Which positions are Manchester United targeting in the summer transfer window? What has Erik Ten Hag said? And what do the stats say?
Which positions are Manchester United targeting?
Sky Sports News senior reporter Melissa Reddy:
Erik ten Hag’s commitment to swerving a holiday and getting stuck in straight away as manager of Manchester United tells the story of the scale of work he has to wade through.
The 52-year-old inherits a squad, which requires a significant overhaul, having delivered the worst Premier League season in their history.
That almighty task needs to be done amid a restructuring of the organizational structure – including recruitment – behind the scenes as United seek a “detox of underperformance”.
By consequence, it is a much leaner list to assess what the club does not require this summer.
Let drill down into the squad itself, which features 21 players signed by five different managers with no stylistic underpinning or age profile.
Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani, Nemanja Matic, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard and Lee Grant exit as free transfers.
Dean Henderson, Anthony Martial, Eric Bailly and Brandon Williams are expected to depart for more minutes elsewhere. Phil Jones and Diogo Dalot could go too.
The club are open to offers for Aaron Wan-Bissaka, and Harry Maguire retaining his place in the starting XI – let alone the captain’s armband – is in jeopardy. Marcus Rashford has been horribly off form and Bruno Fernandes switched from a transformative figure to a largely frustrating one.
United’s attack cannot solely be propped by Cristiano Ronaldo, while the midfield has lacked offensive protection and progression. There is not a position free from needing strengthening.
United require an elite anchor, a dynamic central midfielder, a high-quality forward, a commanding and aerially dominant center-back that is comfortable defending large spaces, new full-backs and another attacker as a foil for Jadon Sancho.
Ten Hag has a clear football ideology, which is helpful in building a recruitment profile. Sky Sports News has been told he wants “more technical, aggressive, quick-thinking players” that have a “deep responsibility to work without the ball and for each other”.
Given the sizeable changes to scouting operations and the lack of football negotiation nous, it will be interesting to see how United manage extensive outgoings and incomings.
The absence of Champions League participation also puts the club at a disadvantage, but United believe Ten Hag’s continental exploits with Ajax and his ability to improve players will prove attractive enough for their targets.
Another element being sold to potential recruits is the opportunity to “write a new Manchester United story.” Ten Hag will oversee a considerably different squad and is expected to introduce a change of culture and increased discipline to what has been a toxic, divided environment.
What do the stats say about Manchester United?
United are crying out for a player who can link the defense with attack, having appeared poised to sign such a player before they bought Cristiano Ronaldo last summer.
The club ranked 12th for possession won in the middle third and 10th for passes in the final third last season. The fact Paul Pogba notched a club-topping nine league assists this season, having played only 16 games, emphasizing issues in this area.
What has manager Erik Ten Hag said?
Speaking to MUTV, Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag said in May: “The current situation is obviously not that good. It’s a big challenge.
“I want to build and construct a team who are battling for each other, who are unified and who will get results. Also we are playing in the Theater of Dreams.
“In certain positions we want to renew the squad, but one year ago this squad was second in the league, so there is potential and I’m really looking forward to co-operating with the squad.”
Asked if Ronaldo fits into his project, Ten Hag added: “Of course.”
What should Manchester United do this summer?
Sky Sports’ Jack Wilkinson:
Where do you start?
Restoring Manchester United back to the lofty heights of yesteryear is a task too great to be completed in a single season, but the fanbase are well within their rights to demand progress towards that ultimate target.
The opportunities for newly-appointed manager Erik ten Hag and CEO Richard Arnold to deliver just that are myriad.
United can hardly be accused of failing to invest on the pitch having weighed out more than £ 1billion on transfers in the past decade, but United rank among Europe’s worst in terms of value for every pound spent.
In their first season together, Ten Hag and Arnold must seize the opportunity to devise a new transfer strategy, execute it successfully, and take the first steps towards re-establishing thefamed partnership which underpinned Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill’s spell together.
On the pitch, the fanbase yearn for a group of players they can relate to, a group of players they can invest in emotionally, irrespective of results.
Players brought to the club must understand the privilege of pulling on a Manchester United shirt and, crucially, have the ability to transfer that into performances on the pitch, while those already at the club must be set an ultimatum of demonstrating their understanding.
Achieve that, and United should be able to prevent the crippling sense of apathy from further engulfing Old Trafford, and the club will have taken its first step back towards the top table of English and European football.