Erik ten Hag has proven he knows what Manchester United need this summer – Tyrone Marshall

The sight of Manchester United’s Class of ’22 lifting the FA Youth Cup at Old Trafford on Wednesday was one to lift the spirits of supporters, but the good news didn’t end there last week.

The academy has brought some cheer to a dreadful season and it was a rare experience to see smiles on faces at Old Trafford in midweek, on the pitch and in the stands.

Erik ten Hag will be delighted to see the talent coming through the academy, but his immediate focus will be on turning the first team around and there is an awful lot of work to do.

READ MORE: Erik ten Hag’s Ajax success story and how he can repeat a job at Man United

If the youngsters raised the mood, the first team had lowered standards once again at the start of the week, plumbing new depths in losing 4-0 at Brighton.

The arrival of Ten Hag and a coach actually qualified to work with these players will bring about some improvement, but this is also a summer when the winds of change will blow through M16.

Five senior players are out of contract and leaving – Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata and Edinson Cavani – and there are several more players who either want out or need to be ushered towards the exit door.

That will make plenty of room for incomings. Ralf Rangnick might have suggested as many as 10 new faces will be required but that is wishful thinking on a couple with some of his tactical hope-and-pray moments from him this season.

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United will probably consider this window a success if half of that number arrive, but it still gives them plenty to do in a shortened summer.

The curtain comes down on this horror show at Selhurst Park next week, but within six weeks United will be back in pre-season training and the new season will kick off on August 6 due to the World Cup.

Ten Hag will also want his squad as settled as possible ahead of the 16-day pre-season tour to Thailand and Australia. The foundations for next season will be laid in Bangkok, Melbourne and Perth and the 52-year-olds will want to fine-tune players here for the long-term, rather than waste time on those who could yet be leaving.

That means securing as many transfers as possible by the departure date on July 8, so time really is of the essence. Every manager dreams of their club’s transfer business being done by the start of pre-season training, but the reality is rarely as smooth.

That feels more essential than usual to United this summer, however. The complication of a change in manager and the evolving football structure at Old Trafford could have delayed that even further, but Ten Hag has shown this week that he knows there cannot be any time to waste.

The morning after the night before in Amsterdam he switched his focus from Ajax to United. A third Eredivisie title was secured on Wednesday night and the celebrations lasted well into the night, it was a perfect farewell for Ten Hag, who takes charge of his final game today.

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But on Thursday morning he was already planning how to replicate that success at United. His laser-like focus on Ajax wrapping up the title had meant he dodged every press conference question on United and tried not to be distracted by his new job, but once the silverware was sure that changed.

With most of Amsterdam getting over their title-winning hangover, Ten Hag sat down with his assistant Mitchell van der Gaag, another man he wants to bring with him in Steve McClaren and United’s football director John Murtough.

The desire to get to work as quickly as possible was an indication that Ten Hag is well aware of the task ahead of him. He could have finished the season with Ajax and headed on his holidays before thinking too much about the scale of the rebuild at Old Trafford.

Instead, he threw himself into the project at the first opportunity he had. That is an encouraging approach for United.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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