Expectations will be high for the new season after Erik Ten Hag, who was appointed last season, led Manchester United back into the Champions League, won a trophy (League Cup) and made another cup final.
Despite a heavy cloud over its ownership, United, unlike previous seasons, has been proactive in the transfer market and has acquired its first-choice signings before the start of the season.
Ten Hag has strengthened the spine by signing a midfielder (Mason Mount), a goalkeeper (Andre Onana) and a striker (Rasmus Hojlund). With the incoming funds from the impending departures of center-back Harry Maguire and midfielders Fred and Scott McTominay, United is on the lookout to add a versatile defender to its ranks.
The goalkeeping position could likely make the biggest difference to United’s fortunes this season. After the departure of club legend David de Gea, Ten Hag has brought in a ball-playing keeper in Onana, who played for the Dutchman at Ajax, from Inter Milan for £47.2m. While a lot of chatter will be about how he plays out from the back, there will be severe scrutiny for Onana’s shot-stopping abilities. Dean Henderson is an excellent back-up but the England international is disgruntled over his situation at the club and wants a swift exit. Veteran Tom Heaton is the current second choice.
Lisandro Martinez is back to full fitness after a two-month injury lay-off and should be back to pair Raphael Varane in the center of the defence. Luke Shaw is another automatic starter at left-back, while Diogo Dalot is likely to get the nod at right-back at the start of the season. Second-choice right-back Aaron Wan Bisakka’s defensive prowess will come in handy too. Bayern Munich’s Benjamin Pavard is a reported target, and could play both at center-back and right-back.
The midfield trio will likely be Casemiro and Mount in the midfield pivot, and Bruno Fernandes as the attacking option. McTominay and Fred’s possible departures will make their midfield options thin on paper with an ageing Christian Eriksen, an out-of-favour Donny van de Beek, and the untested Kobbie Mainoo out for the first half of the season. Casemiro’s regular suspensions last season exposed United’s midfield and the club will need to find a solution for it. Jadon Sancho is another option who could play the no. 10 role instead of Fernandes.
United is stacked in attacking options with Marcus Rashford and Antony likely to start on the wings. Alejandro Garnacho, Sancho, Facundo Pellistri and Amad Diallo, who is currently injured. Injury-stricken striker Anthony Martial will remain another season but United will be taking a big bet in 20-year-old striker Hojlund, who was signed for £64m from Atalanta. Rashford, who scored 30 goals last season, will be the no. 9 at the start of the season with Garnacho taking up the left wing slot.
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