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Captaincy, selection hierarchy and more – five issues Erik ten Hag must tackle at Man United

Five issues Erik ten Hag must tackle at Man United

As far as debut campaigns go, Erik ten Hag has had one to remember at Old Trafford after leading Manchester United to their first trophy in six years following their Carabao Cup triumph in February.

Considering the shape Man United were in when he arrived last summer, finishing third in the Premier League is a further testament to the Dutchman’s tactical acumen.

However, there is still work to do to close the gap on their next-door neighbours Manchester City and restore the Red Devils to the upper echelons of English and European football. 

Read on as we highlight five key issues Ten Hag must tackle to bolster Man United’s chances of even more success in the coming season.


Man United captain Harry Maguire lost his place in the starting XI and slumped down the pecking order to become the fifth-choice centre-back last season.

The 30-year-old has been heavily linked with a summer departure, meaning Ten Hag may need to appoint a new captain next season.

Bruno Fernandes is Man United’s de facto captain. In Maguire’s absence, the Portuguese midfielder led with aplomb despite having to feature in some unfamiliar roles.

However, Casemiro and Raphael Varane could also give Ten Hag something to think about when it’s time to decide who wears the armband next season.

Selection hierarchy

Establishing a selection hierarchy could be the biggest issue Ten Hag needs to address ahead of the new campaign.

After a slow start to the season, Aaron Wan-Bissaka was left to warm the bench while Diogo Dalot solidified his position as the first-choice right back.

However, toward the end of the campaign, both players switched roles, with Wan-Bissaka bursting onto the scene, leaving Dalot to settle for coming off the bench or featuring in a left-back role.

Dalot and Wan-Bissaka are willing to fight for a first-team berth, but Ten Hag has to decide who will cement their place as the starting right back.

Meanwhile, a left-footed right winger to back up Antony posed a problem for Man United in the Brazilian’s absence last term. But the returning Amad Diallo could solve that issue for Ten Hag without spending a penny.

Diallo was a standout performer for Sunderland, but whether he stays at Man United or embarks on another loan stint will depend entirely on his performance in pre-season

An eye-catching display would force Ten Hag to integrate him into the squad, but it could spell trouble for the struggling Jadon Sancho, who may have to settle for being the third-choice winger on both flanks.

Strugglers dilemma

Anthony Martial and Sancho were arguably Man United’s biggest disappointments last season, with both showing only glimpses of what they are capable of.

After his eighth season in Manchester, the story remained the same for Martial, whose campaign was derailed by inconsistency and recurring injury problems.

With one year left to run on his contract, Man United may be better off getting the Frenchman off their books permanently to free up space in the squad.

Sancho arrived at the Theatre of Dreams with poise and promise, but the 23-year-old has failed to live up to expectations.

It is hard to pinpoint where his problems began, but he is running out of time to prove his worth, and next season could be make or break for the Englishman.

There is also Donny van de Beek, whose Man United career has gone up in flames and not even reuniting with Ten Hag has helped the Dutchman revive his dwindling career. 

Ten Hag needs to decide what to do with the former Ajax man, who still has two years left on his contract.

Back up for Casemiro

Casemiro’s influence in the middle of the park was instrumental to Man United’s success, but the Brazilian barely had time to breathe last term after making 51 appearances across all competitions.

Scott McTominay and Fred are the other two players who could cover for the former Real Madrid man, but both players have been linked with a summer exit.

Casemiro won’t complain about his playing time, but Ten Hag needs to ensure another defensive midfielder is brought in this summer to avoid burning out the 31-year-old next term.

New striker

Throughout last season, Ten Hag’s side relied heavily on Marcus Rashford to provide goals, and the England international repaid that faith by scoring 30 times and assisting a further 11.

However, they struggled to find the back of the net each time the Englishman had an off day, highlighting the importance of another goal-scoring outlet.

Signing an elite marksman this summer will not only lift the burden off Rashford but also bolster Man United’s chances of challenging on all fronts next season.

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