Rebuild or Reload?



With the incoming arrival of Erik ten Hag, Manchester United may be back at the top of the table very soon.

Justin T., Writer

As the English Premier League season ends, the fight for the top of the table is coming down to two teams: Manchester City and Liverpool. As intriguing as the battle for first is, the push for the final spot in Champions League has been surprising and interesting. However, the team most expected to have a place in the Champions League has not been playing very well. Manchester United does not seem like the club they have always been. 

“It’s not anger, it was anger earlier in the season. It’s sadness,” Roy Keane said. “You look at the team today, there wasn’t any heart, no soul, no leaders, they lack real quality. They are so far off.”

In the summer of 2021, the Red Devils signed Critstiano Ronaldo, bringing him back to the club for the first time since 2009. The addition of the all-time great gave United a stronger chance to make a push for the Premier League title and maybe even a Champion’s League title. However, this was not the case. 

“I cannot wait to play at Old Trafford in front of a full stadium and see all the fans again. I’m looking forward to joining up with the team after the international games, and I hope we have a very successful season ahead,” Ronaldo said.

Also, coming into the season, Manchester United searched for another center back to play alongside Harry Maguire. Yet again, United made a huge splash with the signing of Real Madrid center back Raphael Varane. With all the signings piling up, United’s hopes of a title chase climb.

“There is a lot more that I want to achieve in my career and I know I’m joining a squad full of great players who will all have the same determination to win matches and trophies,” Varane said. 

Lastly, and one of the most important signings for United in the past few years, the Red Devils finally acquired Borussia Dortmund’s 22-year-old wonder kid Jadon Sancho. After countless years of making a push for the young winger, United had finally pulled it off. In July, Man U finalized a five-year-deal worth £73m. 

“This is a young and exciting squad and I know, together, we can develop into something special to bring the success that the fans deserve. The chance to join Manchester United is a dream come true and I just cannot wait to perform in the Premier League,” Sancho said upon his signing. 

As the season began, Manchester United was not reaching expectations. Countless losses to the bottom half of the division led to questions surrounding the man in charge, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. After a devastating 4-1 loss to Watford, the end of the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer era had concluded.

“Ole will always be a legend at Manchester United and it is with regret that we have reached this difficult decision,” the team said in a statement. “While the past few weeks have been disappointing, they should not obscure all the work he has done over the past three years to rebuild the foundations for long-term success.”

After the firing of Solskjaer, United pivoted to Ralf Rangnick as the boss for the remainder of the year. Yet again, it seemed like this could be the guy for the Red Devils. However, things did not get much better with Rangnick in charge. Statistically, he has been the worst Manchester United manager in history. With a win percentage of just 47.06%, the intern boss will not return for another season. 

“We were second best. We can only apologize to the supporters. It was a terrible performance and a humiliating defeat,” Rangnick said after a horrific performance against Brighton. 

As the end of the EPL looms, hopes of a Champions League spot for next year is nearly impossible, and the Red Devils have hopefully found their savior, Erik ten Hag. The Ajax manager agreed to a deal to be the manager for United starting next season in hopes of reconstructing the team. 

“In our conversations with Erik leading up to this appointment, we were deeply impressed with his long-term vision for returning Manchester United to the level we want to be competing at, and his drive and determination to achieve that,” the club released in their statement.

As the summer transfer window approaches, things have not started off well for United or really any team in the EPL. On the morning of May 12, the future Premier League champs signed the 21-year-old phenom Erling Haaland signed a deal to join City next season. 

“City was never and will never be a team that wins games because of one player,” Klopp said. “They have a specific way they play and I think Erling will realize that all of a sudden he will score a lot of goals on the second post where he just puts a foot on it. He will love that.”

After the Haaland signing, the pressure is on for Erik ten Hag to improve the roster. With the possible departures of Ronaldo and Paul Pogba, the new manager is already looking into his possibilities to improve the team. According to most sources, ten Hag has been in contact with Barcelona’s Xavi in hopes to sign star midfielder Frenkie de Jong. 

“I don’t necessarily have one position where I really want to play, but I think I’m at my best if I’m in a role where I can often touch the ball,” de Jong said when asked about a possible transfer.

While the team needs improvements in certain positions, some players did not play up to their potential. The main player fans criticized all year was center back Harry Maguire. Maguire joined the club in 2019 from Leicester City and had a great first two years. On top of that, Maguire performed well in England’s pursuit to win the World Cup. Countless games of poor effort and bad performances left United fans questioning if the money is worth it. Coming into the season, fans across the world thought the duo of Maguire and Varane would be lethal. But, while Varane played well, Maguire was horrendous.

“I wouldn’t be playing every game for Manchester United in the starting eleven if I’d been playing bad every game. There’s a reason why both managers have put me in the starting eleven every game, Maguire said after receiving tons of criticism.

With the arrival of Erik ten Hag, United fans have some hope for the future. However, he faces the big decision of whether Manchester United needs a rebuild or reload. Whichever it is, this will be the most challenging situation Erik ten Hag has ever faced.