottingham Forest (£15m), Nathan Bishop – Sunderland (undisclosed)
First game: Wolverhampton Wanderers (H)
Erik ten Hag enjoyed a successful season in his first season in charge of Manchester United, and improving on a third-placed finish, a Carabao Cup triumph and an FA Cup final seems like a tall order at first glance.
The question will be whether United have enough quality to potentially put together a title tilt, but fans may argue that talk of a title charge is premature.
Fans would probably take an improvement on their third-placed finish from last season, plus another trophy, and a solid Champions League showing wouldn’t go unwelcomed – the Red Devils haven’t made it beyond the last eight since 2011.
United’s transfer strategy, on the surface of things, has been logical for the first time in years, addressing key areas and issues within the squad. David de Gea came under significant scrutiny for his inability to play out of defence in Ten Hag’s system last season, so the Dutchman made the brave decision to let the goalkeeper walk and bring in Andre Onana, who he managed during his time at Ajax.
Another big decision that Ten Hag has had to face after battling with Cristiano Ronaldo’s unhappiness last term, as well as the taking the captaincy off Harry Maguire – perhaps further vindication that Ten Hag is the right man for job at Old Trafford.
The signing Rasmus Hojlund addresses the need for Ten Hag to increase United’s goal threat – a tally of 58 last season was the lowest in the top six, and level with ninth-placed Brentford. The Red Devils relied heavily on Marcus Rashford’s output last year, and although there will be pressure on the 20-year-old’s shoulders to deliver from the off, Ten Hag will have faith that the young Dane will come good and can lead the line for the Red Devils for years to come.
Meanwhile, Mason Mount’s arrival from fellow top-four rivals Chelsea bolsters the quality in the midfield unit, taking the creative burden off Bruno Fernandes, who remains a key player for United, and usually when he plays well, Ten Hag’s side play well.
Sofyan Amrabat remains a name that is heavily linked with a move to Old Trafford, and at the time of writing, Harry Maguire has reportedly agreed a move to West Ham United in a deal worth around £30m so there could be further business conducted by the club before the end of August.
The battle for the top four looks to be as competitive as ever, with Liverpool and Chelsea looking to back bounce after their poor respective campaigns last year, Arsenal and Manchester City both strengthening the squads with big-money signings and the chasing pack of Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa will be hoping they can have a say in the final standings.
The cloud of uncertainty surrounding the sale of the club remains ever-present at the time of writing, with no indication of how things will transpire on that front. All Erik ten Hag can do is focus on results on the pitch, and he’s certainly done that so far.