Erik ten Hag faces a challenging start in life as Manchester United manager as no new faces have arrived at a club where the Glazer family’s recent dividend payment has fueled fan discontent.
Frustration and anger have run high at Old Trafford for some time and those emotions were compounded by the owners taking a large chunk of the £11million payout due on Friday.
United’s summer makeover has been slow and the pre-season starts on Monday.
Here, the PA news agency takes a look at the state of affairs at the club.
What’s wrong at United?
Manchester United had a miserable 2021/22 season (Steven Paston/PA)
Last season, United’s unbalanced, underperforming squad stumbled home to record their lowest-ever Premier League score, scoring plenty of goals and offering precious little promise. Off the field, the Glazer family is implacably despised in the face of the debt, dividends and mismanagement that followed their controversial 2005 takeover. Protests against the owners punctuated that period and their role in the botched European Super League coup only fueled the blaze, with the newly formed fan group The 1958 leading renewed protests against them.
Are the Glazers feeling the pressure?
Manchester United fans have ramped up protests against the Glazer family (Martin Rickett/PA)
Owners seemed assured in April 2021 during the intense backlash against the Super League. Co-Chairman Joel Glazer acknowledged the “need for change” and better communication as he issued a public apology, with United establishing a supporters’ council and embarking on a fan-share scheme. United intend to make the latter a reality but that is yet to come. Also, things have gone quiet again about the Florida-based owners, with Richard Arnold, who replaced the much-criticized Ed Woodward in February, becoming the England-based face of the club. Protests were planned outside the CEO’s house last weekend until he surprised those fans at his local pub, where he took questions on a variety of issues. Arnold was secretly recorded saying the Glazers were “not afraid of people” protesting against them.
Former Ajax boss Ten Hag is tasked with turning things around at a club preparing for Europa League football after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s interim replacement Ralf Rangnick failed in his Champions League quest. Football director John Murtough clearly made a mistake in appointing the outspoken German, whose two-year advisory role was axed and has been in close contact with Ten Hag since a deal was struck. Murtough is Ten Hag’s main point of contact, having previously seen Woodward muddling the waters, with Arnold telling fans, “I’ll do my part with John to make sure the money is there.” “Substantial” and “substantial” are the adjectives used to describe the transfer budget.
How is the situation in the squad?
I feel privileged to have played for this club. Lots of good moments and memories, but above all the unconditional support of the fans. Many Thanks @ManUtdpic.twitter.com/YLT3lUHOmT— Paul Pogba (@paulpogba) June 1, 2022
Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani, Nemanja Matic, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard have all left at the end of their deals. Reserve goalkeeper Dean Henderson has agreed to join Nottingham Forest on loan and the departures of other fringe figures are sure to follow. But the lack of movement in the other direction has led to unease, with Murtough citing the drive for players, in addition to streamlined scouting and recruiting structures.
Manchester United are pushing to sign Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong (David Davies/PA)
United’s main focus is on strengthening the midfield amid the departures and struggles in that area in recent years, with talks of chasing Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong continuing. A box-to-box midfielder is understood to be seen as key to rebuilding Ten Hag. Christian Eriksen is a player United are keen to add, while their quest for improvements in attack has led to discussions about a move from Ajax winger Antony, among others.
Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane had challenging seasons (Martin Rickett/PA)
There is hope at Old Trafford that United’s defenders can carry on after a poor season – but that doesn’t mean improvements aren’t being considered. While Jurrien Timber is expected to stay at Ajax, there is admiration for his defending partner Lisandro Martinez. But in order to strengthen the centre-back, the club are looking to vacate one of the most bloated areas of their squad. Greats like Axel Tuanzebe, Phil Jones and Eric Bailly are in the shop window.
What is United’s pre-season schedule?
Our 2022/23 season preparation ends with Erik ten Hag’s first home game day! – Manchester United (@ManUtd) June 13, 2022
Ten Hag is excited to see how his players develop and seems willing to give those previously disgraced a chance. Those who have not been involved in international football will turn up for pre-season training on Monday, with the rest of the players joining the squad at a later date. United start the Ten Hag era in Thailand against rivals Liverpool in a friendly in Bangkok on July 12 before playing three games in Australia and one game in Norway and rounding out the pre-season with a friendly at Old Trafford against Rayo Vallecano.