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What must Ten Hag do this summer to get Manchester United closer to the Premier League title?

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After what was widely regarded as a positive first season at Manchester United, Erik ten Hag will be looking to further improve next season. One key challenge that Ten Hag faces is recruitment this summer, due to the uncertainty over ownership at Old Trafford.

United’s transfer dealing clearly appear to have been impacted by the ‘sale or no sale’ pantomime from the Glazers. With the need for a world-class number 9, United would need to dig deep into their pockets to find the money for somebody like Harry Kane or Victor Osimhen.

Due to the hefty price tags for those players, United are looking at alternative targets such as 20-year-old Rasmus Højlund. The club don’t have a great recent track record of selling players either, with the club reportedly open to offers for Jadon Sancho for £45 million, Fred for £20 million, Eric Bailly for £2 million and Dean Henderson for £15 million.

The potential money raised from selling players could help go towards new signings but with those low transfer fees being spoken about, it will be hard to improve the squad from just transfer income. Overall a step up in quality is still needed in order for United to challenge their neighbours Manchester City, bitter rivals Liverpool and old enemies Arsenal regularly for the title.

With United’s lack of quality in squad depth, players such as Casemiro and Lisandro Martinez are pivotal players to the side. The difference in style is clear to see when both players are missing and United need a plan B when they are absent or further additions to the squad to make sure that their absences are not as costly as they were last season.

Meanwhile, there is a cloud hanging over David De Gea’s future, with the current number one at United yet to sign a new contract for next season. Targets of Ten Hag include Inter goalkeeper Andre Onana, Diogo Costa (Porto) and Yann Sommer (Bayern Munich). Those three keepers are adept at playing out from the back and having the ball at their feet, which is one of the big criticisms levelled at De Gea.

To further strengthen his hand, Ten Hag would need to add squad depth, which is something that was missing last season during United’s relentless fixture list.

One weakness is the lack of options in attack. Injury prone Anthony Martial is currently the only out and out striker contracted to the club for next season and the area is a key part of Ten Hag’s thinking on who to bring in over the summer.

Elsewhere on the field, a player linked with the United midfield is Mason Mount, who apparently wants a move up to the North West. However, Chelsea are demanding a high fee for the midfielder who only has one year left on his contract, which could result in no deal being agreed.

A weakness overall of United’s was their form away from home last season, as the Reds did not pick up a single win away against any of the ‘big 6’ teams and struggled when not playing at Old Trafford. In the league, United only lost one league game at home, which came on the opening day of the season against Brighton, as away teams struggled when visiting what seemed to be a fortress for Ten Hag.

Playing in the Champions League will be a huge step up in quality compared to the Europa League, which will underline the manager’s need for players to handle the busy fixture list his side will face. Injuries to players like Casemiro, Marcus Rashford, Lisandro Martinez or Raphael Varane would likely prove costly to United because of the lack of depth in those areas.

Jon Fisher
Jon Fisher
Jon has over 20 years' experience in sports journalism having worked at the Press Association, Goal and Stats Perform, covering three World Cups, an Olympics and numerous other major sporting events.

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