Erik ten Hag will manage his first competitive game for Manchester United in just over three months, which appears to be a microscopic amount of time to complete the task at hand.
United’s squad is in disarray and in serious need of a rebuild this summer. Given the club’s insufficiency in the market in recent windows, it’s tough to envisage Ralf Rangnick’s recommended ten recruits being made, but at least half of that number will almost certainly be required if Ten Hag is to have an immediate effect at the club.
Though United’s present roster is fat and in need of downsizing, the exodus they face at the end of the season is too far in the opposite direction. Six players, including Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, Nemanja Matic, and Lee Grant, will leave at the end of their contracts.
However, they are unlikely to be the only ones to leave. Cristiano Ronaldo, Anthony Martial, Donny van de Beek, Dean Henderson, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, and Marcus Rashford’s futures are all in doubt, and Ten Hag may have even more names in mind.
Though the returns of Van van Beek, James Garner, and others from loan periods could offset the losses if Ten Hag wants them, with well over ten exits a genuine possibility, quality and quantity in their acquisitions will be required.
A new midfielder or two is the priority, but a centre-back, winger, striker, and right-back may also be needed for United to provide Ten Hag with a balanced squad with the technical skills he requires.
For years, United has been crying out for a defensive midfielder who is tactically disciplined enough to protect their defense while also possessing the composure on the ball to launch attacks, and after multiple transfer windows of ignoring that need, it has finally been recognized as a requirement. Due to the lack of Champions League games, Declan Rice will almost probably be out of reach for United even in a best-case scenario, but Kalvin Phillips should be accessible.
The Leeds United midfielder has flourished in a deep-lying role in Yorkshire and for England, and he could be available on the cheap if his club gets demoted. Despite concerns about how much he has been injured this season, Phillips would be an excellent addition to United’s new midfield.
If United were able to get Frenkie de Jong as well, their midfield would seem a thousand times more vibrant and skilled. According to MEN Sport, the club is considering a £75 million bid for the Dutchman, who had great success with Ten Hag at Ajax.
Though Barcelona manager Xavi wants to keep him at Camp Nou, he may not be able to do so because De Jong is one of the club’s few throwaway assets that could fetch a high price to support their own business. It’s difficult to envision other large teams, such as Manchester City, not being interested if De Jong is available, but hopefully working with Ten Hag again will be too appealing.
If not playing in the Champions League again becomes costly, United should seriously consider signing Christian Eriksen. After a spectacular comeback at Brentford, the playmaker could be available on a free transfer this summer, proving he is still a world-class player despite suffering a heart attack on the pitch last summer.
United should be interested in Eriksen regardless of who else they sign because they are losing three creative midfielders in Pogba, Lingard, and Mata. It’s unusual to find such a high-quality player for free.
A perfect transfer window would see Ten Hag persuade Cristiano Ronaldo to stay for another season, despite the humiliation of Thursday night football. If he can, the Portuguese will almost certainly continue to lead the line in most starting XIs, but a young disciple may be signed to play beneath him for a year.
After showing sparks this season, Jadon Sancho will hopefully reach his full potential under Ten Hag, but another forward will need to be added to complete the offensive trifecta, given Marcus Rashford’s dip in form. Antony, the exciting Brazilian winger, was outstanding under the new manager at Ajax last season, with 12 goals and 10 assists, but at 22 years old, he still has a lot of potentials to grow.
According to reports, he might be available for as little as £30 million, making him an excellent attacking reinforcement on the lower end of the market.
Especially when some funds will be required for defense. Even though Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane have struggled this season, they have the talent to be the starting tandem next season, but a signing to challenge them for their spot is required.
Ten Hag is strongly tied with another past club raid in the form of the versatile Jurrien Timber. Despite being mostly a center-back, the 20-year-old can also play right or left-back and has good distributing skills. All of this might lead to him swiftly being a first-team regular if Maguire or Varane continues to underperform.
Finally, if there is still space in the budget, a new right-back must be signed. Aaron Wan-Bissaka has been a disaster of a signing, and Diogo Dalot has just been a notch above him. Full-back is an important position in Ten-style, Hag’s, and one who can run the line and give quality deliveries is essential.
There are numerous intriguing choices, such as Denzel Dumfries and Tariq Lamptey, but Djed Spence is the most exciting right now. The 21-year-old has had an incredible season for Nottingham Forest and might help his team return to the Premier League in Sunday’s play-off final.
Spence is on loan from Middlesbrough, but his efforts this season have won him significant praise. A price of £15 million has been floated, which may be a steal for a player of this caliber.
A lot would have to go right for United to secure all of their ambitions this summer, but if they do, Ten Hag’s first starting XI could be quite interesting.