January 29, 2023

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What Have We Learned From Manchester United’s First Four Games Under Erik Ten Hag?

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Four games played in Australia for Erik Ten Hag’s Manchester United side has seen them go unbeaten.

Three comprehensive wins and one draw to Aston Villa earlier today will appease Ten Hag and the fanbase going into two more pre-season fixtures. The Dutch coach knows there is plenty more to learn and conquer, but it has been a positive start to proceedings as Manchester United manager.

Here are three talking points from the opening games:

Anthony Martial’s Resurgence

Many had written off a return for Anthony Martial at Manchester United since his loan move at Sevilla CF last January ended in disappointment.

It looked as if Martial would be moved on this summer with potential suitors around Europe interested in acquiring the Frenchman on loan.

With three goals in four appearances so far during pre-season, it is clear that Martial is enjoying life under Ten Hag. Multiple reports have backed this claim up, with sources indicating that the forward is happier with the training and wanting to become the Dutch coach’s preferred number nine.

With the ongoing issues surrounding Cristiano Ronaldo, it is increasingly likely that Martial is named in the starting line up on opening day against Brighton & Hove Albion.

Manchester United fans have a soft spot for Martial and will be hoping that he can continue moving in the right direction with his early performances and nail down that position for the season ahead.

Manchester United’s Front Three

There have been question marks over Manchester United’s attacking options heading into this forthcoming season, but as showcased so far, the front three have been working with one another.

The fluidity between Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Martial is fantastic to see, which bodes well going into the new campaign that the front three share an understanding between one another.

Whether it is tracking each other’s runs in the final third and creating space for teammates, or pressing in unison to close down the opposition, there has been a clear showing of synergy between them – which is a huge step in the right direction from last season.

The Red Devils look in good shape in the final third and will be wanting to back it up when the season gets underway.

Central Midfield Still The Priority

The pursuit of FC Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong has been public and there for all to see this summer.

Manchester United are in desperate need of midfield options with the departures of Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba this summer.

Towards the end of the Aston Villa game, Alex Telles was deployed as a defensive midfielder due to lack of options and coverage. It was a clear statement from Ten Hag to show the board that he will be running dry throughout the season if reinforcements are not brought in swiftly.

It is clear that the Dutch coach wants compatriot de Jong to join him at Old Trafford, but the £17 million deferred wages that the midfielder is owed does not appear to be any closer in order to sanction a transfer.

Barcelona want de Jong to move on and have agreed a deal in principle with Manchester United, but the Netherlands international will not give the green light on the operation until what he is due is paid up and in full.

At some point, should de Jong accept the wage cut and remain in Spain this season, Manchester United need to move on and go down their list of options. It might not be Ten Hag’s first choice, but midfield reinforcements are absolutely paramount.

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