Premier League English

Erik ten Hag’s plans for this international break say a lot

His first six weeks in competitive football as Manchester United manager have seen mixed but ultimately positive results for former Ajax manager Erik ten Hag.

Granted the first two games were disastrous with a jaw-dropping 2-1 loss to Brighton on the opening weekend of the Premier League season and following that up with an even more shocking 4-0 loss away top Brentford. However, a brilliant and totally unexpected 2-1 victory over Liverpool saw the club’s fortunes changing.

The Liverpool win was followed up with three more Premier League victories in a row against Southampton, Leicester City and then league leaders Arsenal, which saw Ten Hag’s principles crystallising with clarity among the squad.

The following 1-0 loss to Real Sociedad in the Europa League was a major bummer for the squad who looked much stronger than they did six years ago, with Erik ten Hag seemingly settled on his preferred XI, with a couple of tweaks.

The 2-2 victory over Sheriff Tiraspol in the Europa League saw a glimmer of hope flickering brighter for United. Now 15 of the club’s first team players have travelled to represent their respective nations as the international stages warms up to its first ever winter World Cup, in Qatar.

The gaffer, meanwhile, has two weeks with the rest of the squad to figure out his plan moving forwards, and spoke on how he intends to use the next two weeks.

“We will have many meetings,” he told MUTV after last Thursday’s Europa League win.

“We have to improve the structures in and around the club. We will also look to the window in January or next summer already.

“But, also to improve our way of play by making plans.”

The fact that Erik ten Hag is already looking towards the next transfer window is a sure sign that he feels the squad is far from complete.

Man United are obviously in need of another striker with Cristiano Ronaldo almost certainly departing next summer as his contract expires or perhaps even earlier in the January transfer window, and depending on the future of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, they will also be on the lookout for a new right-back.

Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong – a summer transfer hot target who didn’t even bother to give United the time of day – will most likely be on the club’s radar once again for next summer, possibly even January.

This international break will also timely for Ten Hag to assess the other options in the squad with eight of his preferred XI away on international duty, leaving just David de Gea, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford (who was not called up due to injury) at Carrington.

“There’s coming a period where every third day: a game. We have to get ready for that,” Ten Hag added on Thursday.

“Ninety percent of the players are away (on international duty) — the others will train proper. We have to prepare. I hope everyone stays fit, returns healthy and then we attack.”

With the period coming up being full of fixtures just as Ten Hag pointed out, these next few weeks will be crucial in Ten Hag being able to properly understand what other players he has at his disposal to make sure the squad can get through this period with positive results.

Next up for Manchester United once the international break is concluded will be the Manchester Derby, which will most certainly be something really worth looking forward to.