Manchester United Premier League season review
Erik ten Hag’s rebuild is well underway after a 62-game season of chaos
Manchester United’s campaign both started an ended with disappointing defeats but, in the 11 months in-between, there were certainly encouraging signs.
Just one and a half matches into his reign, Erik ten Hag was already under serious pressure.
His team were beaten at home to Brighton on the opening weekend, before finding themselves four down inside 35 minutes at Brentford.
In hindsight, given that those two teams would finish sixth and ninth, these were tricky fixtures to start, although going 4-0 down at half time for the first time in the club’s history is far from ideal, to put it mildly.
This though would prove to be the turning point, with ten Hag dropping both Harry Maguire and Cristiano Ronaldo, neither of whom would feature prominently from that point forward.
This paid off because, in their very next game, the Red Devils beat fierce rivals Liverpool 2-1, as the new era belatedly began in earnest.
Man United’s form had turned around so much so that, following a 2-1 Manchester derby win in January, there was talk that they were in the title race.
This tough didn’t last too long, after a last-gasp 3-2 defeat against then league-leaders Arsenal quelled their title aspirations.
A month later, Manchester United’s six-year trophy draught did come to an end, beating Newcastle 2-0 in the Carabao Cup Final at Wembley.
It is rather fitting that two of their key pillars got the goals, namely summer signing Casemiro and Marcus Rashford, the latter the first player to score 30+ goals in a season since Robin van Persie a decade ago.
However, in a campaign defined by the many juxtapositions, just seven days later, Man United suffered, probably, their most embarrassing defeat of all-time.
Having shipped six at the Etihad in October, ten Hag’s team were demolished 7-0 at Anfield, conceding six times in a shambolic second half that’ll be remembered forever.
In total, the Red Devils actually lost nine Premier League matches, but finished with 17 more points than last season, emphasising how bad things got under Ralf Rangnick, comfortably claiming a top four place.
Elsewhere, while the title proved a step too far, Man United were very much on for the cup treble at one point.
They beat Barcelona and Betis in the Europa League, the former one of the highlights of the campaign, but were ousted by Sevilla.
The quarter-final epitomised the entire season in a nutshell; good, but there’s still plenty of work to do.
Man United were sensational for the first 80 minutes of the first leg, only to score two late own goals, before a diabolical 3-0 defeat at Estadio Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán a week later.
They did though reach the FA Cup Final, but were beaten 2-1 in the first-ever Manchester derby final.
Man City broke the deadlock after just 13 seconds, because of course they did, Bruno Fernandes equalised from the penalty spot, but İlkay Gündoğan’s second of the afternoon secured the win for those donning blue.
Overall, it was a mad season in which, on one hand, Man United lost a cup final to their city-rivals, suffered the club’s biggest-ever defeat, at Anfield no less, shipped six at the Etihad and four in the first half at Brentford.
On the other hand, the Red Devils are back in the Champions League, have ended their trophy draught and enjoyed wins over Barcelona, Arsenal, Man City, Tottenham (twice), Liverpool and Chelsea, whilst reaching both domestic cup finals for the first time in 29 years.
Erik tan Hag has certainly got this team going in the right direction, inheriting a complete mess least we forget, but they still have a very long way to go.
Can Man United kick on and challenge Europe’s best?
This summer is likely to be dominated by takeover talk, with this having a hugely detrimental affect on transfer plans.
The Glazer family have been looking to sell the club for around nine months, with about five or six ‘final deadlines’ having now passed.
Sir Jim Ratcliffe, who’s company Ineos also own Nice and Lausanne-Sport, and Qatar banker Sheikh Jassim are both very interested in buying the club, but neither are closer to doing so now than a few months ago.
With this up in the air, how much money will Erik ten Hag have to spend, because there were no funds available in January, hence why they ended up with Wout Weghorst?
The Dutch striker’s loan is not going to be made permanent, although Marcel Sabitzer is still hopeful of a longer stay in Manchester.
Phil Jones will leave the club, 12 years after arriving, signalling the end of an era, while club captain Harry Maguire is also set to depart.
Lisandro Martínez and Raphaël Varane have formed a formidable centre-back partnership, but it’s been widely reported that Man United are interesting in triggering Kim Min-jae’s €50 million release clause.
Kim’s Napoli teammate Victor Osimhen could also be making the move, with ten Hag requiring a more reliable, both in terms of goalless and availability, centre-forward than Anthony Martial.
A deal that looks closer to completion is Mason Mount, as Chelsea need a clear out, with Mount appearing perfectly suited to challenge Christian Eriksen for the ‘free eight’ position.
Lastly, having stared for Sunderland in the Champions, can Amad, who they signed for €30 million remember, become a key figure?
It’s set to be a busy summer for Manchester United, even before their first pre-season fixture, facing Leeds in Oslo on 12 July.