This season preview is arriving after Match week 2 of the 2023 EPL season. There is the entirety of the season yet to go though. So, we still know little of what Manchester United will look like come the seasons end. Although, after week 2, things are already feeling sour for Eric ten Hag.
The Dutchman oversaw an optimistic preseason, which included a 4-0 win over Liverpool. Word coming out of the training camp was all positive and many players were quoted saying how intense and involved their new manager is. This has been music to the ears of many Manchester United fans. The club finally has a manager not afraid to speak his mind and ruffle some feathers amongst his players. But, after two losses to open the season, ten Hag knows just how much work must be done.
New Look United
Expect to see a completely new Manchester United style of play by December. Regardless of what we saw last Sunday at Old Trafford, Eric ten Hag’s influence will begin to show. These types of things take time and it requires players to adapt, as well as developing/improving other players. Eric ten Hag will want “his” United to press high, control the ball, and apply consistent pressure to the opposing sides backline. This was seen in many of United’s preseason matches, and even the likes of Martial looked well suited to it. Eric ten Hag would rather go down playing his way than not, and he won’t let any of his players play outside of his system.
The Dutchman’s Vision
When his vision truly takes shape expect to see United consistently deploy a 4-3-3 and press high up the pitch. The passing will be quicker and opportunities for the likes of Fernandes and Sancho to get on the ball in the final third should be seen more often than in recent times.
There were glimpses of the new Manchester United against Brighton, particularly in the fist 20 minutes. The team only reverted to its look of the last few years after surrendering a goal late in the first half and then a second just before half time. Eric ten Hag believes that is down to ‘self belief’ as he calls it.
Many of the players in this squad have been through a few managers at United. And almost none have experienced a true winning side. Combine that with the pressure one faces on a day to day basis playing for United and you begin to doubt yourself. There is a quality players need in order to brush the pressure off and fight through those things. Something Roy Keane had alluded to in his punditry. Eric ten Hag will need to find a way to inspire his squad and give the older players more self belief. Part of that project begins with signing the right players.
The transfer window hasn’t been as busy as many United fans have hoped. Although, the players acquired thus far seem to be quality. Every player signed from here on out has to fit Eric ten Hag’s style and needs to be a player with a ‘backbone’. Martinez and Eriksen are just the type of players United need. Not just for their quality as players, but their personalities. Tyrell Malacia, the other new face this summer, is young and loaded with potential. Eric ten Hag will be sure Malacia and other young players develop a winning mentality.
The most popular signing of the summer is most likely Christian Eriksen. The Dane brings loads of experience and magisterial attacking midfield play to the side. But, my personal favorite is Lisandro Martinez. The 24 year-old Argentinian seems to be the exact type of player United needs. I expect Martinez to be handed the captains armband before the end of the season. Martinez isn’t scared of any challenge and fights until his last. Even in the disappointing result against Brighton on opening day, Martinez’s qualities shown brightly.
Potential New Faces: Adrian Rabiot
There is still time for United to make some more singings before the window closes. Arnautovic and Rabiot are the most recent players linked with United. According to multiple reports a fee with Juventus has been agreed for Rabiot. Only personal terms need to be finalized between United and the player’s agent. Rabiot has a mixed history as a player but is still at a prime age and deemed a high quality player by many. There are many reasons to be excited about the French midfielder’s arrival at Old Trafford and he would certainly be an upgrade to Scott McTominay or Fred.
Adrian Rabiot is an exceptional player on the ball and can provide an elegance in possession that no other United central midfielder can. He is also strong and fierce, something United certainly need in their midfield. His intensity is the only concern, as it can sometimes rub players wrong in the dressing room. But I believe this is just what United need. Rabiot also hasn’t ever had a manager as outspoken and strong willed as Eric ten Hag, so perhaps this is a perfect union.
Potential New Faces: Marko Arnautovic
Lastly, as stated before, United are in for Marko Arnautovic from Bologna. The 33 year-old Austrian striker scored 14 goals in Serie A last season, something we shouldn’t be too quick to gloss over. Bologna are not a good side and do not often control the ball, so for Arnautovic to score 14 goals for them certainly says something about the player’s qualities. This has not been a rumor welcomed with praise amongst United fans, but the fact of the matter is United need depth and characters.
Arnautovic is a quality player with loads of EPL experience. He is a proven goal scorer and has toughness both mentally and physically. Also, reports are that the fee will be around 8-10 million pounds and Arnautovic will be coming in with the knowledge he is expected to be a squad player. United do need more signings in their midfield and could even use a right back, but I for one am excited to see what Arnautovic could bring to the side. He has consistently scored goals for poor sides in big leagues, so imagine what he could do with a side that ‘should’ provide him more consistent opportunities in front of net. Don’t forget this lad scored 43 goals in 184 appearances for the likes of Stoke City and West Ham United.
UPDATE: According to the most recent reports, United are out of the deal for Marko Arnautovic. Anything is possible in the transfer market though.
Potential New Faces: Cody Gakpo
With United missing out on signing young striker Benjamin Sesko to RB Leipzig, they need alternatives to bolster the attack. According to SKY, Eric ten Hag is keen to sign Cody Gakpo from PSV Eindhoven for a reported fee of around 35 million pounds. The winger scored 21 goals for the Amsterdam club last season. Gakpo also ranked 2nd in the Erdevise in assists last campaign. The young wingers versatility combined with his age of just 23 makes him an excellent signing for the future.
News on the signing of Gakpo may wait until PSV finish their Champions League qualifying stage.
Potential New Faces: Milinkovic-Savic
The Serbian international and Lazio midfielder has long been linked with Manchester United. Although, the move has never managed to materialize. Savic is entering the final 2 years of his current contract, which may force Lazio’s hand. The 27 year-old is still in his prime but approaching 30, the midfielder may be looking for a new challenge. Savic had 22 goal combinations in 37 Serie A matches last season. The Servian is a capable substitute for Frankie de Jong.
As of right now, no offer has been made to the Italian club. This move may be pursued more aggressively should United fail to reach an agreement for Frankie de Jong.
Potential New Faces: Max Aarons
United are in dire need of a right back. Aaron Wan-Bissaka is no longer an option for the club and Diego Dalot just simply lacks the quality on both sides of the ball. Max Aarons meanwhile has loads of EPL experience with Norwich and has already proven to be a much better defender than Dalot.
Aarons would be a welcome signing for many United fans. This is the type of signing that would address a well known issue for the club. Manchester United has needed a clear right back for several seasons now. Max Aarons on the right and Tyrell Malacia on the left would give United a completely new look at the fullback position.
Manchester United: Predictions for the 2023 Season
Finally, it’s time for the fun part of the season preview, predictions. Where will United finish this season? What does it mean for the squad going forward? And, will United compete for any trophies this season? These are some of the questions I’ve had every summer going in to a new season since Sir Alex left the club in 2013. Every year there is renewed hope for United and the fans become optimistic. The club is always backed by the fans no matter the current status but protests and disappointment are only beginning to show more and more with each passing season. Is this new era under Eric ten Hag finally the time United begin to climb back up to the top in world Football?
I’m going to give you my most honest predictions for this season. So, let’s get into it.
Position in the Table:
I believe United will just make the top 4. The EPL is crazy competitive and every side will lose matches a plenty this season. Each squad is loaded with questions and inconsistences, other than City and perhaps Liverpool. I think Eric ten Hag is smart enough to figure out what he needs to do to ensure UCL football for next season. If I had to bet on the likes of Tottenham or Arsenal, I wouldn’t be betting much. Both sides lack depth and have managers with their own issues. Arteta has done “fuck all” as the American Red Devils hosts would say and Conte’s intensity only seems to last a season or two at most. I may be slightly optimistic in my prediction, but I do really believe United will finish fourth this season. It will be close but Eric ten Hag will see it through.
Player of the Season:
This is a no brainer for me. Lisandro Martinez will be United’s player of the season and it won’t even be close. I fear he may miss out on the actual award due to fans/media favoring players that score goals, but he should be in contention. Martinez has the mentality players for this club need and has the tenacity to make his mark as one of the top defenders in the premier league. I’ll be buying his shirt soon, I’m sure of it.
Victory of the Season:
Manchester United will beat Manchester City 4-2 at Old Trafford on January 14th 2023. City are a much better side than United. United have gotten one over on their cross town rivals even in the worst of times. I can’t quite explain why, but I just feel there will be some truly exceptional performances this season that will display Eric ten Hag’s style and this may be one of them.
Honestly, I fear United won’t win any trophies yet again this season. I believe this will be primarily due to United prioritizing finishing in the top 4 over the Europa League, League cup, and FA cup. But, they should have the best chance of winning the Europa League, should they chose to.
Leading Goal Scorer:
This is probably the toughest prediction to make. You’d be out of your mind to choose anyone other than Ronaldo, but until his future is solidified at the closing of the window, I just don’t know. So, I will say it should be Ronaldo with 20+ goals. But, should he leave or be consistently left out of the side due to drama within the club I’m going to make a second choice. Should United have a top goal scorer other than Ronaldo, I believe it will be Jadon Sancho. It’s time the young English winger finally shows the world he really is a star.
Manchester United: A New Era Begins
So, the Eric ten Hag era has officially begun. Not in the manner we have hoped, but overall United fans should remain optimistic. Pre season looked good, and the training sessions seem to be of a much higher intensity than any seen under Ole, Ragnick, or Mourinho. There will be ups and downs all season long, but I’m quite positive we will see a much more positive play style from Manchester United as the season goes on. New players will become stars and youngsters will breakthrough this year. All we can do is hope as fans, but even after the Brighton loss I feel much more enthusiastic and positive about this Manchester United side than I have in many years.