On Friday afternoon, a 31-man United squad traveled from Manchester Airport to Thailand for the first stage of their pre-season tour, where they will face Liverpool. The tour squad, however, is even poorer than the one that ended United’s worst-ever Premier League season with a loss to Crystal Palace in May.
The much-touted renovation has yet to materialize, with only left-back Tyrell Malacia joining so far, while Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani, Jesse Lingard, Nemanja Matic, and Juan Mata have all left. Returning loanees Donny van de Beek, Anthony Martial, and James Garner have returned, but it isn’t the revolution that many supporters had hoped for.
Ten Hag’s traveling party has been harmed further by the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo, who is unable to make the trip owing to a family matter. It remains to be seen whether the Dutchman will ever manage Ronaldo in a game, as the five-time Ballon d’Or winner has stated his desire to leave Old Trafford.
As a result, United hasn’t taken a very thrilling group on tour, despite the fact that numerous bright players have been given a chance to shine. Ten Hag’s first game in charge will be against bitter rivals Liverpool on Tuesday, and he will almost certainly field an experimental squad.
He might, however, select his strongest possible XI in order to get a good look at his top players, in which case David de Gea would start between the sticks behind a center-back partnership of Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane. With the captaincy dispute at United still unresolved, it will be intriguing to see if Maguire retains the armband.
Diogo Dalot is definitely ahead of Aaron Wan-Bissaka in the pecking order at full-back after the latter was told he might leave. Despite Malacia’s arrival, Luke Shaw will most likely remain the first-choice left-back.
Van van Beek may have been given a second chance at United by the arrival of his old manager, but after failing to impress on loan at Everton at the end of last season, he still finds himself behind Scott McTominay and Fred at the foundation of midfield. Bruno Fernandes might play significantly further forward in a modified 4-3-3.
Attacking alternatives are currently few, which means Ten Hag’s best options to lead the line are one of the underperforming duo of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial. That would leave Jadon Sancho and Anthony Elanga to take up positions on his strongest possible side’s flanks.
Possible Manchester United starting lineup for a preseason game against Liverpool: McTominay, Fred, Fernandes; Sancho, Rashford, Elanga; De Gea, Dalot, Varane, Maguire, Shaw;