Manchester United recently appointed Dutchman Erik ten Hag as their new manager, and he has the unenvious of rebuilding the Red Devils. Who would have ever thought that taking over at the helm of one of the world’s biggest and most famous football clubs would come with such trepidation and fear? That is the task ten Hag faces when he arrives at Old Trafford.
ten Hag is the eighth manager, including caretaker managers, to sit in the United hot seat since the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson retired in May 2013. Filling Sir Alex’s shoes was never going to be an easy task, but nobody has come anywhere close to matching the success United enjoyed during the Scotsman’s time at Old Trafford. Even “The Special One,” Jose Mourinho, was deemed a failure despite winning the UEFA Europa League, the League Cup, and Community Shield.
United May Miss Out on European Football
United are an utter shambles right now, with the best online sportsbooks predicting they will not finish in the top four and, therefore, missing out on a place in next season’s lucrative UEFA Champions League. There is an outside chance that United will finish as low as eighth and miss out on European football altogether. It is difficult to imagine a European competition where Manchester United are not in the draw.
ten Hag comes into one of the biggest jobs in club football with a glowing reputation. He has a near 74% win percentage from his near five years at Ajax, but he needs to get used to losing more games because he inherits a Manchester United squad that is arguably the worst in the club’s long and illustrious history.
Recruitment Must Improve Immediately
Recruitment over the past few seasons has been nothing but shambolic. It is no wonder the club’s most senior scouts, Jim Lawlor and Marcel Bout, have fallen on their swords as part of the rebuilding process. The pair were at the club for a combined 24 years.
During the 2019/20 season, United spent £78.3 million on Harry Maguire. The England centre-back has failed to live up to the lofty expectations. Sections of United’s fans booed Maguire, and some even sent threats to him and his family. During the same season, the club bought Bruno Fernandes, who had been a revelation but has been poor this season. His missed penalty in the 3-1 humbling by Arsenal showed how far Fernandes’ form has fallen.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka came in during the same season but has failed to nail down a regular place in the troubled right-back slot.
Last season, United spent more than £35 million on Donny van de Beek but then loaned him to Premier League rivals Everton because he could not get into the team. Amad Diallo is another player signed for a substantial fee but has not been able to cement his place in the starting 11.
United was crying out for an elite striker and a ball-winning midfielder at the start of this season but spent £76.5 million on Jadon Sancho, who is an incredible talent but not a player the Red Devils needed. They also brought in Raphael Varane, but he has only played 19 games and looks a shadow of the player he was at Real Madrid. Then there was the re-signing of Cristiano Ronaldo. Sure, he is the club’s top scorer this season, but they only signed him to prevent Manchester City from doing so, and signing a 36-year-old is hardly building for the future.
The United board has promised ten Hag a £200 million war chest to start the rebuilding process. You could argue the incoming manager needs twice that sum, especially as the likes of Edinson Cavani, Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, and Juan Mata are all out of contract this summer.
Others who you would expect to leave include Eric Bailly, want-away Anthony Martial, Nemanja Matic, and even the homegrown Marcus Rashford. He has seriously struggled for form in recent seasons.
The Lure of Manchester United Is Still Strong
Manchester United is still a very attractive club for players with ten Hag at the helm and the club’s remarkable history. They should have no problems bringing in elite players if they buy into the rebuilding project. However, they have to be playing some form of European football to do this. Current manager Ralf Raggnick says the club is six years behind Liverpool and Man City. Missing out on European football will extend that gap into double figures.
Sports journalist, content writer and passionate football lover.