Manchester United kick off the 2022/2023 season on Sunday against Brighton and Hove Albion in the new manager Erik ten Hag’s maiden season in England.
While all fans will be undoubtedly looking forward to the new campaign with renewed hope and expectations, there are equally as many who have expressed their frustrations at what they see as another manager being failed by the club hierarchy in what should have been our most important transfer window.
The Red Devils finished a meager sixth place last season. Not only did the team finish with a goal difference of zero, but also conceded the highest number of goals domestically in its history. Yet with only a day remaining to United’s opener against Graham Potter’s side there have only been three confirmed signings.
With United continuing their bad habits in their movements in the market, it may fall on the shoulders of the United boss to get the best out of what he already has and hope it will be enough to guarantee a decent season. A task as impossible as squaring the circle, as the manager will soon find out.
However, there are certain players who, going by both their performances in pre-season and glimpses of what they’ve shown so far, look set to have good seasons. These are the players to watch out for who may define United’s campaign.
The Englishman is one earmarked for greatness this season. The young winger was arguably United’s best player in pre-season and seems to have found his feet at Old Trafford. Sancho, who has been playing on his preferred right-wing, looks sharper than ever, skillful, and focused.
The 22-year-old has reminded fans why the club paid £73m for him in a mega deal from German side Borussia Dortmund. After a disappointing first season in which the player was clearly adapting to a new league, the England international will look to have a big impact this season. His creativity, ability to beat his man, and eye in tight spaces will endear him to Ten Hag. Sancho is definitely one to watch out for this season.
Anthony Martial like Sancho has been in fine form in pre-season. The forward who has been leading the line in the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo has put his name back on people’s tongues with his scintillating displays. The Frenchman is set to play a big part for United who have reaffirmed their commitment to keep the player for the upcoming season in a vote of confidence.
With a thin attacking line, Martial is guaranteed a lot of first-team minutes. Moreso if Ronaldo leaves. He has taken to Ten Hag’s football philosophy like a duck to water, which appears to suit his game perfectly. He also looks cheerful and playing with a smile on his face will only be a good thing. The France international is one supporters should have their eyes on.
Old Trafford is begging for a new hero and young Garnacho could be their savior. Saying the Argentine is talented would be short-selling the 18-year-old. He is blessed with bags of ability and confidence that will bode well for the player on his path to stardom.
The 2022/2023 season may be Garnacho’s breakout campaign in which he establishes himself firmly in the first team. United’s thinness at the front again comes into play for Garnacho. With United light in the attacking department and with so many games and competitions to play, the Argentine may feature prominently.
The player’s skill and sheer pace have already endeared him to fans as witnessed against Rayo Vallecano where whenever he had the ball, people were on the edge of their seats.
Donny van de Beek
Van de Beek’s time at United has been nothing short of a disaster. The Dutchman has barely played since making his €39m move in the summer of 2020. He had a loan spell at Everton last season which was a mixed bag.
However, Ten Hag’s arrival at the Theater of Dreams may be the lifeline that his countryman needed to save his career in England. The manager evidently trusts the 25-year-old. He has played significantly more minutes and is improving with every game. United’s shortage in the middle of the park and Ten Hag’s propensity to rotate will see to it that the player features heavily. There is not a better man in the world to get the best out of Van de Beek than the man who turned him into a superstar at Ajax.
This may be the most controversial name in this article. Nevertheless, the United skipper could be one to watch next season and could even be set for a stellar campaign. The embattled 29-year-old has been on the receiving end of criticism and abuse from the fanbase and sections of the media, who see him as the main culprit in United’s calamitous defending last season.
The Three Lions defender has had a steady pre-season, highlighted by a man-of-the-match worthy performance against Aston Villa. The addition of Lisandro Martinez will only benefit Maguire, as his new partner will cover for some of his deficiencies.
The presence of Raphael Varane and Victor Lindelof will also ensure that the Red Devils’ captain will not feature as frequently as he has done in past seasons, earning him much-needed breaks. His passing and prowess in the air will also come in handy for Ten Hag.
The former Feyenoord full-back is one the Old Trafford faithful should be alert to. Malacia is carving out a name for himself and it wouldn’t be surprising if he starts the season ahead of Luke Shaw in the pecking order. As he has demonstrated in pre-season, the Dutchman is extremely powerful physically, athletically, and technically sound.
He possesses all the qualities needed of a modern wing-back and could give United a new threat dimension on the left flank. The sky is the limit for Malacia and having a manager in Ten Hag who knows his strengths will only be a plus.
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