As Erik Ten Hag assumes power at United, much speculation has begun about his plans for certain players next season and what reinforcements he may bring in to help.
Before the 21/22 season got under way, the anticipation of what United could achieve was building as on paper they boasted an attacking force to be reckoned with.
Jadon Sancho was an exciting playmaker who had just joined the club for £73 million. He was brought in as a right-winger but spent most of his game-time on the left.
Plagued by injury and fighting to get in to a stacked attacking line-up, his first season was somewhat underwhelming.
He excelled when it came to dribbling, with the xG from ball progression rating being 88 out of 99, showing he’s a player who knows how to get the ball into dangerous areas. But unfortunately for United he didn’t try to push into the box as often as they needed him to.
Ten Hag’s most successful Ajax sides were heavily influenced by a strong left-footed, right winger.
Firstly, there was Hakim Ziyech who helped Ajax reach the Champions League semi-finals in 2018/19.
As The Athletic noted, “He’d combine with his right-back and number 10 to create an overload on one side of the field before switching the play to the other flank.”
Antony was his other right winger who he’s been working with since 2020. Both players, like Sancho were strong dribblers and as The Athletic pointed out “It’s reasonable to conclude that Ten Hag wishes for his right-sided forwards to operate as the secondary goal creator”.
The Athletic suggests that Antony could be on Ten Hag’s mind as a potential addition to this United side. Having worked with the player before, he would be able to help him adjust to the Premier League more quickly and will be able to play to his strengths.
According to the stats, Antony keeps the ball well, is able to play some accurate long balls and is good at pressing out of possession.
Finishing the season strongly for United was Anthony Elanga, who will be another option for Ten Hag. The youngster became a fan favourite as he seemed hungrier to win the ball back and create chances than his senior counterparts as the team performance tailed off.
His style of play allowed him to run in behind defenders and he will track back and defend but his dribbling ability is lacking compared to the likes of Antony and Sancho and his passing is predictable.
The Athletic identifies other options open to Ten Hag, including West Ham’s Jarrod Bowen, who is wanted by a number of clubs this transfer window.
He finished last season with 18 goals and 13 assists in 51 League and cup appearances. Sources close to the club have told The Athletic that he takes on extra training sessions, proving his work ethic, and that he studies former wingers Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery.
His direct passing into the box, received by United’s attacking talent, could really prove to be crucial in stepping things up next season, plus he wouldn’t need the time to adjust to the league that other potential signings would as he is already familiar with it.
Leeds winger Raphinha was another player The Athletic highlighted as a potential target though he may need some time to find where he fits into United’s current set-up. His progressive passing is what sets him apart from other players in his position. He carried the team last season as they relied on him and him alone to be the attacking force.
Moussa Diaby is a promising finisher who could also slot in nicely to Ten Hag’s style of play. The Athletic notes that the left-footed winger’s ability to cut inside from the right and get his shot away proved effective last season for Bayer Leverkusen whilst he showed versatility delivering good balls into the box from the left side.
The analysis also suggests that Villareal’s Yeremi Pino could be another excellent option for United.
However Ten Hag decides to set up his team and invest, the strength of his wingers will no doubt be a focal point for the Dutchman and those already at United will be keen to impress him in pre-season.