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New Season Beckons for Man United

It has been more than 250 days (almost nine months) since the club announced it would be seeking 'strategic alternatives', yet it remains unclear what the near future holds for Manchester United.

Despite having aimed for a sale to go through during the first quarter of the year, it looks as though any takeover would occur in the final months of 2023 at the very earliest. The complete lack of communication from the Glazer family has irked Man United fans to the core.

The club is set to remain under the Glazers' stewardship for the start of the 2023/24 season and as the prospective takeover process drags on, the Florida-based family may yet remain in charge at Old Trafford heading into the new year.

The Glazer siblings are mulling over whether to cash in or stay put, 18 years after their father Malcolm completed a leveraged buyout of the club.

There have been reports of a split amongst the six siblings, with Joel and Avram seemingly more attached to the bottomless revenue generated by Manchester United; meanwhile Darcie, Bryan, Edward and Kevin are believed to be more open to selling their shares and parting ways with the club.

£790m was the value of the takeover by the Glazers in 2005 and now Joel and Avram, co-chairmen of the club, are believed to be holding out for a bid in the region of their £6bn ($7,5bn) valuation, which would comfortably be a world-record sum for a sporting institution.

Fellow Premier League side Chelsea fetched £4,25bn ($5bn) in 2022, when a consortium led by Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital completed a takeover from Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich.

To date, the most expensive takeover of a sports franchise was for NFL side Washington Commanders in July 2023, in a deal worth $6bn.

The two known bidders for Manchester United – Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad (NineTwo Foundation) and Sir Jim Ratcliffe (INEOS) – have each submitted a number of bids to gain control of the club.

As per reports, Sheikh Jassim's £5bn ($6,3bn) proposal is for a full takeover. Ratcliffe's bid, meanwhile, is said to be worth a similar value albeit for a 69 per cent stake – equivalent to the number of shares owned by the Glazers.

Erik ten Hag
Erik ten Hag. (via Manchester United on Facebook)

Despite the uncertainty surrounding the club's immediate future hanging over the head of Erik ten Hag, the United manager has been financially backed in the ongoing transfer market with three new signings before their league campaign gets underway on August 14.

Mason Mount was the first new arrival ahead of pre-season, joining United from Chelsea in a deal worth £55m upfront. The 24-year-old agreed terms on a deal until 2028, with the option for an extra year, and he completed his switch from London to Manchester on July 5.

Ten Hag is a known admirer of the 36-cap England international. He first took notice of Mount during the midfielder's loan spell at Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem in the 2017/18 season.

Ten Hag was impressed with the talent and potential of the then-teenager and he grasped at the chance to work with him when the opportunity arose. Mount strengthens United's options in the middle of the park with his creativity on the ball and intensity off it. He also injects additional quality at dead-ball situations.

André Onana was next through the doors, sealing a £45m transfer from Inter Milan. The Cameroon goalkeeper completed the move on July 20, a day after his new teammates jetted off for their pre-season tour of the United States.

Not only will Onana, 27, revolutionise the goalkeeping department at United, but he will go as far as setting the tempo for the entire team. Ten Hag is keen for his side to increasingly build up from the back with a keeper adept with the ball at his feet, inviting pressure and finding teammates in open space.

Of course, Ten Hag and Onana are most familiar with one another following their four-and-a-half year spell together in Amsterdam. The ex-Ajax goalie has penned a deal running until 2028.

Most recently, United added a much-needed striker to its ranks with the arrival of Rasmus Hojlund from Italian side Atalanta.

Hojlund netted just nine times in Serie A last season but his standout attributes – namely his rapid pace, strength, goal threat, heaps of self-confidence, presence in the penalty area and his work-rate out of possession – have convinced Ten Hag to invest £65m upfront for the youthful attacker. The deal could rise to £73m with add-ons.

This is a particular hefty fee given the attacker's tender age and limited experience at the highest level. The 20-year-old has yet to play Champions League football and is poised to make his debut in Europe's premier club competition with the Red Devils.

There is a very limited pool of up-and-coming strikers ready to take that next step, hence the market is far more favourable towards sellers than buyers. This is the first time United have signed a striker aged under 25 since Romelu Lukaku in 2017.

Hojlund has put pen to paper on a five-year deal, with the option for a further 12 months. The six-cap Denmark international is still a raw talent, with bags of potential to unearth, and countryman Christian Eriksen will undoubtedly play a key role in Hojlund settling in at Old Trafford.

A new central attacker was of essence coming into the new season. United struggled for goals last term relative to the teams around them. The Reds found the net 58 times in the 2022/23 Premier League; this was the lowest tally of teams to finish in the top six, and just seven goals more than relegated Leicester City.

2022/23 Premier League table
2022/23 Premier League table

When asked if his charges are better off than they were ahead of Ten Hag’s debut season at Old Trafford, the United boss responded: “I think the difference is, with reference to last year, now we have [laid] the foundation with this squad.”

United will need to shift some players out before making any further signings before the transfer window slams shut on August 31.

Midfielders Donny van de Beek and Fred could be heading for the exit doors, with Morocco international Sofyan Amrabat reported to be high up on United's wishlist.

Dean Henderson has been linked with a permanent switch to Nottingham Forest.

Academy graduate Anthony Elanga was sold to Forest, for a £15million fee, while Alex Telles completed a move to Al Nassr in Saudi Arabia, reuniting with Cristiano Ronaldo.

Questions linger about the future of Harry Maguire after he was removed as captain by Ten Hag ahead of the new season.

Maguire, 29, featured only 16 times in the league last term and he was the first to inform the public last month that he was no longer skipper of the club. United turned down a £20m bid from West Ham Utd for the England defender.

Maguire is under contract until 2025 and his weekly wage – in the region of £200,000 – remains a stumbling block which could ward off suitors.

Also on West Ham's radar is Scott McTominay, though the Hammers have yet to open formal talks for the 26-year-old. Ten Hag might veto any potential deal for the Scotland midfielder following a knee injury sustained by teenage prospect Kobbie Mainoo in pre-season.

Moreover, United have tied down several first-team players to new long-term deals, most notably Marcus Rashford who last month committed his future to the Red Devils until 2028, with a plus-one option.

Rashford was United's top scorer last season with 30 goals in all competitions. He deservedly becomes the team's highest earner following David de Gea's departure. Convincing Rashford to extend his stay with his boyhood club adds another string onto Ten Hag's bow.

In April this year, Luke Shaw penned a new four-year contract and the following month Diogo Dalot agreed fresh terms until 2028.

A decision is yet to be made regarding the future of Mason Greenwood, though an announcement is thought to be imminent.

In January 2022, Greenwood was arrested on charges of attempted rape, controlling and coercive behaviour, and assault occasioning actual bodily harm. He was rearrested in October after reportedly breaching his bail conditions.

In February this year, the Crown Prosecution Service dropped the case. United launched its own internal investigation and the 21-year-old remains suspended by the club since his initial arrest more than 18 months ago.

When questioned about Greenwood during United's recent pre-season tour, Ten Hag said: “Of course, I shared my opinions but it's a club decision and we all have to accept that.”

(Cover Image: Manchester United on Facebook)


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