Manchester United has been nothing short of a broken club since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013. After four failed managerial stints since, is Erik ten Hag the answer?
We’re taking a look at how Manchester United could potentially line-up to start the 2022/23 season. With major investment from the owners needed to prop the club back to where they belong, fans should expect an array of changes ahead of the first Premier League fixture against Brighton.
Current rotation – David de Gea, Dean Henderson, Tom Heaton
It looks all but certain that Spaniard David de Gea will begin the 2022/23 season between the sticks for Manchester United, with Dean Henderson inches away from completing a season-long loan deal to Nottingham Forest.
The Red Devils are reportedly interested in bringing Watford goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann to Old Trafford in place of Henderson, who played second fiddle to Ben Foster for the majority of the campaign as the Hornets were relegated to the Championship.
Despite regular concerns from the fanbase over de Gea’s consistency and sporadic decision making, the veteran appears to be preparing for his eleventh season as number one at Manchester United.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer began to rotate de Gea and Henderson towards the end of the 2020/21 season, but eventually settled with the Spaniard and interim boss Ralf Rangnick also opted with the 31-year-old.
Current rotation – Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Diogo Dalot, Brandon Williams
Manchester United are reportedly willing to listen to offers for Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who they paid just short of £50m for three seasons ago from Crystal Palace.
If Wan-Bissaka was to depart, this would leave United’s rotation at right-back with just Diogo Dalot and Brandon Williams (who is arguably more comfortable at left-back).
Williams’ future at Old Trafford is also up in the air, as he seeks regular game time which is something ten Hag will not be able to guarantee the 21-year-old who spent last season on loan at relegated side Norwich City.
Diogo Dalot started 19 times for United in the Premier League last season and provided a fresh, attacking outlook to the right-hand side which Wan-Bissaka lacked.
The Portuguese defender adopts a modern style compared to a traditional right-back, emulating the likes of Chelsea’s Reece James and Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold – almost playing as a right-winger at times.
Unless we see a drastic change in United’s summer window plans, Dalot looks like the obvious starting choice for Erik ten Hag at right-back next season.
Current rotation – Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Harry Maguire, Raphael Varane, Axel Tuanzebe, Teden Mengi
Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane are set to line-up as centre back partners for the second season in a row, despite this being a concerning weakness in United’s side which saw a staggering 57 Premier League goals conceded in the last campaign.
29-year-old Varane struggled with injury throughout much of the season and started just 20 of his side’s 38 Premier League outings, with Victor Lindelof paired alongside Maguire in his absence.
Harry Maguire has been of the most scrutinised transfers in recent history following his £80m move from Leicester City in 2019 which has been nothing short of underwhelming, despite previous manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer handing Maguire the captain’s armband just months into his United career.
21-year-old Ajax defender Jurrien Timber was linked with a switch to Old Trafford earlier in the window but after reports that Louis van Gaal told Timber he couldn’t guarantee his spot in the Dutch national team without regular playing time, the deal fell through.
United are prepared to listen to offers for Eric Bailly, Axel Tuanzebe, and Phil Jones this summer which could leave the centre back rotation as thin as Maguire, Varane, Lindelof and Teden Mengi.
Current rotation – Luke Shaw, Alex Telles, Alvaro Fernandez
Luke Shaw is another Manchester United defender who missed the majority of last season through injury, and started just 19 Premier League games in 2021/22.
Coming off the best season of his career in 2020/21, alongside a historic Euro 2020 campaign with England, many tipped Shaw to cement his name alongside the best left-backs in world football. However, he looked a shadow of that figure to begin the 2021/22 season.
Shaw’s defensive awareness has never been the strongest aspect of his game, and he thrives when being allowed to roam free along the left-wing and get involved in link-up player with a winger like Marcus Rashford or Jadon Sancho.
Alex Telles is another player who United will listen to offers for this summer, who joined from Porto before the start of the 2020/21 season, but hasn’t achieved anything notable besides pushing Shaw to become one of Europe’s most elite full-backs for a single season.
Alvaro Fernandez might have bags of potential, but the 19-year-old is young and vastly inexperienced. He is not someone United should be relying on as a direct backup to Shaw next season so if Telles is sold, this is somewhere that will need strengthening.
Current rotation – Andreas Pereira, Fred, Donny van de Beek, James Garner, Scott McTominay
Transfer targets – Frenkie de Jong, Christian Eriksen
Frenkie de Jong is widely known as Manchester United’s number one transfer target this summer. The 25-year-old has been heavily linked with a move away from Barcelona this summer and a reunion with his former boss at Ajax, Erik ten Hag, is certainly on the cards.
Is de Jong the answer to all of United’s problems? Of course not, but at the right price this should be a no brainer for the club. The Dutch international adds a vast amount of experience to United’s current midfield while still being just 25 and could bring the creative spark that Old Trafford so badly desires.
Free agent Christian Eriksen is also a target for the Red Devils, but is still considering whether a move to Manchester or returning to Brentford for another season would be the best option for his career. Judging by recent years, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Eriksen run it back in West London.
United’s current rotation is nowhere near strong enough as it needs to be to compete for silverware. Andreas Pereira is close to a move to newly promoted side Fulham, whilst James Garner is expected to seek a move away if ten Hag cannot guarantee the 21-year-old regular playing time.
Garner enjoyed two breakout seasons at Nottingham Forest on loan, and played a huge role in marking Forest’s return to England’s top flight for the first time since 1999. The midfielder is starting to blossom and find his feet within the game, and the last thing he wants for his career at the stage is to turn stale on the Old Trafford bench.
A talent like Garner deserves guaranteed playing time at a Premier League side week in, week out, but his future is yet to be resolved and will become clearer after Erik ten Hag makes his own assessment of the player during United’s pre-season campaign.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s infamous ‘chosen ones’ Scott McTominay and Fred will have their starting spots threatened after over two years of inconsistency and mediocrity. Whilst both are able to play a good rotational role with occasional Premier League cameos, if Manchester United want to return to the top of English football, it won’t be done with these two in midfield every week.
Donny van de Beek’s unsuccessful loan spell at Everton will see the Dutch midfielder return to Old Trafford this summer with a chip on his shoulder, and a lot to prove. Like de Jong, van de Beek was also a part of ten Hag’s Ajax side which made a historic run to the Champions League semi-final in 2019 before bowing out to a last-gasp winner from Lucas Moura to send Tottenham Hotspur through.
Serious upgrades are needed in United’s midfield and without significant investment in this position, the Red Devils should prepare for yet another season outside the Premier League’s top four.
Current rotation – Bruno Fernandes, Hannibal Mejbri
Bruno Fernandes is the only remaining natural number ten in the senior Manchester United squad following the departures of long-time club servants Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard this summer, whose contracts have both expired.
Fernandes’ start to life at Old Trafford was explosive. After joining in the January window of the 2020/21 season, the Portuguese international quickly became a fan favourite and led United to a third place finish in the Premier League that same season.
The 27-year-old had a more difficult 2021/22 campaign than he’d have hoped. Fernandes struggled to find form for most of the season, but still provided usual bright sparks throughout that proved he has all the ability in the world.
Playing in-behind the striker seems to be the most effective position for United’s number 18, and expect Erik ten Hag to try and push Fernandes to become just as, if not more impactful than similar players such as Kevin de Bruyne and Bernardo Silva.
Whilst 19-year-old Hannibal Mejbri has shown promise for United’s youth setup, he realistically shouldn’t be a direct backup to Fernandes at such an early stage in his career with very little experience in senior football.
Current rotation – Anthony Elanga, Tahith Chong, Amad, Facundo Pellistri, Shola Shoretire
Transfer targets – Antony
Anthony Elanga is the only viable option for Manchester United at right-wing heading into the new Premier League campaign this August.
Tahith Chong, Amad, Facundo Pellistri, and Shola Shoretire all have very little experience within high-level football that is required to be successful at Old Trafford.
Swedish international Elanga proved to be one of the brightest young stars at United as he broke into the starting line-up under Ralf Rangnick last season, in similar fashion to the way that Marcus Rashford broke through under Louis van Gaal.
Elanga bagged two goals and tallied two assists in 14 league starts for United last season, but his confidence and desire was what caught a grip on supporters – with the raw, fresh talent proving to be something the squad was seriously lacking.
Ajax starlet Antony has been linked with a £60m move to Manchester this summer, after the 22-year-old Brazilian scored eight goals and provided four assists as his side lifted the Eredivise trophy for a 36th time.
Whilst the player is open to a move, it is yet to be seen whether splashing £60m on a relatively unproven winger would be smart business from the club instead of investing that cash elsewhere in a position that requires more urgent attention such as right-back.
Current rotation – Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford, Alejandro Garnacho
The 2021/22 season was certainly one to forget for Marcus Rashford, who spent most of the campaign sitting on the bench. The 24-year-old started just 13 Premier League games, scoring four and assisting two.
Rashford looked a shadow of the player that we saw just a season before, leading many to question whether he could look for a fresh start this summer and depart his boyhood club.
There is no doubt that the talent is there for Rashford, he just needs to find it again and needs help doing so from his manager, coaches, and teammates. Once one of the most electrifying young talents in world football, don’t write Marcus Rashford off yet.
Jadon Sancho’s big money move from Borussia Dortmund to Manchester United was a few years in the making, but the 22-year-old hasn’t fully lived up to expectations in his first season at Old Trafford which wasn’t surprising.
The 2021/22 season in general was a total mess for United. Switching managers halfway through and bringing in Ralf Rangnick, whose spell was extremely underwhelming, was never going to do Sancho any favours in his first season at the club.
There were many bright spots from the winger throughout, but these appeared to come in small patches instead of consistent quality. However, consistency in his game and adapting to a new system in the Premier League is something that doesn’t happen overnight.
Sancho deserves a starting spot in Erik ten Hag’s line-up next season, who began to find his feet in Manchester following the Christmas period and started to look like the player that supporters were expecting to see.
Alejandro Garnacho is a huge talking point amongst the Manchester United fanbase, but is expected to endure at least one more season of youth football playing for the under-23 side before making the permanent switch to the first team.
Current rotation – Cristiano Ronaldo, Anthony Martial
Cristiano Ronaldo and Anthony Martial appears to be what Manchester United’s rotation at centre forward will look like for the upcoming 2022/23 season.
At 37 years of age, Ronaldo still managed to find the back of the net 20 times in the Premier League on his eagerly anticipated return to Old Trafford, 12 years after departing to join Real Madrid for a then-world record fee of £80m.
Ronaldo, alongside Harry Maguire, was one of the most scrutinised players in United’s squad last season and was often scapegoated for the side’s failures due to his name and stature.
Whispers have began to form about a potential switch to Chelsea, but the club are adamant that Ronaldo will be a Manchester United player next season and he is not for sale under any circumstance.
With the way Ronaldo takes care of his body and physique, there is no reason why the Portuguese international cannot play at the highest level for at least another three or four years. With the right service and setup, Ronaldo could be United’s best shot at a first Premier League title in almost ten years.
Anthony Martial will return to Old Trafford following a loan spell at Sevilla which proved to be largely ineffective, as the Frenchman spent most of his time in Spain on the sidelines with injury.
Martial, a former Golden Boy winner, has seen his career take a few steps back in recent years and there is an expectation that he could seek a move away from Manchester this summer which would leave United shorthanded up front.
Potential 2022/23 Manchester United Line-Up:
It’s quiet on the transfer front for Manchester United at the minute besides rumblings of a potential move for Frenkie de Jong, but club chief John Murtough must get to work as soon as possible to help bring the club back to the pinnacle of English football and where they should rightfully sit.