For the ninth year in a row, this summer promises to be the biggest and most important one for Manchester United in some time, with Erik Ten Hag tasked with rebuilding the Red Devils back to their former glory.
Unlike previous projects under Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunna Solskjaer, there’s a sense that things could actually be different this time for United, with Ten Hag set to be awarded time and backing from the board to make some huge changes at the club.
Indeed, turning this sinking ship around will be no easy feat and something that could take years to do, but here are five obvious decisions United can do this summer to give Ten Hag the platform to succeed in the coming seasons with the Red Devils.
Clear out the deadwood regardless of the cost
The first and biggest issue United must address is the makeup of the squad. Whilst the likes of Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard and Edinson Cavani are all set to leave at the end of their contracts, Ten Hag simply has to get more out of the door.
It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that United could sell as many as ten players this summer, with Dean Henderson, Eric Bailly and Antony Martial just a few names already being linked with moves away from Old Trafford in the transfer window.
Whilst the decision to offload so many players could cause problems later down the line if injuries are to occur, Ten Hag keeping those who want to play for the club will result in a stronger squad harmony and could work wonders in the long-term.
Give Erik Ten Hag time to implement a clear philosophy
One thing United have been guilty of over the years is simply not giving their managers the right amount of time to implement a clear path to how they should be playing football, handling transfers in the window and even who should be promoted from the youth academy.
And under Ten Hag, this simply has to change. After all, the Dutch manager has proven with spectacular results for Ajax what he can do when given time to do his job and when having access to a well-oiled machine, and time is all United can give the incoming coach if he is to succeed.
Sign players that believe in the project who can work as a collective
Arsenal’s transfer business last summer, at the time, was laughed at by rival fans and pundits after the Gunners spent the most out of any side in Europe and seemingly didn’t improve the squad in any capacity.
Yet nine months on from that window, and every transfer Mikel Arteta made has worked like a charm, with the Gunners now on the brink of UEFA Champions League qualification and a Premier League finish over United.
And how did this work? Because Arsenal targeted players who were sold on the project and were willing to work for Arteta regardless of if they played every single game. And for United, their transfer policy this summer must follow a similar path.
Big-name signings are great, but what good are they when they are too focused on themselves rather than providing what Ten Hag wants and what is best for the team? For the Red Devils to succeed, they must be looking at the collective when it comes to summer signings, and not the individual.
Appoint a new captain and let Harry Maguire take a backseat
If there was one player who summed up United’s season as a whole, it will have to be Harry Maguire and how the Red Devils’ captain saw his reputation take a damming hit over the campaign following poor performance after poor performance.
And this summer, with a new manager coming in to overhaul the club, giving Maguire a backseat in the squad and appointing a new captain could be one of the smartest decisions Ten Hag makes in his first few months at United.
Whilst Maguire is a leader on the pitch and a huge presence in the dressing room, the weight of the armband at a club like United is simply too much for the England international for now, and handing the responsibility to David De Gea or Cristiano Ronaldo could be a win-win for all parties involved.
Rebuild connections with fans and supporter groups
Trust between fans and United as a club has never been lower. Yet with every new era comes the chance to start from scratch, and the Red Devils as an institution can win some profound backing from supporters if they are to rebuild bridges this summer.
Performances and success on the pitch will naturally lead to renewed trust, yet for those who go to games week-in week-out, increased efforts in the Manchester community and consistent dialogue with supporter groups will go a long way in forming connections between fans and the team that have been lost for years, and this will be massive for Ten Hag if United can get it right.