Man United seal Champions League Return
Erik ten Hag has delivered Champions League football to Old Trafford at the first time of asking.
Following a comprehensive victory over Chelsea, Manchester United are guaranteed to finish in the top four of the Premier League with a game to spare. Participation in the 2023/24 UEFA Champions League will significantly boost the club's finances ahead of what is bound to be a busy summer all round.
In what was the 60th match for their men's senior team this season, Man United imposed their authority over a Chelsea team – and wider club – in utter disarray. The 4-1 win sees the Red Devils move into third place and secure qualification for the Champions League.
With a return to Europe's elite already confirmed, United will turn their attention to the FA Cup final, although they ought to first fulfil their league obligations with a final-day meeting with Fulham.
Erik ten Hag will be afforded the opportunity to rest some of his most important players, several of whom have carried out a heavy workload across a particularly segmented season. Bruno Fernandes, for example, has played in all but three of the team's 60 games this term, while Marcus Rashford has played 54 times for United since the start of the 2022/23 season.
Three points against Fulham would assure United of a third-place finish behind only champions Manchester City and runners-up Arsenal.
Needless to say, Ten Hag will remain determined for his team come out on top in their final match of the league campaign, though the United manager may already have one eye on the FA Cup final six days later.
Against what is arguably the strongest team in club football at present, capturing FA Cup glory would certainly be a considerable achievement in Ten Hag's first season in the job.
The Dutchman has reiterated he is only concerned with his own team and is unfazed about others around United, however spoiling a potential treble for their cross-town rivals will serve as extra motivation for his players leading up to this auspicious occasion.
In what will be a first all-Manchester affair in the FA Cup final, Ten Hag is due to meet his ex-mentor Pep Guardiola at Wembley.
Man City are Premier League champions for a fifth time in six years and Guardiola's men are also set to contest the Champions League final against Inter Milan, seven days after the FA Cup
Key to victory over the Citizens back in January, Alejandro Garnacho could once again play a vital role in United's bid to topple their local foes.
Garnacho's pace and directness are two of his greatest attributes and Ten Hag must evaluate whether the Argentine is deserving of a spot in the starting XI at Wembley.
Despite the emergence of the prodigious 18-year-old, alarm bells will be ringing in that Rashford (30) and Fernandes (12) are the only Man United players in double figures for goals this season.
Both individuals are in the running to be named the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year, however Rashford is tipped to claim the accolade in what has been the most productive goal-scoring season of his career. The club's awards ceremony is to take place on Monday, 29 May, at Old Trafford.
High-profile forwards Jadon Sancho and Antony have arguably underperformed in front of goal but, still aged 23 and 22 respectively, they will be determined to improve on their goal returns from next term.
Ten Hag will be eager for more goals stemming from his wider players, with a new right-back believed to be on the manager's shortlist in the summer transfer window.
United will also be in the market for a new centre-forward which may account for a substantial portion of the transfer kitty.
Ten Hag himself is yet to learn the true value of his budget, with almost no word on who will own the club come the start of next season.
Final bids were due on April 28 and, now four weeks later, it remains unknown whether the Glazer family and the Raine Group – the merchant bank handling the sale – are leaning more toward Oldham-born Sir Jim Ratcliffe or Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad of Qatar.
The latter reportedly launched a fresh proposal last week in an attempt to blow the Ratcliffe-led INEOS bid out of the water and seal the complete takeover. The Qatar-based bid is reported to be for a 100 per cent stake, while INEOS are said to be keen on a stake of slightly more than 50 percent.
Ultimately, whoever gains control of the club, it will take a world-record bid for a sporting franchise in order for brothers Joel and Avram Glazer to finally cash in – 18 years after their late father's leveraged takeover of the club.