Erik ten Hag will be given time to turn Manchester United’s fortunes around amid a disastrous start to his second season as manager. And the Dutchman undoubtedly already has plans in place for the next stage of his long-term rebuild at Old Trafford in the 2024 summer transfer window.
Tuesday’s 3-2 defeat to Galatasaray was United’s sixth in 10 games this term, highlighting areas of serious weakness in Ten Hag’s squad.
Express Sport explores three areas – and four signings – that he is bound to want to make at the end of the 2023/24 campaign.
Diogo Dalot has slightly improved this season, but he’s only playing because Aaron Wan-Bissaka is injured.
The Portugal international’s passing is inconsistent, and he should have had the strength to prevent Wilfried Zaha’s fortunate equaliser.
Wan-Bissaka will be straight back in when he regains focus, given his defensive superiority and ever-improving attacking confidence.
But neither Dalot nor Wan-Bissaka suits Ten Hag’s perfect profile of a full-back, and the only reason one hasn’t yet arrived is due to other priorities elsewhere.
Next summer looks like the time that decision will arrive, budget pending, unless Wan-Bissaka’s development doubles in speed this season.
United’s priority this summer was a goalkeeper and striker, but Ten Hag was also keen to add a new centre-back to his ranks.
He would’ve if Harry Maguire’s £30million move to West Ham United didn’t collapse, but he certainly will next year.
Lisandro Martinez’s latest injury has left Victor Lindelof as a first-choice centre-half at Old Trafford. But the Swede isn’t at the level required, nor is Maguire, nor is Jonny Evans.
Raphael Varane is often reliable on the pitch, but his injury record is a concern that isn’t going away. Now 30, Ten Hag will be eyeing a long-term successor.
So it wouldn’t be surprising to see United pursue young right-sided and left-sided central defenders to improve competition next summer.
A defensive midfielder
That theory about Real Madrid always knowing the right time to offload their players looks to be true.
Casemiro elevated United last season, but the 31-year-old looks leggy and lost in his second year on English shores.
Should the Red Devils sell him next summer? No. His experience is too crucial. But he desperately needs help.
Support will arrive in the form of Sofyan Amrabat when Ten Hag gets one of his three injured left-backs available after the October international break.
United have the option to make Amrabat’s loan permanent at the end of the season. But Ten Hag will likely also have younger alternatives on his shortlist, with Casemiro’s replacement in mind.