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What Does Erik ten Hag Need to do to get Manchester United Back in the Top 4?

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What Does Erik ten Hag Need to do to get Manchester United Back in the Top 4?

Erik ten Hag will leave his position at Ajax at the end of the season with the Dutchman being appointed as Manchester United manager for the 2022/23 season and beyond.

Ten Hag will be inheriting the team from Ralf Rangnick, who will be keeping a role at United, in a part-time consultancy role despite also being announced as the Austrian National Team Manager.

The German is currently the interim manager of United, having been brought in to replace Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in November, making Rangnick the seventh Manchester United manager since Sir Alex Ferguson left in 2013.

However, Rangnick hasn’t been able to change United’s fortunes in his time at the club with The Red Devils needing nine points from their next three games in order to avoid their worst Premier League finish since the disastrous 2013/2014 campaign under David Moyes and Ryan Giggs.

With this new culture of mediocrity at one of the most decorated clubs in World football - what does Erik ten Hag need to do to at least return The Red Devils to Champions League football?

Reliable Transfers & Releasing Deadwood

Despite a somewhat blockbuster summer transfer window with the signings of Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane, The Red Devils haven’t been able to improve their Premier League performances. Therefore, a big summer splurge could be very likely for United and ten Hag.

Ten Hag has reportedly been given a £200 million budget for his first transfer window in charge of Manchester United and had clear intentions to have power over the new transfers. Some of the names recently linked with United includes Sam Johnstone, Jurrien Timber, Max Aarons, Declan Rice, Frenkie De Jong, Kalvin Phillips, Antony, Pau Torres and Darwin Nunez.

Though these transfers would be good acquisitions, most would come with hefty price tags. ten Hag does supposedly have the budget, but considering The Red Devil’s recent history with big-money signings, reliability should also be a main focus for the Dutchman.

However, the outgoing players could be just as important for ten Hag’s success at United. Midfielder Nemanja Matic has already confirmed he’ll be leaving the club at the end of the season after five years at the club. Other players who are currently at the club but could be set to leave are Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, Eric Bailly, Anthony Martial, Dean Henderson and Paul Pogba. Though not all of those set to leave can be categorised as ‘deadwood’, having a partial clean slate and being able to build with his own signings could be crucial for ten Hag’s success at United.

Premier League 2022/23 Odds

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Manchester United to Finish in the top 4 of the Premier League in 2022/23 @ 10/11

Defensive Issues

The Manchester United backline has received a lot of criticism this season, and will be a big priority for the incoming ten Hag. The defensive line has seen a lot of change throughout the season, with injuries to Raphael Varane, Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw and the demotion of Aaron Wan-Bissaka leading to an inconsistency in personnel.

However, even with these changes considered, United’s defensive statistics are not where they thought they would be after spending the amount they have on their current backline (approximately £170 million).

The Red Devils have only seven clean sheets in 35 games, despite goalkeeper David De Gea having a fairly positive season - making 121 saves so far, the second-most in the Premier League and saving two penalties. Rangnick’s side have also scored the second most own goals in the league, with three, compounding their frailties at the back.

Manchester United have also conceded 52 goals this season, which is the eighth-most in the Premier League, this equates to an average of 1.49 goals conceded per match. In comparison, those battling for the last two Champions League places, Chelsea concede an average of 0.85 goals per match, Arsenal concedes 1.21 goals per match and Tottenham concedes an average of 1.15 goals per match.

This shows how vital a solid and dependable defence will be for Erik Ten Hag, especially in comparison to his competition for Champions League football.

United must also nail down some defensive midfield acquisitions to help solve this, as their mainstay duo of Fred and Scott McTominay offer little defensive protection. Perhaps someone along the lines of Boubacar Kamara on a free transfer from Marseille could help these issues, as signing him on a free would potentially give the Red Devils more leeway in the transfer market.

Premier League 2022/23 Odds

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Manchester United to win the 2022/23 Premier League @ 20/1

Dressing Room Problems

Following United’s 3 - 1 defeat to Arsenal, many, including player Jesse Lingard and United legend Paul Scholes made references to problems in the dressing room. Though Rangnick said that disappointment is to be expected after such games, with the defeat massively denting United’s top-four chances, the German did admit that the team don’t particularly get on well.

The captaincy is another potential issue at United, with reports earlier in the year alleging issues between Maguire and Cristiano Ronaldo. Maguire, who has had a less than ideal season at United, has also drawn criticism of his leadership as well as his defensive capabilities.

A confident and united dressing room is a priority for Ten Hag, as it would provide a solid platform and strong comradery to rebuild Manchester United.