Manchester United are edging closer and closer towards installing Ajax boss Erik ten Hag as their new permanent manager.
The Dutchman, 52, was revealed by the Manchester Evening News as the club’s preferred candidate last month and is now on course to be appointed as Ralf Rangnick’s successor ahead of next season. Reports suggest that Ten Hag is now on the brink of accepting the role at Old Trafford, with only the signing of his contract to be done.
Should United get it over the line, it will end months of speculation that has dominated proceedings at Old Trafford since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked back in November. Along with Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino, Ten Hag has been a leading frontrunner for the role since the Norwegian was axed and is now poised to take the job.
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MEN Sports has taken a close look at how the Ajax chief could set United up next season, featuring the addition of three new signings. The Dutchman is renowned for playing with a 4-3-3 system in his homeland and it is possible that he could repeat the trick in England.
Goalkeeper – Dean Henderson
Although David de Gea has enjoyed a fantastic season, and is almost certain to be crowned Player of the Year, Ajax’s interest in Dean Henderson ahead of the January transfer window could see a change in the United goal. Henderson has a big decision to make about his future this summer as he is no longer at an age where he can be happy with a spot on the bench.
He will want to play week-in, week-out — whether it be at United or elsewhere. And Ten Hag’s fondness for developing homegrown talent and bringing younger players through (even though Henderson is 24) could offer the former Sheffield United loanee a lifeline.
Although he has only made three appearances this season, he has the potential to play at the very highest level. It would be harsh on De Gea for him to be axed after such a brilliant campaign, but a new manager is likely to bring fresh ideas.
Defense – Denzel Dumfries, Raphael Varane, Jurrien Timber, Luke Shaw
United need reinforcements at the back this summer, particularly at right-back and centre-back. Currently, Diogo Dalot and Aaron Wan-Bissaka are the club’s senior right-back options, but neither of them have been able to make the position their own this season, so the addition of a right-back would make sense.
However, although Ajax ace Jurrien Timber has been touted as a solution to end United’s right-back woes, he is more accustomed to playing at centre-back. Of his 38 appearances for Ajax this season, 34 of them have been in the middle of the defence, whereas four of them have been right-back.
Ten Hag, should be lure him to United with him, could be tempted to try him out at right-back, but his lack of experience playing there could prolong the United search for a suitable option. Alternatively, if his budget allowed, Ten Hag could do far worse than pursuing a move for Inter Milan right-back Denzel Dumfries.
If signed, Timber could succeed Harry Maguire at centre-back. The England defender has experienced a difficult campaign and it is likely that Raphael Varane would be preferred over him. Luke Shaw can continue at left-back.
Midfield – Kalvin Phillips, Donny van de Beek, Bruno Fernandes
If one area of the team is to be transformed this summer, it is in midfield. The supporters are desperate to see United strengthen the defensive-side of the operation and the club has already earmarked Kalvin Phillips of Leeds as a solution, despite ongoing links with Declan Rice.
As revealed by the Manchester Evening News , United are working on a move to bring Phillips to Old Trafford and are understood to be advancing on an intended deal to sign him. He would slot into midfield, quite possibly alongside Donny van de Beek, who thrived under Ten Hag at Ajax and will return from his loan at Everton.
Ahead of Phillips and Van de Beek, Bruno Fernandes would operate as United’s most advanced midfielder. Although he has blown hot and cold this term, he remains vital to the club, having recently signed a new deal. Fred and Scott McTominay would be competing for places.
Attack – Marcus Rashford, Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho
With Edinson Cavani destined to leave when his contract expires, United are going to be left with just Cristiano Ronaldo as a far their senior centre-forward options are concerned. And even though uncertainty surrounds his future, the likelihood is that he will stay at the club.
Nevertheless, United will still need to add another striker to their ranks, certainly of a younger age. Numerous players have been touted but none of them have yet been considered as concrete targets.
In the wide areas, Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Elanga are all likely to be around next season, meaning Ten Hag has some good options to work with, even if Rashford has struggled this season. Ajax ace Antony has been linked with a move to United but it remains to be seen if he will be needed.
United line-up: Henderson; Dumfries, Varane, Timber, Shaw; Phillips, Van de Beek, Fernandes; Rashford, Ronaldo, Sancho.
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