The 16 days that will be crucial for Erik ten Hag’s first Manchester United season – Tyrone Marshall



When Ralf Rangnick said he wanted to turn his Manchester United players into “pressing monsters” he knew the cards were stacked against him.

Taking over a club in the middle of the season and trying to immediately engineer a change in playing style is difficult, never mind one that requires a greater level of fitness than those United players had in the tank.

Knowing his time at Old Trafford was limited, Rangnick admitted defeat on his principles, but Erik ten Hag won’t have to make the same compromise.

READ MORE: Rangnick reacts to Erik ten Hag appointment

Ten Hag will also have the benefit of starting work at the ideal time for a new manager.

The reality is that pre-season is the most critical time of the year for any manager. It is when the groundwork for what lies ahead over eight demanding months is laid, not only in terms of style but fitness.

Rangnick described footballers as Formula One cars on Tuesday night and to carry that analogy forward, pre-season is when the tank is filled up. Once the season begins it’s almost impossible to keep adding fuel given the demanding schedule of games, especially this year with a winter World Cup.

So Ten Hag will get the benefit of time on the training ground with these players, to make sure they have the physical capacity to press in the way he wants next season while also having time to fine-tune the automated passages of play that are so popular in modern coaching. Rangnick hasn’t had that opportunity since December.

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Pre-season will be a little different this summer, with the season starting on August 6, but Ten Hag will take office well before United’s players return from their summer break, which is likely to be in the first week of July.

He will also benefit from a pre-season tour and that trip to Thailand and Australia is going to be absolutely vital to the progress United can make under their new manager next season.

The money-spinning summer tours are beloved by the money men and not often appreciated by the players, who will at least have been grateful to avoid a full tour in the Far East.

But managers certainly see the benefit in them and after such a disspiriting season you can be sure Ten Hag will have the dates circled as the most important in his first summer as United boss.

The trip to Bangkok and Melbourne will feature at least three friendlies, against Liverpool, Melbourne Victory and Crystal Palace, but it is the concentrated time on the training ground that will give Ten Hag and his coaching staff the time to get their ideas across and make sure the players are fit enough to follow them.

The exact dates are to be confirmed but United are expected to head to Bangkok three or four days before facing Liverpool on July 12 and will return from Australia around July 25, so this will be a lengthy tour and by the end, Ten Hag will expect to see significant progress.

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Getting so much training ground time with the players – as well as seeing them up close away from the training pitches – will allow the new boss to assess who is committed to the “long-term vision” he has in mind for United and who is ready to adapt his playing style.

United will hope to have new signings on board by the time the plane departs for Thailand, but with the certainty that Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata and Edinson Cavani won’t be on the plane there will be chances for youngsters .

James Garner, Hannibal Mejbri and Alejandro Garnacho will surely be amongst the traveling party and there could be opportunities for more academy stars, such as full-backs Ethan Laird, who is having a disappointing time on loan at Bournemouth, and Alvaro Fernandez, who has impressed in the Under-23s this season.

United haven’t left these shores in pre-season since 2019 and a trip to Perth and the Far East. The return of the tour will be welcomed by Ten Hag as well as the club’s commercial department.

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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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