It will be interesting to watch what alterations Erik ten Hag makes during his first preseason with Manchester United. The Dutchman was announced as the new manager of Manchester United at the start of the week, as work on a mammoth rebuilding project and a new era for a club that has lost its way in recent years officially began.
Ten Hag announced in his first interview with the club that the players of the squad who are not involved in the next international matchups would return from their vacation on Monday, June 27.
It gives him exactly one month to perfect his approach before getting hands-on with the players and time to tackle five-team issues before a ball is even kicked.
Who will participate?
Ten Hag’s priority will be determining which players are going to be a part of his project and which of those he wants along for the voyage.
Six players are anticipated to leave when their contracts expire this summer, though one of them, Juan Mata, has already stated that he would be willing to stay if granted a new contract.
United’s squad is full of periphery players who have yet to make an impact at the club, and Ten Hag will need to be merciless in determining which individuals truly bring value to his team next season.
Dean Henderson, Axel Tuanzebe, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Alex Telles, Brandon Williams, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Andreas Pereira, and Anthony Martial are all under contract beyond the summer window, though keeping them all would make little sense.
Youth Players who deserve a chance
Ten Hag saw a taste of the future during United’s defeat to Crystal Palace last Saturday when Hannibal Mejbri and Anthony Elanga both started at Selhurst Park.
Shola Shoretire and Alejandro Garnacho came off the bench, while Charlie Savage and Alvaro Fernandez were both used as replacements on the season’s last day.
Ten Hag’s track record and commitment to developing youth talent were major components of his successful job application, and it will certainly play a key role in his first season with the club as well.
The crucial thing is that he gives opportunities to the proper players rather than playing kids simply because it looks good on him.
As previously stated, Mata is one player out of contract this summer who could be convinced to stay if the incoming manager wants to keep him.
A number of first-team players have been linked with new deals in recent months, with Fred and David de Gea both set to be granted better terms following strong seasons.
It obviously makes sense to reward players who are performing well with new contracts, but those decisions should ultimately be approved by Ten Hag rather than those above him at the club.
The most interesting aspect of this list is the possibility of new signings, and United might have one in place by the time they begin training in a month.
United have identified a new midfielder as their ‘greatest’ concern this summer, but that does not imply he will be their first signing. A transfer for Kalvin Phillips is hampered by the fact that Leeds remained in the Premier League and Manchester City is also interested in him, while Declan Rice is too expensive this time around. Frenkie de Jong would be a terrific acquisition, but he is difficult to sign.
However, finding a new center-back should not be too difficult. Both Jurrien Timber and Pau Torres are of interest to the club, and both would be free to go this summer if a suitable deal came through.
It is certainly possible to have a new central defender at the club within a month, but there is no rush if they need to wait for the perfect one.
The style Ten Hag wants his team to play next season underpins all of the preceding arguments. He has always preferred a 4-3-3 formation at Ajax and was used to playing in one throughout his playing stint at FC Twente.
United has experimented with many formations in recent years, including a 4-2-3-1, a 4-1-2-3, and a traditional 4-3-3 in the last year alone.
Ten Hag’s preferred style and structure will ultimately determine which players he looks to acquire as well as those currently in the squad who may be given new responsibilities.
Pre-season will allow the Dutch manager to try out a few alternative tactical tactics if he so desires, but he should already have an idea in his head about which set-up best suits the team at his disposal.