Erik ten Hag faces a huge task to rebuild Manchester United, starting with a crucial summer transfer window ahead of the 2022/23 campaign.
Ten Hag witnessed the end of United’s worst Premier League season in years after the Reds collected just 58 points from 38 games with a goal difference of zero. And there’s set to be a huge overhaul in terms of the playing squad with several players set to leave this summer including Nemanja Matic, Edinson Cavani, Jesse Lingard and Paul Pogba.
The absence of Champions League football will hamper United’s transfer plans slightly and so a return to challenging for the Premier League title may have to wait a few years as Ten Hag rebuilds the club. The players that remain at United will need to adapt quickly to the 52-year-old’s tactical system and playing style, something that the squad showed they were incapable of doing under Ralf Rangnick.
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So, how long will it take Ten Hag to rebuild United and win the Premier League title? To have a look, we simulated the future season-by-season in Football Manager 2022 with the 52-year-old in charge of United until the Reds’ won the Premier League.
To set up this simulation, we appointed Ten Hag as United manager and appointed Ralf Rangnick as United’s Director of Football as he entered his consultancy role at the club, following the arrival of Ten Hag as manager. We simulated each season moving forward until United successfully won the Premier League.
This is Ten Hag’s in-game profile on Football Manager 2022.
The former Ajax manager has amazing coaching, mental and knowledge attributes including his ability to work with youngsters (18), adaptability (16), level of discipline (16), people management (17), judging player potential (16) and tactical knowledge (16). Ten Hag coaches a vertical tiki-taka style of play, preferring to use a 4-2-3-1 wide formation.
The 52-year-old tends to use zonal marking to defend set-pieces, playing out of defense when in possession, uses intense counter-pressing and allows his players to have creative freedom. Ten Hag often chooses not to tell his team to sit back and protect leads, lending to a more attacking style, whilst not relying on set pieces or early tactical changes in games.
Man United’s 2022/23 season simulated under Ten Hag
In Ten Hag’s debut season, our simulation has the Reds finishing fifth in the Premier League missing out on Champions League football by 10 points. United were able to improve their league position to fifth, moving above Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal side and improving their goal difference and points tally significantly.
Ten Hag’s side competed well in the three cup competitions they were involved in, reaching the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup and Europa League. In the FA Cup, United were dumped out of the competition after suffering defeat against rivals Man City in the fifth round.
Ten Hag was backed heavily as United made multiple new signings in the 52-year-old’s first summer in charge with Duvan Zapata having the biggest impact out of any of the new arrivals as the Colombian striker scored 16 goals in 40 appearances in all competitions. Bruno Fernandes was by far the club’s top performer after improving significantly compared to his 2021/22 campaign as the Portuguese playmaker scored 17 goals and registered 22 assists in 49 games.
Jadon Sancho pipped Fernandes to average the highest match rating with a 7.40 across all competitions, as the England international flourished under Ten Hag scoring 10 goals and registering 15 assists. Marcus Rashford showed signs of rekindling some good form but was used mainly as a rotation option, registering 10 goal contributions from 21 starts and 13 substitute appearances.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal scoring ability showed few signs of dropping off as the six-time Ballon d’Or winner scored 17 goals in 38 starts. At the end of the 2022/23 season, Football Manager 2022 put together an overall best Man United XI, based on performances, statistics and other metrics.
This is what United’s best XI looked like at the end of the 2022-23 season as predicted by Football Manager 2022:
Full United best XI (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Dalot, Maguire, Varane, Shaw; Garner, Fernandes; Sancho, Ronaldo, Rashford; Zapata.
Ten Hag gave youth a chance by bringing in hot prospect James Garner into the starting lineup alongside Fernandes. Ronaldo dropped into a center-forward role behind Zapata who started as a striker, with United’s Dutch manager continuing to lean on the Portuguese superstar’s quality and experience.
Man United’s 2023/24 season simulated under Ten Hag
The Reds finished fourth in the Premier League in the following season, qualifying for the Champions League for the first time since the 2020/21 season. Ten Hag’s side improved their league position in the table up to fourth ahead of Chelsea and Arsenal, despite earning one less point compared to the 2022/23 season.
United finished 21 points behind champions Liverpool, but only three points behind Man City and Tottenham as the Reds improved their goal difference further. As for the cup competitions, United finished as runners-up in both the Carabao Cup and Europa League, but could only reach the FA Cup fifth round.
United signed Ajax winger Antony, Mauro Icardi, Samuele Ricci, Tanguy Nianzou and Denzel Dumfries ahead of Ten Hag’s second season in charge at Old Trafford. Antony came in and was the standout performer scoring 17 goals and registering 15 assists.
Bruno Fernandes impressed again after scoring 13 goals and registering 14 assists for United in all competitions, whilst Icardi matched Ronaldo’s goal scoring record of 12 in all competitions. Ricci proved to be a brilliant signing scoring nine goals and registering seven assists from defensive midfield.
At the end of the 2023/24 season, Football Manager 2022 put together an overall best Man United XI, based on performances, statistics and other metrics. This is what United’s best XI looked like at the end of the 2023/24 season as predicted by Football Manager 2022:
Full United best XI (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Dumfries, Nianzou, Varane, Shaw; Ricci, Fernandes; Antony, Cunha, Sancho; Icardi.
New signings Icardi, Ricci, Dumfries and Nianzou all featured in United’s best XI for the 2023/24 season. The Reds signed Matheus Cunha in the January transfer window as the Brazilian added quality and more attacking threat to Ten Hag’s side in the second half of the season.
Man United’s 2024/25 season simulated under Ten Hag
Ten Hag’s side were able to win the Premier League title in the Dutchman’s third season in charge after pipping Liverpool on goal difference despite both sides finishing on 89 points. The Reds finished the season with a goal difference of +57 after only losing three games in their 38 league fixtures.
United were not able to repeat their success over Jurgen Klopp’s side in the FA Cup final as the Reds lost 2-1 after Luis Diaz scored twice to cancel out Antony’s early opener. Ten Hag’s side managed to reach the quarter-finals in both the Carabao Cup and Champions League, but there was still work to do if United were to challenge on all fronts throughout the season.
United signed Harry Kane, Aurelien Tchouameni and Eder Militao in Ten Hag’s third season in charge as the return of Champions League football to Old Trafford enticed some of Europe’s top talents to the club. Marcus Rashford filled the void left by Jadon Sancho after he left for Paris Saint-Germain and Cristiano Ronaldo retired at the age of 39.
Rashford scored 17 goals and registered six assists as well as averaging the highest match rating at 7.52 across all competitions, whilst Kane scored 15 goals and registered seven assists as United’s main striker. Bruno Fernandes stepped up his performances as he scored 23 goals and registered 16 assists.
Tchouameni had an impressive debut season at Old Trafford registering 16 assists from a defensive midfield position. Antony continued to thrive under Ten Hag scoring 23 goals and registering 11 assists from right wing.
At the end of the 2024/25 season, Football Manager 2022 put together an overall best Man United XI, based on performances, statistics and other metrics. This is what United’s best XI looked like at the end of the 2024/25 season as predicted by Football Manager 2022:
Full United best XI (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Dumfries, Militao, Nianzou, Shaw; Tchouameni, Fernandes; Antony, Cunha, Rashford; Kane.
After a big summer of change, new signings Kane, Militao and Tchouameni all featured in United’s best XI for the 2024/25 season. The Reds now had one of the strongest starting lineups and squads in Europe with the likes of Varane, Ricci, Maguire and Youssoufa Moukoko on the bench offering significant quality in depth.
Overall, our simulation suggests that it could take Ten Hag around three years to win the Premier League with Manchester United. The 52-year-old was backed significantly in the transfer market throughout his tenure at Old Trafford and his tactics and ability to develop players saw United return to the top of English football quicker than many anticipated, sealing an historic 21st top-flight title for the Reds.
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