Six steps to rebuild Manchester United: Is that all? The Red Devils have a huge task to get back on track this summer after the club’s worst ever Premier League season.
New manager Erik ten Hag has started work already, and there is no time to waste. Nobody at United will be happy after finishing 35 points behind rivals City last season.
Before even thinking about points totals next season, finishing positions, and runs at silverware, Ten Hag and United need to lay the foundations.
This summer is an essential part of the puzzle, to lay the groundwork for potential improvement. Here are six steps to rebuild United must take, with one already complete…
Step one: Release the expiring contracts: Complete
Before building back up, you have to tear it down first. United are taking this strategy on board, releasing a number of veterans clogging up squad space and the wage bill.
Nemanja Matic, Juan Mata, Paul Pogba, Lee Grant, Edinson Cavani, Jesse Lingard have all been released, six players with an average age of 33. This cuts an estimated £44.8 million off the annual wage bill.
It would have been so easy for United to get this wrong. To get suckered into overpaying to keep Pogba, to try to convince Matic to stay due to a lack of other options, or to get sentimental and try to keep Mata around.
United have made the right call with all six players, and they won’t be the only ones departing this summer. It shows the intent, to start ripping up the squad after an unacceptable season.
Step two: Use pre-season for talent assessment
Erik ten Hag will have an idea already of the players he wants to use next season. But several stars and younger talents may also be borderline.
The new manager has five pre-season games to take a look at his squad, and see who is and who is not up to scratch.
Only by seeing this first hand, with his own instructions deployed, can Ten Hag accurately make assessments of who will and will not be of use next season.
Ten Hag may find certain players are talented, but lack the aptitude and discipline to fit into his style of play and carry out instructions. Others may surprise him in a positive way.
July will be an important month, allowing Ten Hag to make an assessment, before the season kicks off on August 6.
Step three: Sell unwanted players and secure loan deals for young prospects
While Ten Hag is assessing who will and won’t be part of his squad, efforts will be being made to ship out the players he does not believe in.
Other players who wish to move on for the sake of their careers, like Eric Bailly, will also be ushered out the door.
One of the most important aspects will be finding useful loan deals for young players on the fringes. There is a talented group, Alvaro Fernandez, Shola Shoretire, Hannibal, Amad, Facundo Pellistri, James Garner and Dylan Levitt.
All of these players could be mixed in to supplement United’s squad, but not all. The ones who don’t play, should be sent on loan to further their development, and it’s important to get the decisions right.
Step four: Sign players who fit the team’s needs
Recruitment has been Manchester United’s biggest struggle over the past decade, and it is an area which could provide the biggest early win for Ten Hag if the club get it right.
Players who sign must fit the team’s needs, fit Ten Hag’s approach, and be suited for the Premier League. It sounds obvious, but United have frequently failed to sign players who fit the manager, team, and league they are coming into.
Work is ongoing to sign new players, and it would be crucial if United can bring in a new face or two before going out on pre-season tour.
Midfield has to be the top priority for United after releasing Pogba and Matic, while an additional striker is also going to be key.
Ten Hag will also want to fix a defence which conceded 58 league goals last season. Fresh faces are going to be important to enabling an overhaul.
Step five: Start knitting a team together who buy into Ten Hag’s tactics
Manchester United have hired one of the best coaches in Europe, who is renowned for his innovative and obsessive approach.
But Ten Hag is not a miracle worker who can bring changes overnight, which is why it is crucial he will get around six weeks of pre-season with the squad before the league campaign begins.
Ten Hag will get time to start educating his players, to assess their strengths and weaknesses, and work out his best 11.
The Dutchman’s work on the training ground will be so much more important than the pre-season matches, as he looks to steer United’s ship back in the right direction.
This is not about individuals, this is about building a team who can win matches. Ten Hag and his coaching staff will select the players who are buying in, and discard those who are not.
Step six: Instill belief back into the squad
The final of these six steps to rebuild, it is important to recognise the damage done by the disastrous 2021/22 season. So many players have seen their confidence and form shattered.
The likes of Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford, and Harry Maguire were key players under former boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but ended last season in really poor form. And they aren’t the only ones.
This United side are nowhere near good enough, and they know it. This was evident in embarrassing defeats against rivals City and Liverpool.
It is important Ten Hag changes this, starting with the attitude of the players. The new manager can start restoring confidence to the squad, to the players and United’s staff, that this new season provides a fresh start, and the dawn of a positive new era.
If United’s players believe they can turn the situation around, they might just start playing like it, and supporters will give them their full backing.