What’s next for Man U
Where does Manchester United go from here?
It can be tempting to tell a Manchester United fan that “He that is down needs fear no fall” or that “ the only place to go from here is up” but I can assure you that they do not want to hear any of these empty platitudes. They are England’s greatest football club, have had the best players over the years and anything less than challenging for the title every season is unimaginable.
This is not an overinflated sense of self in any way, Manchester United have won 43.3% of the Premier League titles in the past 30 years, winning 13 titles of the 30 available. This history of success is interestingly one of the reasons why the team find themselves in this unflattering position.
The team needs a hard reset and has to find a new post-Ferguson identity and culture. Doing this would mean languishing as a Europa League/midtable team for a few seasons, making smart transfer decisions and creating a stable environment where talent can thrive.
What are the issues plaguing United and what can they do about them?
An imbalanced squad
While this might be Erik Ten Haag’s team right now, the players he has at his disposal are essentially a pastiche of players from different coaches who had different visions of how they wanted their team to play.
This goes as far back as the David Moyes era who signed Juan Mata, then there are players acquired by Jose Mourinho – Diogo Dalot, Fred, and Eric Bailly.
Ole Gunnar Solksjaer signed Bruno Fernandes, Harry Maguire, Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho. Combine these players with newcomers Christian Eriksen, Tyrell Malacia and Lisandro Martinez, and you end up with a mix of young and veteran players with little/no cohesion.
If Erik Ten Haag has his way, fans should expect the departures of players he considers surplus to requirements. This should then follow the recruitment of players he actually wants.
Huge wage bill
A consequence of marquee signings over the years is that Manchester United have ended up with high earners, inflating a wage bill at a time when teams are looking to cut their spending.
This is most glaring in the wantaway Ronaldo saga with few teams able to afford his salary and putting Manchester United in the untenable position of having to keep paying his wages while trying to figure out how he fits into Ten Haag’s masterplan.
United need to scout much better than they do right now, there are fewer players in their prime available in the transfer market. The long-term strategy has to be young talent who cost less, show a lot of upside and most importantly, have the room to develop at Old Trafford.
Outdated recruitment policies
One of the most befuddling transfer links with United was the alleged interest in Marko Arnautovic. While that has been cancelled due to intense fan resistance, it is symptomatic of an inconsistent recruitment policy.
Most of the Big 6 teams in England had clear transfer targets and completed these transfers early in the season. City signed Erling Haaland at the end of the Season, Tottenham recruited Ivan Perisic, Richarlison, Yves Bissouma, and Clement Lenglet within the first weeks of the transfer window, while Arsenal’s early recruitment meant that Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus were along for their US tour and got some much-needed chemistry with their teammates.
Completing these transfers early not just shows purposeful intent, but also helps the new players integrate better with the rest of the team. This could be one of the problems Manchester United are dealing with right now, where we are two matches into the season and are still linked with a central midfielder, the latest being Casemiro after they allegedly couldn’t agree on personal terms with Adrien Rabiot and Frenkie de Jong.
A goalkeeper who can’t play out from the back
Last weekend United conceded the second goal when David de Gea played the ball out to an under-pressure Christian Eriksen. de Gea is an excellent shot-stopper and one of the better performing players of the past years, however, as more teams are looking to play out from the back, his discomfort doing this is much more obvious and teams would look to exploit this flaw. Ten Haag would have to find a short-term solution fast while looking at a more permanent replacement.
In football, things can change quickly. United can still turn this season around, but they need to do that fast. The road ahead will be long and painful depending on how much the team is willing to sacrifice right now.
This has to start with the full backing of Erik Ten Haag’s decisions whether it is in terms of personnel he chooses to field (looking at you Lisandro Martinez at centre back) and players he wants to completely cut from the team.
Manchester United to finish the season in the top 4 @ 7.25
Manchester United to finish the top season in the top 6 @ 2.25
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