Manchester United concluded their pre-season over the weekend with two outcomes and performances that underlined simply how a lot work Erik ten Hag nonetheless has to do if the membership is to rise once more.
Following a profitable tour of Thailand and Australia that noticed United beat Liverpool, Melbourne Victory and Crystal Palace earlier than drawing with Aston Villa, right here was slightly actuality test earlier than the true enterprise begins.
Ten Hag divided his squad for 2 matches in slightly over 24 hours, together with his strongest XI dropping 1-0 to Atletico Madrid in Oslo on Saturday earlier than a second string drew 1-1 with Rayo Vallecano at Outdated Trafford on Sunday.
Erik ten Hag tries to get directions throughout to Cristiano Ronaldo towards Rayo Vallecano
The brand new supervisor has good motive to be glad with United’s pre-season on the entire
It meant United ended pre-season with three victories, two attracts and one defeat from their six video games, with 14 targets scored and 6 conceded.
That quantities to a passable return and Ten Hag can have gained a fuller understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of his gamers and who ought to begin towards Brighton of their Premier League opener this weekend.
Sportsmail takes a have a look at ten issues the Dutch coach can have discovered from United’s pre-season.
WANTAWAY RONALDO CAN BE DROPPED
The excellent news was that Cristiano Ronaldo performed his first motion of pre-season towards Rayo Vallecano on Sunday and acquired a heat reception from the Outdated Trafford crowd.
The dangerous information is that he was solely in a position to play 45 minutes and created one other headache for Ten Hag and the membership by leaving the stadium lengthy earlier than the ultimate whistle.
Throughout his first-half look, Ronaldo confirmed some sharp touches however did not all the time look too comfortable taking directions from his coach.
Ten Hag will hate the truth that the uncertainty over the Portuguese star’s future will show a distraction for the opening weeks of the season as he desperately tries to hit the bottom working.
Ronaldo lastly returned to motion towards Rayo Vallecano however solely managed 45 minutes
Ronaldo’s stance that he needs to depart Outdated Trafford in pursuit of Champions League soccer this season stays unchanged even when his choices are dwindling.
Ronaldo then created an additional headache for United by leaving earlier than the ultimate whistle
United insist he is going nowhere and so the deadlock might effectively proceed till the switch deadline passes on September 1.
Whereas Ronaldo is skilled sufficient to maintain coaching and provides as a lot as he can for United within the meantime, any of his little sulks and strops, whether or not on the pitch, on the bench or within the stands, are going to dominate the headlines.
Ten Hag is a person with the braveness of his convictions and Ronaldo’s absence from the tour makes all of it the better to drop him for the opening league video games of the season.
That is not going to go down effectively and it will likely be attention-grabbing to see if Ronaldo is keen to scale down his ambitions to safe a swap away after the likes of Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Atletico Madrid turned down the possibility to signal him.
If he stays and different choices like Anthony Martial are match to start out up entrance, Ten Hag will not really feel obliged to play him in each sport.
UNITED ARE A CENTRE FORWARD LIGHT
Which leads into one other subject. The Ronaldo uncertainty and Martial pulling up with a hamstring subject throughout the Atletico sport which might make him a doubt for the beginning of the season exposes that United want one other centre ahead.
Ronaldo performed within the place incessantly final season whereas there was Edinson Cavani as a back-up (though he was extra typically injured than match).
Now the Uruguayan has moved on and if Martial hadn’t proven an surprising sharpness and scoring contact throughout the tour to resurrect his United profession, they certainly would have moved extra actively for a striker out there this summer time.
Anthony Martial gave United a health scare after he went off throughout the defeat to Atletico
However Ten Hag can’t depend on Martial to single-handedly make up the clear shortfall of targets that price United final season. If Ronaldo leaves, that reliance solely will increase.
In spite of everything, the Frenchman scored solely twice final season – as soon as for United and as soon as for mortgage membership Sevilla – and managed simply seven in 36 outings for United the season previous to that.
Three targets and two assists throughout the tour doesn’t essentially imply a shiny new daybreak for a participant who was anticipated to depart this summer time.
Martial has made a persuasive case to Ten Hag to start out up prime for United this season
However what can United do? Any world class strikers who may need been accessible this summer time have already switched golf equipment or dedicated to their present ones.
They’ve been linked to Stuttgart striker Sasa Kalajdzic, who’s 6ft 7in tall and accessible for about £17million, and Benjamin Sesko of Purple Bull Salzburg, who’s valued at £55m.
The asking worth for Antony, who Ten Hag is aware of effectively from Ajax, continues to rise and he’s extra of a large attacker than a centre ahead.
United could be well-advised to purchase somebody, nonetheless, given the burden of matches developing this season, even when they’re second or third alternative.
Manchester United are contemplating a transfer for £17m-rated Stuttgart striker Sasa Kalajdzic
Manchester United held talks with the agent of RB Salzburg striker Benjamin Sesko final week
MIDFIELD IS A REAL CONCERN
Ten Hag left United’s hierarchy in little doubt that Frenkie de Jong was the one summer time signing he needed above all others, contemplating him elementary to the best way he needs United to play.
Reaching settlement with Barcelona on a £71million switch payment proved the simple bit. Persuading De Jong to depart them for United has been significantly harder.
The Holland worldwide clearly does not fancy a reunion together with his former boss from Ajax and he does not a lot fancy slumming it within the Europa League. Now Chelsea might swoop and snatch him from beneath United’s noses.
Frenkie de Jong is exhibiting little enthusiasm for leaving Barcelona to reunite with Ten Hag
It is an issue as a result of Ten Hag performed his first alternative midfield pair towards Atletico – and it is nonetheless Fred and Scott McTominay. Fred misplaced his head as he typically does and received despatched off.
The one different actual choices are Donny van de Beek, a person whose United profession stays caught in first gear, and the untested teen James Garner.
If there may be to be palpable enchancment on final season’s disappointments, United will want a prime class midfielder.
Fred misplaced his head and was despatched off throughout Saturday’s defeat to Atletico Madrid in Oslo
They are going to little doubt return for one ultimate push for De Jong, reportedly providing to make him their highest-paid participant on £450,000-a-week.
If that does not work, they might take into account Lazio’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, who might are available in as a dynamic box-to-box midfielder. That is not exactly what they want however it might be an improve.
Hassle is, Lazio will demand prime greenback for Milinkovic-Savic, maybe as a lot as £60m and he’ll want a while to stand up to hurry with Ten Hag’s method of doing issues.
Lazio’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic could possibly be another choice to De Jong in United’s midfield
RASHFORD AND SANCHO ARE JUST WHAT TEN HAG NEEDS
Ten Hag does like a winger who is not afraid to make full use of their velocity and trickery, to take defenders on and get to the byline to ship a cross.
He’ll have been impressed by the performances of Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho throughout the tour video games. Each discovered the online and seemed to have faith restored after a difficult 2021-22 marketing campaign.
It is seems as if Ten Hag will work intently with each of them and produce their sport on, empowering them to do what comes naturally and get on the entrance foot at each alternative.
Each ought to see improved returns within the season forward and hopefully they will keep match. Sancho missed the Atletico sport due to illness however needs to be accessible for the Brighton sport.
United forwards Jadon Sancho (left), Anthony Martial (center) and Marcus Rashford all discovered some promising type throughout the pre-season matches
Ten Hag will even have realised that Anthony Elanga is an effective various to Sancho on the precise aspect and the 20-year-old can be desperate to kick on following his breakthrough final season.
It is the one division the place United are genuinely effectively stocked. Launch the handbrake that gave the impression to be holding them again beneath Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick final season and they need to carry out.
That is simply as effectively as a result of, as already mentioned, United want a drastic uptick in targets scored.
Rashford – like many others – struggled final season however seems set to hit the bottom working
They managed solely 57 in 38 Premier League video games in 2021-22, considerably lower than all their rivals. Take away Ronaldo’s 18 league strikes and they might have been in deep trouble.
Rashford solely rating 4 league targets all season, Sancho three and Elanga two. All must step up their sport.
MALACIA SHOULD GET THE NOD AHEAD OF SHAW
It is exhausting to learn an excessive amount of into Ten Hag’s left-back picks over the weekend as a result of Luke Shaw was dominated out via sickness.
Nonetheless, on the proof of pre-season as an entire, it is extremely seemingly new signing Tyrell Malacia will begin forward of the England man towards Brighton.
Malacia, a £13m signing from Feyenoord, did effectively throughout his tour appearances together with his crossing particularly on level.
New signing Tyrell Malacia received the nod at left-back on tour and can problem Luke Shaw
It is an space in want of some enchancment at United, who scored occasionally from set-pieces final season and actually because the supply wasn’t as much as scratch.
Loads of eyebrows have been raised when United went out and signed one other left-back – in addition they have Alex Telles – however it’s all within the pursuits of wholesome competitors.
Malacia’s arrival will hopefully have the specified impact of spurring on Shaw, particularly with an England World Cup spot to work in the direction of within the first three months of the season.
Shaw was the primary alternative on the left aspect of defence however must impress the brand new supervisor
IT’S ONLY RIGHT TO PUT FAITH IN MAGUIRE
One among Ten Hag’s first acts was to place full religion in Harry Maguire, confirming the much-maligned defender will stay as United’s captain.
That was rewarded with a sequence of composed performances throughout the tour regardless of a bit of United’s Australian help seizing their alternative to jeer him.
It vindicated Ten Hag’s present of religion and Maguire’s spot within the again line seems safe sufficient for now regardless of his troubles final season and the signing of Lisandro Martinez.
Ten Hag wasted little time in putting his religion in captain Harry Maguire forward of the season
In reality, Ten Hag shifted Maguire from the left to the right-sided centre-back place with the intention to higher accommodate the left-footed Martinez.
But towards Atletico, he went with Victor Lindelof alongside Maguire in a reprisal of final season’s first alternative duo, with Martinez partnering Raphael Varane on Sunday.
Ten Hag can have realised rapidly that Maguire wanted his shattered confidence repairing and that may solely be achieved by giving him a run of video games, not by stripping him of the armband and dropping him to the bench.
Lisandro Martinez was signed for £55m from Ajax and can be trying to nail down a spot
ERIKSEN CAN OFFER REAL COMPETITION TO FERNANDES
The final consensus was that Christian Eriksen had been signed as a back-up to Bruno Fernandes within the No 10 place, somebody good to convey off the bench when United are chasing the sport.
However the Dane’s efficiency within the sport towards Atletico was adequate to counsel he deserves to be one thing extra vital than a mere squad participant.
That 21 minutes as a substitute for Martial adopted an look in a behind closed doorways pleasant towards Wrexham wherein he discovered the online. He then performed an hour on Sunday.
Christian Eriksen seems like he can supply actual competitors to Bruno Fernandes within the No 10 function
Fernandes was a favorite beneath Solskjaer and had a transformative impact after they signed him in January 2020 – however Ten Hag might have completely different concepts.
There could also be a method of becoming each into United’s midfield however that is more likely to depart them uncovered defensively.
Fernandes is most definitely to start the season there however Eriksen gives a degree of distinction creatively and can push the Portuguese exhausting for his place.
THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT
Ten Hag additionally has a robust report of bringing on academy graduates from his time at Bayern Munich and Ajax.
So he can be inspired to see a promising crop of younger gamers to develop at Outdated Trafford within the months and years forward.
A superb few of them got a good audition in Thailand and Australia, with a couple of giving the supervisor some meals for thought.
Teenager Zidane Iqbal put in some spectacular cameo performances throughout pre-season
Zidane Iqbal seemed energetic in a few the video games, whereas Charlie Savage held his personal even when that clip of Ten Hag yelling at him for not providing David de Gea an outlet went viral.
Garner is again at Outdated Trafford following a promotion-winning season at Nottingham Forest wherein he performed an enormous half of their promotion to the Premier League.
Alejandro Garnacho can also be one to observe, whereas Amad Diallo can have been satisfied to get on the scoresheet towards Rayo Vallecano.
Some will exit on mortgage out of necessity however Ten Hag might want to deepen the reserves in sure components of the sector and we will anticipate to see loads extra of a few of these children together with his encouragement.
Amad Diallo pounces to attain United’s objective within the draw with Rayo Vallecano on Sunday
THE SQUAD NEEDS TO BE WHIPPED INTO SHAPE… BUT THEY ARE RECEPTIVE
Ten Hag will need to have feared inheriting a gaggle of gamers unwilling to tackle board his concepts and put within the exhausting yards.
That hasn’t been the case. Everybody within the squad has been receptive to his method of doing issues and anybody giving an interview appears to be extolling the virtues of additional health work and the way a lot they’re having fun with life beneath the brand new boss.
It might simply be a toeing of the social gathering line however United’s performances of their first three pre-season video games advised they’re all having fun with a brand new lease of life.
The previous couple of friendlies have been tougher going however Ten hag in all probability discovered extra from these performances than the one-sided ones.
A lot of the United gamers appear to be receptive to Ten Hag’s concepts on the coaching floor
It did not take an excellent deal to knock United’s confidence final season and no one responded effectively to Rangnick, writing him off nearly instantly as a mere interim.
Ten Hag has restored authority to the dressing room, even dropping one participant for twice turning up late and vetoing a photograph alternative on the set of Aussie cleaning soap Neighbours as a result of it was a unnecessary distraction.
The viral clips of him giving gamers dressings down on the touchline or in coaching solely play as much as the picture of somebody who will whip United into form.
The gamers, in return, must belief in his course of, even when issues go slightly incorrect as they inevitably will throughout the season.
UNITED’S GLOBAL REACH IS ENORMOUS
A person as meticulous as Ten Hag would have anticipated the whirlwind that may be a United tour to the Far East and Australia. Their fanbase is gigantic everywhere in the world and if Ajax are well-known, that is a number of ranges increased.
Ten Hag and the gamers have been swamped by followers in every single place they went in Bangkok and performed in entrance of two massive crowds on the 100,000-capacity Melbourne Cricket Floor.
Ten Hag received an thought of the enormity of Manchester United throughout their pre-season travels
United’s big fanbase in Norway turned out for the Atletico match and Sunday’s attendance for Ten Hag’s first dwelling fixture in cost was definitely wholesome.
The sheer massiveness of United globally took a few of Ten Hag’s predecessors – notably David Moyes – aback however he appears to have taken all of it in his stride.
He has carried out what media duties have been anticipated of him but in addition ensured there was adequate time to get his concepts throughout on the coaching floor.
Now he simply wants to revive smiles to these faces as soon as once more.