Manchester United players could be set to be put through the proverbial ringer in the summer as incoming boss Erik ten Hag has placed his first demand on his new charges; return two weeks early during pre-season to undergo rigorous physical preparations ahead of the 2022-23 season.
Per a report in The Mirror, the current AFC Ajax boss has been left well short of being impressed by the performance levels put form by the United squad after remotely watching some of their recent fixtures.
EXCLUSIVE: Erik ten Hag has ordered Manchester United's players to return early for pre-season after being left unimpressed with the squad's fitness levels.
— Mirror Football (@MirrorFootball) May 10, 2022
A modern manager who champions a physically demanding press, Ten Hag has recently been said to note that the United squad is well off the standard required to survive the rigors of what will be asked of them when he begins to institute his system at Old Trafford and will be subjected to an arduous pre-season program to get them up to speed before the new season begins on 6 August.
Manchester United have already come under fire for their lack of fitness this season by both current interim boss Ralf Rangnick and Southampton headmaster Ralph Hasenhüttl, who commented after their 1-1 draw in February that it was "not a big secret that when United lose the ball, their reverse gear is not always the best from everybody."
Former Red Devils shot-stopper Raimond van der Gouw also weighed in regarding what Ten Hag will look to bring to the table regarding the physical demands of a system reliant on a well-organized and efficient press when being quoted by United's official website.
"If Ten Hag wants United to play the way he played at Ajax, the team has to be working together. The whole team will defend together and put pressure on the ball all over the pitch. At Ajax he has done a fantastic job, winning prizes, playing very attractive football and he has become a better manager along the way."
"Of course, United want to win trophies, but the most important starting point you can have is a team performance where the players enjoy their football. That is one aspect that I think Erik will see as key: you need a team on the pitch, not 11 players."
Though Ten Hag will have his work cut out for him when it comes to establishing a level of camaraderie required to challenge at the highest level both at home and abroad, something that is generally lacking at United currently, pushing his players to fit his system is the first step to meeting that aim head-on.