Erik ten Hag’s appointment as Manchester United’s new permanent manager was confirmed by the club this past week.
The Dutchman will finish the season with Ajax before taking over the reins at Old Trafford and becoming the club’s fifth permanent manager since Sir Alex Ferguson retired nine years ago.
The 52-year-old faces a big task getting the fallen giants back to the top and challenging with fierce rivals Manchester City and Liverpool.
But here are five things that Ten Hag can change at the club in his first 90 days in charge…
Clear out deadwood
Several Manchester United players are going to leave the club in the summer as free agents which will give Ten Hag the opportunity to start a huge overhaul.
Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Nemanja Matic, Juan Mata and Edinson Cavani are all set to leave Old Trafford on free transfers.
Following United’s dreadful season very few players are assured of their long-term futures at the club.
But with the likes of Dean Henderson, Phil Jones, Eric Bailly, Axel Tuanzebe, Brandon Williams, Andreas Pereira, Donny van de Beek and Anthony Martial all facing uncertain futures, the number of incomings and outgoings could reach double figures.
Ten Hag will have to quickly establish which players he believes has the stomach for the fight and will get behind his new philosophies.
Anyone that isn’t backing the new manager or is unsure of their future should be moved on. Ten Hag shouldn’t have to convince players to form a part of his Manchester United project.
Address captain situation
Harry Maguire remains Manchester United’s club captain and interim boss Ralf Rangnick has repeatedly staved off criticism and backed his under fire centre-back.
But Ten Hag will have the opportunity to select a new club captain if he sees fit. That could be an existing player or someone that he has already earmarked as a potential summer signing.
As demoralising as it would be for the England international to be stripped of the captaincy, his own performances have been below par all season.
The expectation and scrutiny that comes from making the move from Leicester to Manchester United was always going to be huge, but Maguire has struggled to cope and the captain’s armband looks more of a burden than an incentive.
United’s dressing room needs leaders who are going to pull everyone together and that starts with the captain.
Tighten up backline
Only seven teams have conceded more goals in the Premier League this season then Manchester United (48).
Even relegation threatened Burnley (45) have conceded less than the Red Devils. In contrast, United’s fiercest rivals and the two sides that Ten Hag will be tasked with closing the gap on, Manchester City (20) and Liverpool (22) are the league’s stingiest defences.
But Ten Hag’s Ajax have an impressive defensive record which draws parallels with the Premier League’s best sides.
The Dutch giants have only conceded 15 goals from 29 matches this season, but Ten Hag hasn’t focused on defence at the expensive of playing expansive and attractive football.
His side have scored 85 goals in the top-flight and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Ajax hit the century mark once the season concludes.
But Ten Hag will be tasked with improving United at both ends, as we have only scored 52 Premier League goals this season.
Don’t veer away from philosophy
In Ralf Rangnick’s first game in interim charge of Manchester United against Crystal Palace at Old Trafford, the transformation of the performance, effort and pressing in such a short space of time was remarkable.
The squad looked like they were buying into the high-octane pressing that the godfather of ‘gegenpressing’ had become known for instilling at his previous clubs.
But as things began to unravel for the German and the inevitable nosedive in pressing and effort without the ball materialised, the 63-year-old altered his approach and moved away from his energetic philosophy.
It seemed that Rangnick accepted defeat that his players weren’t buying into his blueprint.
Unlike Rangnick, Ten Hag will be able to yield the axe if players don’t buy into his methods and he needs to stick to his guns.
It may take time for Ten Hag’s vision to bear fruit, but he needs full support and time to instil his approach. Pre-season will be crucial in getting United up to speed with how he wants his side to play.
Resolve Cristiano Ronaldo’s future
It’s looking increasingly likely that Manchester United will miss out on Champions League football next season which will inevitably prompt rumours to circulate about Cristiano Ronaldo’s future.
If it wasn’t for the 37-year-old’s goals this season then United wouldn’t have qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League or probably be in the top half of the Premier League.
He’s not the problem, but he’s also not the long-term solution. Ten Hag will likely want to sign a younger striker this summer, and it will be interesting to see where United’s number seven lies with his plans.
Ronaldo has one year left to run on his contract, with the option of a further year but finding potential suitors for the five-time Ballon d’Or winner may prove hard to come by.
The great Portuguese has 21 goals to his name this season. No other Manchester United player has hit double figures.
But Ten Hag won’t want to face a pre-season which could potentially be heavily distracted by Ronaldo’s uncertain future being played out via the media.
A lot will likely depend on how that first meeting between Erik ten Hag and Cristiano Ronaldo plays out.