Manchester United fans have not had a good time for quite some time now. Since Sir Alex Ferguson bid goodbye, it has all been a downfall, a continuous careless crumble towards irrelevancy.
In the most recent season, despite bringing in the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Raphael Varane, and Jadon Sancho, they finished sixth and missed out on UEFA Champions League for the upcoming season.
Since then, they have appointed Erik Ten Hag, who lit the world up in Ajax. They now have a new CEO, and it looks like they are going for an all-out revolution.
But yet, it doesn’t seem like they will qualify for the Champions League next season, and there’s not just one reason behind it.
First of all, while they have a quite competitive squad, they still need a lot of quality to fight with even Arsenal and Chelsea, let alone Manchester City or Liverpool.
Ralf Rangnick, who managed them for half of last season, had warned the club that they might need around 10 players to compete.
“If you analyse the situation it is not difficult to analyse. For me, it is clear there will be six, seven, eight, maybe ten new players. Before you sign those players, you need to be aware of how you want to play,” he had said after being thrashed 4-0 by Liverpool in April.
However, since Ten Hag’s appointment, they have not been proactive in the market. They have been negotiating with Barcelona for Frenkie De Jong, a priority signing for the new manager, for around a month now, but have failed to land on a transfer fee.
They were supposed to buy a winger, a centre-back, and full-backs, but there has been no progress on any of the fronts.
Meanwhile, Arsenal, who barely missed out on the Champions League last season, have gone out and bought Fabio Vieira, are close to signing Gabriel Jesus, and are in talks with winger Raphinha and midfielder Youri Tielemans. Spurs, who finished fourth, have already signed Ivan Perisic and Yves Bissouma.
United are showing constant incapability in matters off the pitch and on the field. A big problem would be David De Gea, who is currently one of the worst goalkeepers in the Premier League with the ball at his feet. Ten Hag, an avid student of the Johan Cruyff school of thought, believes the goalkeeper must be the first attacker.
So, how does it work? Do they sign a goalkeeper? Or do they just continue with the one they have, who is a stylistic mismatch?
As long as Ronaldo is upfront for them, they will have someone to finish the chances, but who is going to create them?
Bruno Fernandes has struggled to conjure anything in a system, and Sancho has been a shadow of his Borussia Dortmund self since coming back to Manchester. De Jong might bring control, but he will not be their solution to attacking fluency.
Then comes the defensive problem. They need to replace almost the whole backline after the horrendous last season, but they are yet to search for players, let alone sign them. While Ten Hag has been trying to pry his former players from Ajax, with only two weeks left for pre-season, United simply don’t have a squad to fight for the top four yet.
United have too many holes to plug, and they don’t know where to start. When these two combine, that’s a recipe for disaster.
And despite hiring a world-class manager, it might just be too early to hope for top four. They would need time, just like Liverpool did.
But the question is, will the Glazers, who have appointed six managers in the past nine years, stick with Ten Hag that long?