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Manchester United’s season preview – The Athletic

by David O'Neill

Manchester United’s curtain raiser against Brighton and Hove Albion edges closes and the Athletic have given their verdict on what to watch out for around Old Trafford this season.

In their season preview, the publication’s Man United correspondents first ask what a good season would actually look like.

For Carl Anka, a fourth-place finish and a trophy, also known as the “Andy Mitten standard,” should be the target.
He also suggested that Erik ten Hag may benefit from taking a leaf out of former United manager Jose Mourinho’s playbook.

During the Portuguese coach’s first season, a difficult domestic campaign was offset by the club’s triumph in the Europa League.

That trophy assured Champions League qualification regardless of Mourinho’s 6th place Premier League finish.
For both Anka and Dan Sheldon, United’s entry into the 2023/2024 edition of Europe’s elite competition must be assured – by whatever method – as a necessity.

Sheldon makes note of the 13-point gap between the Red Devils and fourth-place Tottenham Hotspur last term, suggesting that the focus should be on Champions League qualification via a strong league showing.

Both writers point to the side’s positive preseason showings in using the ball well and pressing aggressively, and intimate that the players failing to carry this into competitive fixtures could be the new manager’s undoing.

I have written at length about what Ten Hag will be aiming to get from his players on the pitch in the United Matchday Magazine, and he will certainly be hoping his principles are in place for Brighton’s visit.

There is mention also of Cristiano Ronaldo, whose lack of suitors and surly attitude could, as The People’s Person have previously argued, make him something of an albatross this season.

While the club are reportedly determined to back the new boss, how the Ronaldo situation and the pursuit of Frenkie de Jong are handled could be major factors at boardroom level.

Laurie Whitwell also weighed in for the Athletic piece, suggesting that Bruno Fernandes could be the greatest beneficiary of a manager known for clear and precise instruction.

The playmaker’s preseason form has shown signs that he has made efforts to cut the wastefulness out of his game, while still retaining his ability to split defences apart with his trademark passing.

For Anka, it’s Jadon Sancho we can expect big things from, and with three goals in four games this summer, it would be hard to disagree.

Naturally, there is also much discussed over the players who have a point to prove this season following last term’s dismal showing.

With certain transfer targets looking out of reach, Ten Hag may well live or die by how he manages to recover the fortunes of Harry Maguire and Marcus Rashford.

The Athletic piece ends with an estimation of what United’s strongest team might look like this season, although they have assumed that no additional reinforcements will be made:

At The People’s Person however, we can dare to dream, so here’s ours:

With Ten Hag demonstrating his emphasis on controlling games and playing attacking football in preseason, we believe he will look to dominate matching with the passing ability of his midfield, relying on collective pressing intensity in defence.

And while we certainly hope Anthony Martial will continue his redemption arc when it matter most, an alternative striker with a completely different interpretation of the centre-forward role will be a huge asset in breaking down defences.

With or without further reinforcements, we can at the very least expect better football this time around.

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