Updated: Oct 3
Erik ten Hag has had a mixed start to his regime as Manchester United manager and he is slowly but surely coming to grips with life in the Old Trafford hot seat.
With the end of the transfer window past Thursday evening, Man United manager Erik ten Hag would presumably be moderately satisfied with the club’s efforts in the market.
Despite missing out on Ten Hag’s primary transfer target in Frenkie de Jong, United made six signings which saw the club splash out more than £200million for the first time in a single window.
Tyrell Malacia became the first acquisition of the Ten Hag era, signing from Feyenoord for a fee of £12million. As with most of his new additions, Ten Hag is familiar with compatriot Malacia. The left-back played five times against Ten Hag's Ajax side, most recently in a 3-2 win for the Amsterdammers in March this year.
Malacia was handed his senior international debut by ex-United boss Louis van Gaal in September 2021, in a World Cup qualifier against Montenegro, and he has earned five caps for the Netherlands. The 23-year-old replaced Luke Shaw at half-time during United's disastrous trip to Brentford last month and he made his first start the following game against Liverpool, gaining plaudits for his performance up against Mohamed Salah.
Two weeks after Malacia signed, United announced the arrival of Christian Eriksen. The 30-year-old needs no introduction having represented some of the finest clubs across Europe, namely Tottenham, Ajax and Inter Milan. The Danish international spent the second half of last season at Brentford following rehabilitation for the cardiac arrest he suffered at last summer's European Championships.
Upon signing for United many presumed Eriksen would mainly provide cover for Bruno Fernandes but so far he has started in all of the first five games of the season. Eriksen played the full 90 minutes against Brighton as well as in the last two matches at Southampton and Leicester City, and he was subbed off in the final five minutes versus Brentford and Liverpool.
Eriksen is yet to register his first goal in red but his exquisite range of passing and prowess in dead-ball situations makes him a splendid signing, even more so being a free transfer.
The next signing through the door was Lisandro Martínez and there are few more familiar with the player than Ten Hag is. Martínez joined Ajax in 2019 and went on to play 120 times for the Dutch outfit, with all of his appearances coming under Ten Hag’s jurisdiction.
Martínez played the full 90 minutes in four of United's opening five games and he has already showcased the courage, determination and fighting spirit associated with a classic Man United player. He and Raphael Varane have struck up a well-rounded pairing and the two central defenders complement one another extremely well, offering everything from strength and pace to defensive instinct and aerial dominance between them.
Martínez penned a deal running until 2027, with the option for a further year, and at just 24 years-old he could become a mainstay in United's backline for years to come. Rio Ferdinand has likened the tenacity of Martínez to that of ex-United defender Gabriel Heinze, who also hails from Argentina.
One of United’s long-standing priorities has been to reinforce its midfield and after years of chopping and changing in the engine room, the club completed the signing of Casemiro from Real Madrid. The transfer cost £60million plus £10million in add-ons and the deal was struck exactly 100 days after United had made initial contact with Barcelona regarding De Jong.
Casemiro boasts an impeccable CV and he brings with him bucket loads of experience at the highest level. The 30-year-old won 18 trophies, including five Champions League titles, during his time with Real Madrid and he has also racked up 63 caps for Brazil, winners of the 2019 Copa America.
Casemiro has so far made substitute cameos in a United shirt, putting in composed displays on each occasion, and it is only a matter of time before he stakes his claim as a permanent fixture in the starting XI.
United added another to its South American contingent with the signing of Antony finalised on transfer deadline day. The 22-year-old joined from Ajax for an eye-watering fee of £85million, reuniting with Ten Hag and Martínez in Manchester.
Antony links up with national teammates Casemiro and Fred, while also sharing a mother tongue with the Portuguese trio of Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes and Diogo Dalot. Antony is a left-footed right winger who will balance out United's lopsided attack whilst also offering pace, flair and aggression in abundance.
Casemiro is poised for a first start after making two substitute appearances at Southampton and Leicester, while Antony is likely to be involved in a matchday squad for the first time since completing his move on Thursday, but being involved from the first whistle is a far cry.
United's sixth and final signing of the summer came in the form of goalkeeper Martin Dúbravka, who joined on loan from Newcastle Utd. The Slovakian stopper joined the Magpies from Sparta Prague in 2018 but his position on Tyneside has come under threat following the arrival of Nick Pope this summer.
Dúbravka, 33, has amassed 127 Premier League appearances and he will offer healthy competition for the under fire David De Gea. He is likely to feature in United's Europa League campaign, beginning Thursday against Real Sociedad, as well as domestic cup matches later in the season.
The option to buy Dúbravka for £6million will become obligatory if he plays a fixed number of Premier League games this season.
United's summer spending eclipsed the £200-million mark for the first time in the club's history and now Ten Hag has at least two senior candidates for all 11 positions, in addition to a handful of youth prospects looking to force their way into the first-team fold.
There has been no shortage of speculation surrounding Cristiano Ronaldo this summer and the 37-year-old represents one of Ten Hag’s most significant obstacles since the Dutchman took charge ahead of the current season.
Ronaldo missed United’s pre-season tour of Thailand and Australia, citing ‘family reasons’, and his only minutes prior to the start of this term came in the Red Devils’ final pre-season outing against Rayo Vallecano at Old Trafford on July 31st.
United’s league campaign got off to a rocky start with back-to-back losses and Ronaldo was a second-half substitute against Brighton before he played the full 90 minutes in the 4-0 defeat at Brentford.
Ten Hag dropped Ronaldo to the bench for the visit of Liverpool as United ran out 2-1 winners over their bitter rivals and the Portuguese appeared for the final five minutes of an electric evening at Old Trafford.
Ronaldo retained his spot on the bench in each of United’s two most recent outings at Southampton and Leicester, and there is every chance he will remain amongst the substitutes when United host Arsenal on Sunday.
At the same time, there is a strong possibility that four – or even all five – of Ten Hag’s permanent signings could make the starting XI when the Gunners travel to M16.
Mikel Arteta's side are top of the league with five consecutive wins and this is set to be Ten Hag’s sternest test yet as United boss.