There is already a buzz in the air as Erik ten Hag begins his first week as the manager of Manchester United.
Ralf Rangnick is set to lead his side for the last time against Crystal Palace this weekend, but there can be no ignoring the elephant in the room of Ten Hag’s presence and his first few days post-Ajax.
United were eager to have a new manager in place for this very reason. The club has paid the price previously for having a break in between regimes, but now time is of the essence and a seamless transition between old and new is essential if they are to hit the ground running under their new boss.
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A key focus for Ten Hag this week will be evaluating the squad he already has at his disposal. Decisions will need to be made on who will form an integral part of it next season, who is surplus to requirements, who they should fight to keep this summer and who are the most promising youngsters ready to supplement the squad.
Despite such mitigation, it is clear United need a new forward in the coming months, with interim manager Rangnick having already advised the club to sign two if at all possible.
One of those needs to be a physical option up front who can eventually replace Cristiano Ronaldo when he leaves; the other will need to be a versatile winger, ideally someone who can fill the enormous void on the right-hand side of the attack.
But with other more glaring issues across the pitch, United might only be able to sign one this summer, and a proven No.9 would certainly be the most advisable given their over-reliance on Ronaldo and the upcoming exit of Edinson Cavani.
If that is the case, United could do far worse than Darwin Nunez, the Benfica forward being tipped by many as the most suitable Erling Haaland alternative ahead of his move to Man City.
Nunez, 22, has enjoyed a stellar season for the Portuguese giants with 34 goals in 41 appearances and is expected to be allowed to leave this summer if an appropriate offer comes in.
Portuguese outlets have suggested a bumper bid in the region of £100m would be needed to secure his signature, though recent reports in England have challenged that by suggesting he could be available for basically half that fee with a £51million price-tag.
Either way, Nunez would not be a cheap addition this summer, but if he could supplement the strike force next season and then help to replace Ronaldo afterwards, he would certainly be worthy of such a fee.
Critics will no doubt criticize Nunez for having ‘only done it in Portugal’, but his talent has also been displayed in the Champions League this season, with two goals against Barcelona, two goals against Liverpool and one against Bayern Munich as well.
However, perhaps the most important strike of them all was the goal he grabbed against Ajax in the last 16, an effort which dumped Ten Hag’s side out of Europe.
Ajax had won all of their group matches, including two victories over Dortmund, and were heavily expected to reach the quarter-finals before they came up against a resolute Benfica side.
With the scores level at 2-2 following the first-leg in Portugal, the decisive second-leg was settled when Benfica scored against the run of play as Nunez rose above Jurrien Timber, a possible United teammate next season, and headed in from a free-kick to score from their only effort on target in the match.
It was a cruel exit for Ten Hag’s side, a team Nunez complimented at full-time for making them ‘suffer’, but a reminder of the predatory instincts of the Benfica marksman.
With United in need of a new lethal striker who can deliver the goods in key moments of matches, Ten Hag could do far worse than the man who ended his European dreams this season.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.