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Man Utd’s troubled transfer window clouds Ten Hag’s prospects

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Eric ten Haag’s first competitive game as manager on Sunday should mark a fresh start for Manchester Untied, but familiar underhanded setbacks have made the Dutchman’s difficult job almost impossible.

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Ten Hag’s predecessor Ralph Rangnick ended his miserable run last season by saying the United team needed “open heart surgery” and up to 10 new players after he struggled to finish sixth in the Premier League.

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So far, only three new players have arrived at Old Trafford – Lisandro Martinez, Tyrell Malasia and Christian Eriksen.

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United’s squad may be weaker than last season, with Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani, Jesse Lingard, Nemanja Matic and Juan Mata leaving for free, while goalkeeper Dean Henderson joined Nottingham Forest on loan.

The prospect of a much more significant departure will hang during the first few weeks of the season as Cristiano Ronaldo attempts to break through to play Champions League football this season.

Ronaldo made his first pre-season appearance on Sunday, playing in the first half of a 1-1 draw against Rayo Vallecano.

But his decision to leave the stadium sooner than full-time was called “unacceptable” by Ten Hag.

The former Ajax boss showed discipline in the early weeks of his reign, reportedly reintroducing penalties for bad timing and forbidding players from having their own personal chefs.

Ten Hag shows no signs of satisfying Ronaldo’s ego as he orders the five-time Ballon d’Or winner to get back in shape after United missed much of the preparations for the new campaign.

“It all starts with him getting in shape because he just started,” Ten Hag told Sky Sports.

“He is a fantastic footballer and he has proved it many times, but you are always judged by what you represent now and how you play now.

“So the team and Cristiano himself have to prove it.”

– A second chance for Martial, Rashford and Sancho –

Ronaldo’s likely absence from the starting XI for Sunday’s visit to Brighton gives the trio of strikers Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Jadon Sancho a chance to return to their United careers.

Rashford and Martial were the backbone of the attacking team that finished second in the Premier League under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in 2020/21 but were edged out by the arrival of Ronaldo, Cavani and Sancho.

Martial even spent the second half of last season on loan at Sevilla, but Ronaldo’s desire to leave saved the Frenchman.

Rashford’s decline in form led to him being omitted from the England squad. But he feels the benefits of a summer without international obligations.

“This is my first year that I’ve been with the team since the beginning (pre-season),” Rashford said. “I feel a lot better than usual when I leave with the nationals and come back in the middle of preseason. It’s important to start over. I feel fresh and ready.”

Sancho also struggled to justify his £73m price tag in his first season at United, but he paired well with Rashford and Martial in pre-season, including a 4-0 win over Liverpool.

Ronaldo is not the only transfer saga of United’s summer season. The long and so far fruitless pursuit of Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong has left Ten Hag in midfield.

This could mean the role of the versatile Martinez, who is reunited with his old boss at Ajax.

The Argentine has mainly played as a centre-back for the Dutch champions, but his diminutive 5ft 9in (1.8m) stature casts doubt on his ability to play this role in the Premier League.

In his opening, Ten Hag set his sights on chasing Manchester City and Liverpool to the top of the Premier League.

Considering the cards he’s dealt, even getting into the top four would be a monumental achievement.



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