Premier League football is back starting tonight when Mikel Arteta’s top-four hopefuls Arsenal travel across London to clash with former Gunners great Patrick Vieira and Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, with Manchester United undoubtedly keen to monitor how the curtain raiser for the 2022-23 campaign shakes out.
United are in a period of transition of their own akin to when Arsenal put faith in their Spanish tactician and the welcomed site of Dutchman Erik ten Hag joining from Eredivisie giants AFC Ajax this summer has given much cause for optimism on the surface.
Thus far, the Red Devils have comported themselves well in the summer transfer market at the behest of Ten Hag, bringing in familiar faces in the vein of Lisandro Martínez from Ajax and Tyrell Malacia from Feyenoord Rotterdam, while also moving smartly to secure Danish star Christian Eriksen on a free transfer after the veteran attacking midfielder chose to part ways with Thomas Frank’s Brentford.
But in a season where Ten Hag will be under a measure of pressure from the outset of the new campaign in a bit to get United back on track in the Premier League and in the thick of the fight for the top four, it is fair to suggest that the club have fallen short this summer in comparison to its historic domestic rivals.
According to Ten Hag, in quotes sourced from The Athletic’s Laurie Whitwell, he is happy with the senior squad under his watchful eye as the club is less than 48 hours from the opening of hostilities in the top flight of English football.
“It would be a good situation but I’m happy with the current squad, we make good progress, I’m happy with the signings until now. You don’t need any player, you need the right player, that’s what we’re working for.”
Ten Hag also shed light on whether or not he would be satisfied if United loosened its policy in order to bring bodies in rather than the right puzzle pieces, which he wasted no time in speaking against.
“If it’s not the right player, no. We need the right players.”
The Dutch manager also putting faith in current midfield options should the club indeed miss out on Frenkie de Jong this summer.
“We want Frenkie? It’s about the right players and I cannot give comments on a player under contract at another club. When you develop players in your current squad, at this moment we have players in that position and performing really well.”
By comparison, however, United remain behind the pack ahead of them in the transfer arms race this summer.
Manchester City needed little business but still managed to bring in Norwegian starlet Erling Haaland - a player United was keen on - and Leeds United icon Kalvin Phillips.
Liverpool also stole a march on United this summer when they sealed a deal for Darwin Núñez while also nabbing Portuguese starlet Fábio Carvalho, while Chelsea has been on a recruitment whirlwind of late bringing in Marc Cucurella, Raheem Sterling, Kalidou Koulibaly, and Carney Chukwuemeka, while they too remain linked with both Wesley Fofana as well as Frenkie de Jong.
As for Tottenham and Arsenal, the pair of north London rivals have also strengthened rather well. Antonio Conte’s Spurs were heavily reinforced through Richarlison, Yves Bissouma, Djed Spence, Ivan Perišić, Clément Lenglet, and Fraser Forster, while Arsenal followed suit and added Gabriel Jesus, Oleksander Zinchenko, Fábio Vieira, Marquinhos, and Matt Turner, with links to possible late window move for Youri Tielemans and Cody Gakpo persisting.
Though Ten Hag may be a highly-touted manager, should United fail to bring in any new faces this season, he could always have one hand tied behind his back despite the cadre of underperforming players that he may yet still be able to revitalize when it’s all said and done.