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A Summer of Huge Significance for Man United

Updated: Jul 30, 2023

This summer may prove the most significant in Manchester United's modern history, with several crucial items on the agenda in these weeks and months ahead.

With the 2022/23 season officially in the past, Manchester United can now look forward although the club's short-term future remains unclear.

Erik ten Hag has produced clear signs of progress in his first year in charge and he needs to be given significant backing as well as competence and diligence in the upcoming transfer market.

The Red Devils finished third in the Premier League with 75 points, qualifying for the UEFA Champions League, and reached two cup finals.

Sir Alex Ferguson and Erik ten Hag embrace at Old Trafford
Sir Alex Ferguson and Erik ten Hag embrace at Old Trafford, October 2022. (Photo: Manchester United via Getty Images)

United lost out to local rivals Manchester City in the FA Cup final as the Citizens took a major step towards completing an elusive treble.

It was clear to see the disparity between City and United regarding strength in depth and, as expected, the Sky Blues were the better team at Wembley.

His side trailed for the majority of the contest and Ten Hag had called over Alejandro Garnacho on the hour mark. The 18-year-old posed a genuine threat to City's defensive unit and he came close to scoring 10 minutes after his introduction on Saturday.

With a general lack of quality on the bench, Ten Hag had no choice but to throw on compatriot Wout Weghorst who has likely played his last game for Man United.

Pep Guardiola, on the other hand, introduced Phil Foden after 75 minutes and also had Riyad Mahrez and Julian Alvarez on standby if needed.

Except for Kevin de Bruyne, Man City's entire first-team squad was purchased under the jurisdiction of the current manager. Guardiola has masterminded the evolution of modern-day Man City and he is on the cusp of winning his first European title since 2011.

Man City have won the Premier League five times under Pep Guardiola
Man City have won the Premier League five times under Guardiola. (Photo: Visionhaus/Getty Images)

Ten Hag ought to be given the same levels of power and authority as Guardiola across town, if the Dutchman is to also leave his mark on a Manchester club.

The extent of this authority will all come down to the small matter of who will be calling the shots at Old Trafford next season. The continued uncertainty surrounding the ownership of the club is without question the most pressing issue of all.

There have been fresh rumblings this week regarding the two primary bidders in contention to succeed the Glazer family as owners of the globally-recognised institution.

It was reported that Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad has launched a fifth proposal, believed to be in the region of $6,5billion USD, as the chair of Qatar Islamic Bank (QIB) looks to ward off the INEOS bid led by Sir Jim Ratcliffe.

Reports have also suggested Ratcliffe and his delegation have entered the final stages of negotiations with the Raine Group – the New York-based merchant bank handling the sale of Manchester United Football Club.

Once the ownership situation hasbeen settled, a great deal of work is needed in revamping the men's senior squad.

Perhaps more crucial than new signings would be sales. United have a poor reputation in selling players, let alone for profit, but the club will need to offload a number of first-team members to reduce the wage bill and raise additional funds for new signings.

David De Gea is out of contract at the end of this month and an official agreement is yet to be signed off for the Spanish goalkeeper to extend his stay, on lesser terms, at Old Trafford.

Despite winning the Premier League Golden Glove, De Gea is often prone to a goalkeeping mistake and he has an alarming inability with the ball at his feet.

De Gea stood and watched as Ilkay Gündogan gave Man City the lead just 12 seconds into the FA Cup final, before poor footwork by the United goalie allowed for the same player to restore the Citizens' lead six minutes into the second half.

The FA Cup final saw Guardiola field his second-choice keeper, Stefan Ortega who looked far more comfortable on the ball than his opposite number in the United net.

Man United have a less progressive goalkeeper than any of their direct rivals, something Ten Hag is actively looking to address.

De Gea understands he is not the ideal fit for a team of Ten Hag's. Were he to extend his stay in M16, there would be no assurances of the 31-year-old being his manager's first choice in goal.

Dean Henderson appears to be heading for the exit doors on a permanent move after spending the season on loan at Nottingham Forest. The 25-year-old goalie is currently sidelined and recovering from a thigh problem, though he expects to be ready in time for the start of the 2023/24 campaign.

Forest appear to be in pole position to sign Henderson on a long-term deal, though Tottenham are also on the lookout for a new keeper.

Harry Maguire has been anything but a prominent figure in Ten Hag's first season and it could be in the best interests of both parties to go their separate ways in the summer.

The club captain did not feature in the FA Cup final, making it quite clear of Ten Hag's stance on the England international who has two years remaining on his contract at Old Trafford.

Harry Maguire is a peripheral figure at Man United
Maguire is a peripheral figure at United. (Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images)

Aaron Wan-Bissaka's stocks have gained following a resurgence in form and a series of impressive showings during the second portion of this segmented domestic season.

He has just one year left on his deal while fellow right-back Diogo Dalot recently penned a new contract until 2028, leaving the door open for Wan-Bissaka to secure a transfer away.

Eric Bailly and Alex Telles are due to return from loan spells at Marseille and Sevilla, respectively, and the pair are likely to make permanent exits from Old Trafford with just a year remaining on both their contracts.

Brandon Williams is another out of contract in 2024 and, having racked up just four minutes of first-team football in the season gone-by, United will struggle to earn an eight-figure fee for the academy graduate.

In midfield, Fred is in danger of being offloaded with his contract also running out in 12 months' time. Additions in the centre of the pitch may see the Brazilian struggle for minutes next term and a new beginning could be on the cards.

Scott McTominay, contracted to United until 2025, has been courted by Newcastle Utd while Everton are also reportedly interested in the 39-cap Scotland international.

Donny van de Beek has been an understudy for the most part of his three years in Manchester and, currently recovering from a knee injury, the 26-year-old might fancy a return to Ajax to jumpstart his career.

Anthony Martial's time at the club is surely coming to an end, though it may prove tough to find a suitor willing to pay his hefty salary. Now 26, the French forward is about to enter the final year of his deal which sees him earn a weekly wage of around £250,000.

Martial joined the club as a teenager in 2015, in a deal worth £50million, and almost a decade later it is fair to say he didn't live up to the expectations of a Man United striker.

Anthony Elanga, 21, could also be subject to a move away in his bid to gain more first-team football.

Anthony Martial
Martial has been largely underwhelming for Man Utd. (Photo: Manchester United via Getty Images)

The future of Mason Greenwood remains in doubt almost 18 months after he was arrested in January 2022. Charged with attempted rape, controlling and coercive behaviour and assault occasioning actual bodily harm, Greenwood was rearrested in October after reportedly breaching his bail conditions.

In February this year the Crown Prosecution Service dropped the case, following which United launched its own internal investigation into the situation surrounding Greenwood and the victim. A verdict is expected soon as the club's executives determine the most appropriate course of action.

The 21-year-old has not made an appearance for Man United since January last year, days before his initial arrest, and he has been suspended by the club throughout the ongoing legal process.

Mason Greenwood with Man United in January 2022
Greenwood with Man United in January 2022. (Photo: Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

With regard to new arrivals, Ten Hag is looking to recruit at least one new attacker with a centre-forward topping the list of priorities this summer.

Harry Kane is a primary target of United's as he enters the final year of his six-year contract at Tottenham. The England skipper scored 30 league goals this past campaign and, on average, he has struck 23 times per season since 2014/15.

United face strong competition for Kane's signature, with Real Madrid also in the market for a new striker following Karim Benzema's departure from the Spanish capital to Saudi Arabia this week.

With Spurs not competing in any European football next term, perhaps chairman Daniel Levy might be inclined to suppress his stubbornness and sell Kane, 29, to allow for adequate funding for new manager Ange Postecoglou.

Although the England skipper could be tempted by the prestige and allure of Real Madrid, he would ideally prefer to remain in the Premier League with Alan Shearer's goal record in his sights. Kane is 47 shy of Shearer's tally of 260, though Levy is reluctant to sell the striker to a Premier League rival.

Should Kane remain in North London beyond the August 31 deadline, Spurs would likely lose him on a free transfer in a year's time.

According to reports, United are considering a move for Mason Mount from Chelsea. The England international is nearing the final 12 months of his contract at Stamford Bridge and is open to a fresh start away from his boyhood club.

The Blues are set to embark on a new era under Mauricio Pochettino and several players are expeted to depart from Chelsea in the forthcoming transfer window. Mount is poised to switch London blue for Manchester red although there remains a considerable gap between the clubs' respective valuations of the player.

Chelsea are seeking a £70million fee for their homegrown talent while United are only prepared to offer in the region of £40million at this time. Football director John Murtough ought to retain a tenacious stance if United are to get satisfactory value out of any deal for Mount.

Mason Mount with Chelsea
Mount has fallen out of favour at Chelsea. (Robin Jones/Getty Images)

Too many a time in recent years have United been taken for ransom when negotiating transfer fees and not often enough have they walked away and turned their attention to alternative, less expensive targets.

Murtough and his recruitment team spent most of last summer pursuing Frenkie de Jong before eventually looking elsewhere which resulted in United acquiring Casemiro in August.

With uncertainties over the club ownership and effectively the transfer kitty, Ten Hag ought to prioritise a new striker and midfielder before focusing on other targets such as an additional striker, goalkeeper and right-back.

Considering United may be limited to a tight budget, Marcel Sabitzer could emerge as a candidate for a midfield rotation role.

The Austria midfielder and captain appeared 22 times for United following his January loan move from Bayern Munich but he is currently on the treatment table after sustaining a knee injury last month.

Erik ten Hag and Marcel Sabitzer
Ten Hag and Sabitzer. (Photo: AFP via Getty Images)

United are not known to be proactive in the summer market but early movements this time around are a cause for optimism that the recruitment team may yet endure a successful window.

The productivity (or lack thereof) over the next 12 weeks will be substantial in how the Red Devils get on in the 2023/24 season and beyond.

(Cover image: Danehouse/Getty Images)

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