Man Utd beat Nottingham Forest 5-0 over 2 legs in the Carabao Cup Semi-final. Ten Hag will have the opportunity to win Man Utd a trophy for the first time since Mourinho won the Europa League in 2017. While the Carabao Cup is not a priority for many big teams, It would be a step in the right direction for United, who are seeking to rebuild and compete amongst the top teams in Europe.
Despite a poor start to the season with losses to Brighton and Brentford, United have turned things around. They currently sit 4th in the Premier League, only behind Newcastle on goal difference. Ten Hag’s attacking philosophy has created a more clinical team. Rashford already has 21 goals to his name this season. The quick interplay between players has helped Man Utd break teams down in the final third, an area of the pitch in which they often struggled to create openings under Solsjkaer.
Ten Hag came to the club with a big job on his hands. Players such as Pogba, Cavani, Lingard, and Matic left on free transfers. The midfield area needed bolstering to give the Red Devils the best chance of competing with the likes of Man City, Liverpool, and Arsenal. There was also a defensive issue. Harry Maguire was often criticised for his errors in matches while the injury-prone Eric Bailly often left United with a weaker squad. Things needed changing if Man United were to challenge for the title.
Ten Hag’s Summer signings
So in came Lisandro Martinez and Tyrell Malacia to strengthen the back line. Martinez was bought for £56.7 million from Ajax and has been instrumental in United’s success this season alongside Varane. His courage has stopped many goals this season after putting in brilliant last-ditch tackles. He scored his first goal of the season in the 3-2 loss against Arsenal a few weeks ago. Tyrell Malacia has provided greater depth in the defensive positions. Despite not having the greatest start to the season, the dutchman is only 23 and has a bright future ahead of him. Anthony was the big summer signing. The Brazilian impressed fans by scoring in his debut game against Arsenal, but Anthony is yet to regain the form he was in at the start of his Manchester United career. That being said, his speed and his long shots make him a danger against any team.
Despite these signings, there has been one man who has been key. Every team needs a conductor in the midfield to control the tempo and Ten Hag has found that man in Casemiro. His hefty transfer fee of £60 million plus add-ons, was met with skepticism from many pundits. Casemiro is an all-rounder. He can get stuck in and win the ball back as well as score and assist his teammates. The Brazilian has already registered four goals and five assists this season, but he is set to miss the next three Premier League games after receiving a red card for violent conduct in a 2-1 win against Crystal Palace. The 2-2 result against Leeds required the Red Devils to mount a comeback and showed fans how crucial Casemiro is to the team. Without him, the players do not flow.
In January, injuries forced Ten Hag to look to short-term loan players
The departure of Ronaldo left a void that needed filling. With Martial regularly sidelined, Man United turned to Burnley striker Wout Weghorst. The Dutchman impressed at the World Cup and signed on a short-term loan. Despite only scoring 1 goal so far, he is a hard worker who looks to benefit the team. Marcel Sabitzer arrived on loan from Bayern Munich after long-term injuries to Van de Beek and Eriksen. With Casemiro’s suspension and injury to McTominay, Sabitzer found himself starting in back-to-back games against Leeds. His high work rate has shown he’s a player that fits in Ten Hag’s philosophy.
Can Manchester United realistically win the league?
Overall this season is a step in the right direction for United. They sit third in the League. While it may be a long shot to call Man Utd title contenders, qualifying for Champions League, and winning a domestic cup is a good start. The Red Devils saw off Newcastle in the EFL cup final on 26 February. The toons have been a tough team to break down under Eddie Howe, with the previous meeting between the two teams earlier in the season ending in a draw. Both teams currently sit third and fourth in Premier League. Ten Hag has infused Man United with a high-tempo attacking style of play, similar to the tactics employed by Jurgen Klopp. Tactics that led Liverpool to win the Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup, and League Cup under Klopp.
Marcus Rashford is a man at the top of his game with 13 goals in his last 15 games. Despite a tight schedule this season due to the winter World Cup in Qatar, United have persevered and face a tough opponent in Barcelona in the Knockout round of the Europa League, two games which will require them to be at the top of their game.