Five Manchester United stars with the most to prove in pre-season

Manchester United kick-off their pre-season fixtures next month in Bangkok against Liverpool, and it’s safe to say that Erik ten Hag has a lot to resolve in the coming weeks.

From signing new players to deciding who should remain with the club, the Dutch manager has a checklist stretching for miles and only a short timeframe to tick off the important tasks, yet July’s pre-season matches offers the new Red Devils boss an opportunity to assess his options.

After their worst finish in Premier League history, United have many players fans would deem ‘surplus to requirements’, with the club’s years of overpriced deals finally coming home to roost last season under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick.

Indeed, many of these players could depart Old Trafford this summer, yet here are five names who could prove their worth to Ten Hag in pre-season and save their United careers from the pending cull that’s coming.

Harry Maguire

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Harry Maguire’s reputation as one of England’s best defenders to a laughing stock in world football was turbulent, to say the least, and this pre-season could be the centre-backs first and likely final chance to impress Ten Hag.

The Red Devils skipper will be one of the most scrutinised players in the Premier League next season, with every one of his games, tackles and likely errors being forensically assessed by fans and pundits, which is why Maguire has got to impress in pre-season for United ahead of what will be a long campaign.

Luke Shaw

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Another England international who has gone from the top of the world right back down to the bottom is Luke Shaw, who at one point in 2021 genuinely looked like the best left-back in the world and was beginning to look like the player many fans expected the defender to become.

However, just like Maguire, Shaw now looks like a shell of his former self. Performances last season were abject, and the fullback needs a boost of confidence over pre-season if he is to return to even half the player the defender was in 2021.

Donny van de Beek

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If there’s one player who could benefit the most from the appointment of Ten Hag, it has got to be Donny van de Beek, with the former Ajax midfielder a superstar under the Dutch manager during their together in Amsterdam.

The Netherlands international has hardly had a chance to impress at Old Trafford since joining in 2020, yet under a coach who knows his game better than anybody, Van de Beek could realistically become a key member of United next season if the midfielder is given a chance to impress this summer.

He needs to show Ten Hag he is still the player he remembers from Ajax, and that his confident has not been dented by the last two years.

Marcus Rashford

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Marcus Rashford was on course to become a Manchester United hero. However, a injuries, fatigue and a lack of form have culminated in the attacker having his worst season yet for the Red Devils. But academy star could restore his reputation in the coming months if he delivers in pre-season.

Whilst Rashford has been linked with a move away from Old Trafford, it is unlikely that Ten Hag will sell the forward this summer without giving the 24-year-old a chance to shine, and given the attacker’s willpower, the England star could push himself to the next level this summer in pre-season.


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It’s easy to forget that Amad remains one of Manchester United’s most expensive signings, with Solskjaer splashing out on the Ivorian international in a transfer that could still shape the Red Devils’ future. And this summer, the attacker has got to impress Ten Hag.

The youngster was impressive in patches for Rangers in his short loan spell with the Scottish giants, and in pre-season, Amad must put himself in the spotlight if he is to win a spot in Ten Hag’s United plans for next season.

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Football journalist and 2018 Sport Journalism graduate from the University of Brighton.