Erik ten Hag, the club’s new manager, will face a daunting task in sorting out a troubled mix of players when he takes over in the summer, barring any last-minute hiccups.
The Dutchman has had relative stability at Ajax, but he will have to contend with a roster that includes players signed by each of United’s last five permanent managers, dating back to Sir Alex Ferguson’s tenure as manager.
In the short term, Ten Hag will look to have an immediate impact in two important areas to reenergize the club for next season as the first part of his long-term plan to restore Old Trafford’s golden days.
Key areas to improve
United have identified four areas in the transfer market that they intend to fill this summer: a striker, a defensive midfielder, a creative midfielder, and a right-sided attacker. In reality, there is an acknowledgment that practically every position requires attention, but this will take multiple transfer windows to resolve, and the rebirth of United under Ten Hag will not happen in a single summer.
With Edinson Cavani leaving, Cristiano Ronaldo’s future uncertain, and United in need of goals, a striker is a must-have. The club’s first choice is Harry Kane, but his price tag – about £140 million – and United’s inevitable failure to qualify for the Champions League may force them to rethink their ambitions, with Benfica’s emerging sensation Darwin Nunez an option.
Kalvin Phillips of Leeds United, Ruben Neves of Wolves, and Youri Tielemans of Leicester City are all affordable midfield choices, with Ten Hag determined to sign players who will match the type and ethos he plans to nurture at United in the future. Ten Hag may also be tempted to raid Ajax for £70 million-rated Ajax defender Jurrien Timber rather than risk losing him to another club.
Resurrect floundering stars
This might apply to nearly every member of the United squad, with Ten Hag tasked with re-energizing and upgrading players who have lost their way as a result of the recent managerial turnover at Old Trafford. The most obvious examples are Harry Maguire, Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes, and Donny van de Beek, who is now on loan at Everton but will return to United this summer to reconnect with his former Ajax manager.
Several United players will leave this summer when their contracts expire, including Paul Pogba, Cavani, Jesse Lingard, and Juan Mata, but those who remain have an opportunity to redeem themselves and relaunch their careers under Ten Hag. Van van Beek must feel he can resurrect his dormant United career under the manager who put so much faith in him at Ajax, while Maguire, Fernandes, and Rashford must see the coming of the new coach as a fresh start.
Anthony Martial will also return after a loan spell at Sevilla, with the United leadership informing all of its players that they will have the opportunity to impress Ten Hag in pre-season before any decisions on their futures are made ahead of the new season. United is willing to let a few players depart this summer, but only when fresh additions are made. Those looking to leave will have to wait until the end of the transfer window unless the club receives offers they just cannot refuse.