Despite the poor start in the Premier League, Erik ten Hag is by far the best coach that Manchester United have had since Alex Ferguson. In the last few years, the project of the ‘Red Devils’ has just been based on signing big names in the transfer market who did not end up providing the expected level. All the way from Pogba to Martial, Memphis Depay, Maguire or Sancho until Cristiano Ronaldo, who wants to leave the ship a year later from his arrival.
The season couldn’t have started in a worst way, as they fell to Brighton 1-2 in their debut and then have picked up a disastrous 4-0 defeat versus Brentford. The alert is on in Manchester and this has just begun. United face once again a rebuild and Ten Hag must solve multiple problems if he wants to make the team work out: to cover gaps in the roster, to find a solution with the situation of Cristiano and get immediate results.
Cristiano Ronaldo does not want to play the Europa League with Manchester United. It would be an embarrassment for him to play the European’s second division and he is willing to join any team that plays in the Champions League, not with the goal to win it, but just for playing in the group stage. It is an obsession for keeping himself playing in the European elite, which I do not get at all.
I do not understand why playing in the Europa League is such an insult, as we have even seen Mourinho get a tattoo of the Conference League. Cristiano is more worried of his legacy in the Champions League than of the image he can leave in the club that made him a top footballer and that embraced him last season when he wanted to leave Italy.
He has already been rejected from several teams such as Chelsea, Bayern and Atlético and it is clear that he will try to leave again in the next winter transfer market in case he does not pull it off this summer. This is one of the problems the new coach has to deal with, as he already left Cristiano on the bench at the start of the first game.
The signings and sales of Manchester United:
The market has left few revenue. Pogba finished his contract and signed for Juventus, just like Lingard (Nottingham Forest) and Matic (Rome). The transfer of Andreas Pereira to Fulham has left 8 million in the arks and they have also sent Dean Henderson to Nottingham Forest and Alex Telles to Sevilla on loan.
Lisandro Martínez from Ajax in exchange for 52 million to strengthen the defense has been the most interesting signing so far. Eriksen has also joined as a free agent in order to add in one of the most problematic areas, the midfield. Malacia (Feyenoord) has also joined to take over the left back position in exchange for 13 million.
Ten Hag has tried to bring De Jong, as he already coached him back at Ajax, so he can be the main midfielder that can provide sense to the game of the team. Frenkie has already rejected this proposal, even though it seems that Barça are willing to transfer the Dutchman. It would certainly be a great addition in order to impose the possession playing style helped by Bruno Fernandes and Eriksen.
The two defeats put extra pressure on the technical staff, as they must now answer with new signings. Rabiot and Arnautovic have been the names on the news in the last few hours. The exit of Cristiano would leave a gap in the offensive area, despite I do not consider Arnautovic as the best option. The midfield is too empty and Rabiot can be an interesting market opportunity.
There are several doubts in this team and opting for a Champions League spot in the Premier League is currently impossible for Manchester United. Teams like Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea are better positioned towards that goal and new interesting projects are also arising from behind.
The main goal of the new coach must be to put the project on the right track by facilitating the growth of players like Rashford in order to opt for bigger objectives in the closest possible future. It will not be easy at all.
Translated by Guillermo Bermejo.
Main image: @ManUtd_Es.