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Sell the captain? The first five things Erik ten Hag will need to address at Manchester United



Sell the captain? The first five things Erik ten Hag will need to address at Manchester United

Manchester United have announced that Erik ten Hag will take over at the club come the end of the season, signing a three-year deal with the club with the option of a further year.

The Ajax boss will take over a club in crisis, with a squad suiting a myriad of styles and plenty who seemingly don’t want to be there, or who won’t be there come the summer.

And, with the club currently struggling to make Europa League football next season, and Roy Keane claiming that ‘it’s not the club I played for’ after their 4-0 humiliation at the hands of Liverpool, there is plenty of work to be done.

So, where does Ten Hag need to start, and where should his priorities lie?

1. Sort his relationship with Ralf Rangnick

When Ralf Rangnick’s arrival to take interim charge of the club was announced, a key footnote surrounded his future beyond the end of the season.

“Ralf and the club have agreed that he will continue in a consultancy role for a further two years,” Manchester United revealed in their announcement, though they never went into any great detail as to what that role would entail exactly.

As per the Athletic, ten Hag ‘is not expecting to have total control of club affairs’, but will need to be supported in the transfer market with smart signings rather than big names. For this, he and Rangnick will need to be on the same page, a likelihood given that the pair lean towards similar styles of football, but not a given.

Should there be a power struggle in Manchester come the end of the season, the club need to ensure that they back their newest horse as he looks to recover the club from its darkest times since the 1980s.

2. Figure out the future of his forward line

Manchester United are in a mess all over the pitch, but perhaps their backwards thinking is clearest in the forward roles.

Edinson Cavani is expected to leave this summer when his contract ends, while Anthony Martial was sent on loan to Sevilla in January, where he is yet to register a La Liga goal under Julien Lopetegui.

Meanwhile, Marcus Rashford has been shown the cold shoulder to the point where he is now reportedly considering a move away, with the likes of Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes both chosen to play as a striker over the Englishman.

This has left Cristiano Ronaldo as their only reliable source of goals, a 37-year-old who pines for Champions League football and, despite his goalscoring returns, doesn’t really suit the style of play that Manchester United are likely to try and play under ten Hag.

A new striker or two seem to be a necessity this summer, but they need to be more than just big-name players. Beyond scoring goals, they need to fit the style that the club is looking to implement, and if those currently at the club do not, the club may have to be willing to accept losses and move on.

Such are the consequences of a complete rebuild at a big club.

3. Rebuilding the relationship with the fanbase

One thing that went when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was shown the Old Trafford exit door in October was any semblance of relationship between the club and the fans.

The club legend in charge of the club was in no way immune to criticism, but was viewed through rose-tinted glasses as a man who had created history at the club, and who only wanted to see his former side succeed.

That is now gone. Pogba and Harry Maguire are two who have felt the ire of the fans the most, but there is very little love lost between the current squad and the fanbase inside the stadiums and across the globe. That needs to change.

And it isn’t just results that will change that. It is desire, commitment, and performance that will go a long way to healing the wound long before results and trophies do. In short, the club needs to find the identity that it has been lacking for over a decade now. ten Hag’s biggest task may be trying to rediscover that.

4. Instil his philosophy in the side

The sort of football that ten Hag will want to play, and the style that he ends up playing in the early days of his reign could be very different.

As per the Athletic, “ten Hag likes a high-pressing possession game, with emphasis on wide players”, but United are short on wide players, and they have been caught out time and time again trying to press high this season.

Even with the 10 players that Rangnick has suggested could join the Red Devils this summer, there are much deeper problems with those likely to remain, meaning that tweaks to the finished article will need to be made as he continues squad turnover.

Just how effective ten Hag’s problem solving is will ultimately decide whether he warrants keeping his job, but the task is undeniably a daunting one.

5. Solve the Harry Maguire conundrum

Manchester United’s captain, and their second most-expensive signing ever behind Pogba, Maguire has been woeful this season however you dress it up.

The Englishman has featured in 28 of the 33 games that the Red Devils have played so far this season, a key part of a defence that has now conceded more goals than relegation-threatened Burnley.

His performances for United and the national team are like night and day, and the high line that the Red Devils are planning to use will only continue to widen that gap.

However, whether Manchester United would be willing to take what would be a massive loss on their club captain and offload him is another matter, especially with the centre-back position looking very light at the moment. ten Hag needs to find a way to either play to his strengths, or jettison the Englishman.

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Premier League table

# Team MP D P
1 Liverpool FC 32 61 76
2 Manchester City 31 52 74
3 Chelsea FC 30 41 62
4 Tottenham Hotspur 32 18 57
5 Arsenal FC 31 8 54
6 Manchester United 33 4 54
7 West Ham United 33 9 52
8 Wolverhampton Wanderers 32 5 49
9 Leicester City 30 -4 40
10 Brighton & Hove Albion 32 -8 40
11 Brentford FC 33 -8 39
12 Southampton FC 32 -14 39
13 Crystal Palace 31 3 37
14 Newcastle United 32 -19 37
15 Aston Villa 31 -4 36
16 Leeds United 32 -30 33
17 Everton FC 30 -19 28
18 Burnley FC 31 -19 25
19 Watford FC 32 -32 22
20 Norwich City 32 -44 21
Player Team Goals
Salah, Mohamed Liverpool FC 22
Son, Heung Min Tottenham Hotspur 17
Ronaldo, Cristiano Manchester United 15
Jota, Diogo Liverpool FC 15
Mane, Sadio Liverpool FC 14
Kane, Harry Tottenham Hotspur 12
Toney, Ivan Brentford FC 12
Mahrez, Riyad Manchester City 11
De Bruyne, Kevin Manchester City 11
Zaha, Wilfried Crystal Palace 11
Mount, Mason Chelsea FC 10
Dennis, Emmanuel Watford FC 10
Saka, Bukayo Arsenal FC 10
Pukki, Teemu Norwich City 10
Sterling, Raheem Manchester City 10
Raphinha Leeds United 10
Vardy, Jamie Leicester City 10
Smith-Rowe, Emile Arsenal FC 10
Bowen, Jarrod West Ham United 9
Fernandes, Bruno Manchester United 9

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‘There was never a lack of effort’ Edu Gaspar speaks out on Arsenal’s January transfer window




‘There was never a lack of effort’ Edu Gaspar speaks out on Arsenal’s January transfer window

Arsenal’s Technical Director Edu Gaspar has taken to Instagram to assess the season that the club have had following their final day 5-1 win over Everton.

The Gunners ended the season fifth, two points behind Tottenham, having been four points ahead with three games to play. It was a disappointing end to a campaign that promised much for Mikel Arteta and co., and plenty were quick to point to the January transfer window as a key game-changer in north London.

Spurs added Dejan Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur to their side on deadline day, while Arsenal chased Dusan Vlahovic and Arthur Melo but, ultimately, came up empty-handed.

It left the club forced to rely on the fitness of key players, but injuries to Thomas Partey, Kieran Tierney and Takehiro Tomiyasu left them woefully exposed in what ended up an underwhelming end to the season.

And plenty of ire was aimed in the direction of Edu Gaspar for the lack of action, but the Gunners transfer director has now hit back on Instagram, claiming that ‘there was never a lack of effort, dedication and commitment and hours of work from no one in the club to end the season in the best way possible’.

Taking to social media platform Instagram, he revealed:

‘Thank you season 2021/22. I have to say how proud I am to be a part of this team. We went through different moments during the season, but in all of them we believed in what we were working on- especially in our players.’

‘I can guarantee, there was never a lack of effort, dedication and commitment and hours of work from no one in the club to end the season in the best way possible’

‘I’m really looking forward to the season 2022/23.’

It is safe to say that Arsenal are likely to be busy once more this summer, and Edu will again have his work cut out to raise the level of the squad.

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Premier League table

# Team MP D P
1 Manchester City 37 72 90
2 Liverpool FC 37 66 89
3 Chelsea FC 37 42 71
4 Tottenham Hotspur 37 24 68
5 Arsenal FC 37 9 66
6 Manchester United 37 1 58
7 West Ham United 37 11 56
8 Wolverhampton Wanderers 37 -3 51
9 Leicester City 37 0 49
10 Brighton & Hove Albion 37 -4 48
11 Brentford FC 37 -7 46
12 Newcastle United 37 -19 46
13 Crystal Palace 37 3 45
14 Aston Villa 37 -1 45
15 Southampton FC 37 -21 40
16 Everton FC 37 -19 39
17 Burnley FC 37 -18 35
18 Leeds United 37 -38 35
19 Watford FC 37 -42 23
20 Norwich City 37 -56 22
Player Team Goals
Salah, Mohamed Liverpool FC 23
Son, Heung Min Tottenham Hotspur 23
Ronaldo, Cristiano Manchester United 18
Kane, Harry Tottenham Hotspur 17
Mane, Sadio Liverpool FC 16
De Bruyne, Kevin Manchester City 15
Jota, Diogo Liverpool FC 15
Vardy, Jamie Leicester City 15
Zaha, Wilfried Crystal Palace 14
Sterling, Raheem Manchester City 13
Bowen, Jarrod West Ham United 12
Maddison, James Leicester City 12
Toney, Ivan Brentford FC 12
Mount, Mason Chelsea FC 11
Saka, Bukayo Arsenal FC 11
Mahrez, Riyad Manchester City 11
Richarlison Everton FC 11
Pukki, Teemu Norwich City 11
Raphinha Leeds United 11
Watkins, Ollie Aston Villa 11

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Jack Grealish offers honest assessment of first Manchester City season




Jack Grealish offers honest assessment of first Manchester City season

Jack Grealish has offered up an honest assessment of his first season in a Manchester City shirt.

Grealish of course signed for Manchester City in the summer of 2021, smashing the Premier League transfer record to set the Sky Blues back £100m.

With such a high price tag and much of the league having a natural hatred towards Manchester City due to their owners, there was a lot of pressure on Grealish to deliver.

However, though he showed patches of quality, it is fair to say that the 26-year-old has not been at his best this term.

Grealish scored three and assisted three in 26 league games with his most memorable moments those misses at the end of normal time during Manchester City’s second leg semi-final with Real Madrid.

Regardless of his struggles, though, Grealish still ended 2021/22 with a league title – something he has been discussing recently:

“It’s unbelievable. I ran down the tunnel and cried my eyes out,” Grealish admitted.

“Honestly, I can’t put it into words, I was crying my eyes out. The medal means everything. For me, I’ve never won it so I’m so happy!

“As a kid you want to win the Premier League and to win the Premier League… I can’t put it into words honestly. We know how good of a side Villa are and they showed it. With our quality we can beat anyone.”


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Grealish also reflected on his first season at the Etihad: “In four words, harder than I thought. I’ve enjoyed every minute. I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone but honestly this makes up for it,” Grealish added.

“I know that I can (kick-on) and I certainly will. I feel like I played my part, like that goal v West Ham. I can kick on so much more. I know myself how much of a role I have to play at this club.

“These guys here have made me feel so welcome. Honestly, the lads here are unbelievable and I love them so much. Pep’s a genius. He’s unbelievable football wise. I’d love for you to come in and watch one of his team talks before the game.

“Working with him day to day on the training pitch is unbelievable. I’ve got the medal here now so hopefully many more.”

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Why Richarlison is absent from Everton’s squad to face Arsenal




Why Richarlison is absent from Everton’s squad to face Arsenal


An explanation for the absence of star attacker Richarlison from Everton’s matchday squad to face Arsenal has been provided on Sunday evening.

Frank Lampard’s Toffees are of course set to return to action in short order.

After securing the club’s top-flight status for another year courtesy of a comeback 3-2 downing of Crystal Palace in midweek, the Toffees will see out their campaign at the Emirates, in a Premier League meeting with the aforementioned Arsenal.

Though the day’s visitors have little to play for in the clash, Arsenal will be desperate for all three points, amid feint hopes of leapfrogging city rivals Tottenham into the top-4 by the close of the evening’s fixtures.

Everton, in turn, could face a tough assignment at the Emirates.

It therefore came as a major surprise when, as alluded to above, a key member of Lampard’s first-choice XI was nowhere to be seen upon the club’s latest matchday XI being unveiled.

The player in question? Richarlison:

Chatter had therefore since quickly spread across the Everton fanbase, amid the suggestion that the Brazilian may have simply been afforded the evening off, in a bid to recuperate on the back of a draining few weeks.

This, however, is seemingly not the case.

As per Everton insider ‘The Bobble’, viewed as highly reliable amongst Blues circles, Richarlison has in fact been forced to sit out in north London owing to what is described as a ‘minor injury’:


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This article was edited by
Josh Barker.

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