What Are Manchester United's Six Big Problems and Can Ten Hag Solve Them? - Latest Global News

What Are Manchester United’s Six Big Problems and Can Ten Hag Solve Them?

For Manchester United fans, another season of failure has passed through the creaking ship at Old Trafford.

Their Champions League hopes ended two weeks ago and now their Europa League hopes are at stake.

Coach Erik ten Hag remains in the spotlight despite Wednesday’s 3-2 win against Newcastle United. But the FA Cup still offers a chance of winning the title this year.

Al Jazeera takes a look at the five biggest issues facing the fallen giants:

In defense of Manchester United’s injuries

Due to injuries, Manchester United have called up 32 defensive lineups this season – enough to wreak havoc on any football team in the world.

Ten Hag has understandably not failed to cite the inability to name a permanent team as its biggest problem. The Dutchman described it as a once-in-a-decade problem and like swimming “with your hands tied behind your back.”

It is the defense that has hit United hardest, with Lisandro Martinez’s absence the biggest blow. The Argentina World Cup winner has only started nine times this season due to injury, although he started the season as first-choice centre-back alongside France international Raphael Varane, who is set to leave the club in the summer.

When United suffered a 4-0 defeat at Crystal Palace on 4 May, only 12 experienced outfield players were fit enough to be called into the squad, of which Jonny Evans was in the starting eleven despite not being fully fit.

Casemiro, Rashford, Hojlund and a case of cylinder misfire

One player who sums up the season of underperformance is Casemiro. The Brazilian defensive midfielder impressed greatly in his first year after joining from Real Madrid, but the five-time Champions League winner’s decline was perhaps even greater than that of the club itself.

After the Crystal Palace game, Casemiro had the second-worst record of players he dribbled past this season: 42.3 percent of the occasions he was tackled.

Despite his problems, which led to his exclusion from Brazil’s Copa America squad, he is one of the top ten players to start for United this season.

Marcus Rashford, once a proud academy product, has only scored eight goals in 40 appearances. The burden of taking charge was placed on the young shoulders of Rasmus Hojlund, but the Dane only scored 15 goals in 41 appearances.

United’s only other senior option to lead the team is Anthony Martial, but the Frenchman’s exit from Old Trafford now appears assured. The striker only scored two goals in 19 appearances.

A big positive for United has been the form of captain Bruno Fernandes, who appeared to put an end to speculation about his future at the club by promising to stay “until the club doesn’t want him anymore”.

Manchester United coach Erik ten Hag (right) has had to rely heavily on the performance of captain Bruno Fernandes this season [Molly Darlington/Reuters]

Which players will leave Manchester United?

Unsurprisingly, several names have been linked with a move away from Old Trafford. Some of them are:

  • Harry Maguire
  • Christian Eriksen
  • Sofian Amrabat
  • Casemiro
  • Anthony Martial
  • Rashford

The takeover and missing transfer news

Jim Ratcliffe’s purchase of 25 percent of Manchester United in January came after years of protests against the Glazier family’s ownership.

The Americans bought United in 2005, and by the end of Alex Ferguson’s tenure as manager, it was seen as the start of a dramatic decline from one of the world’s best clubs.

Buying Ratcliffe gives him significant control over football affairs at Old Trafford, but the January transaction came too late for the club to make any moves in the mid-season transfer window.

Another challenge is the profit and sustainability rules that Premier League clubs now have to harmonize every year.

Casemiro received a four-year contract with the possibility of an extension for another year. The Brazilian’s salary will make him difficult to sell while his value ($81.5 million upon signing) has all but disappeared. His compatriot Antony has struggled throughout his tenure since signing him for $102 million from ten Hag’s former club Ajax.

It seems impossible to profit from any of United’s deals in recent years, with the club’s decline mirroring the decline of its players.

Despite Ratcliffe’s takeover, it seems unlikely that the club could make a significant impact in the summer transfer window considering the new financial parameters.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe in front of Old Trafford
Ineos chairman Jim Ratcliffe has bought 25 percent of the Old Trafford club [File: Phil Noble/Reuters]

How long until ten Hag is sacked as Manchester United manager?

Ten Hag arrived at Old Trafford in July 2022 after four years managing Ajax in the Netherlands. The Dutchman ended a six-year wait for the title by winning the EFL Cup last year, but missed out on a second title in the FA Cup final against Manchester City three months later.

With a year left on his current contract, there is speculation that ten Hag’s playing time has already run out and only a rousing win against Manchester City in the FA Cup final on May 26 could save him.

Nine home defeats in the league have hurt the fans’ pride.

Winning against Newcastle in United’s final home game of the season patched things up, but Sunday’s defeat at Brighton could leave the rumor mill with even more leaks than just Old Trafford’s rickety old roof.

However, former Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney believes United need to stop the coaching carousel.

“The club has been in transition for 12 years,” the former England striker told Sky Sports.

“Many players will leave this summer, but they can’t keep changing coaches.”

Soccer Football - FA Cup - Semi-Final - Coventry City v Manchester United - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - April 21, 2024 Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag reacts Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Couldridge
Manchester United coach Erik ten Hag’s future is at stake [Andrew Couldridge/Action Images via Reuters]

Who could take over as manager of Manchester United?

Should ten Hag be sacked at the end of the season, it is speculated that there will initially be three top candidates for the manager’s position.

Former Bayern Munich Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel is the frontrunner. The German was criticized for his withdrawal from Harry Kane in last week’s defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final, while Bayern have also lost while defending their Bundesliga title this season. Tuchel won the Champions League in his debut season with Chelsea and it was a huge surprise when the Blues pulled the plug the following year.

England coach Gareth Southgate’s contract expires at the end of the 2024 European Championship. He and fellow Englishman Graham Potter, another former Chelsea manager, are also considered serious replacements for Ten Hag.

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