Manchester United have acted swiftly to ensure Ralf Rangnick’s shock departure does not create an issue this summer, with new head coach Erik ten Hag planning major changes at Old Trafford
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Manchester United moved impressively and swiftly to fill the void left by Ralf Rangnick with a new replacement after his sudden departure last week, which should allow Erik ten Hag to get on with planning his squad for next season.
The decision to end the German’s two-year consultancy role before the work had even begun was surprising, despite agreeing to take over as Austria coach. Rangnick had made grand plans to bring in up to 10 new players this summer as part of a major squad overhaul, but now it will be new deputy football director Andy O’Boyle who will be working alongside John Murtough and Ten Hag on recruitment.
The previous hierarchy led by Ed Woodward might have dwelled on a decision this big such as this for some time, so the fact O’Boyle’s return to Old Trafford was announced a week after Rangnick’s exit will be treated as a positive step. What’s more, it means Murtough is no longer burdened by the responsibility of solely handling Ten Hag’s transfer requests for the summer transfer window with O’Boyle there to share the workload.
The Dutchman has already set his sights on bringing six new players in, with the first expected to be a player he worked with at Ajax, centre-back Jurrien Timber. The Netherlands international has emerged as a £35million target and hinted could leave this summer if he is guaranteed first-team action.
“In the end, my gut feeling will be the deciding factor [over whether to leave or not],” he told De Telegraaf. “The picture has to be right. You can go to a big club. But if you’re not going to play there, it’s better to stay with Ajax.”
It is understood Ten Hag has also told the United board to pursue a deal for Benfica striker Darwin Nunez in addition to signing Timber. The 22-year-old scored 34 goals for Benfica this season and is valued at around £80m by the Portuguese outfit. While such a deal would represent an expensive deal for United, Nunez could be the striker who can replace Cristiano Ronaldo’s goals in the long term.
There will be much work ahead for Ten Hag, O’Boyle and Murtough, with almost an entirely new midfield required due to departures this summer. Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata and Nemanja Matic have confirmed their impending exits while Paul Pogba is all but certain to leave on a free transfer.
Declan Rice and Frenkie de Jong have been shortlisted as targets, although acquiring the former could prove to be tricky given West Ham’s £100m valuation. De Jong has also made clear that he is content to stay with Barcelona but the club may still cash in.
In addition to transfers, Ten Hag has made it clear what he expects from his current squad of players as he finalises preparations for pre-season – but also hinted he could hand chances to those who impress. “I have high expectations from myself and that is also what I demand from my squad,” he said in his first press conference.
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“They have to co-operate together and they have to give every day their best. And I would say, for me, good is not good enough. We have to do better.”
While Ten Hag’s opinion on what needs to change at United may not be as strong as Rangnick’s, there is evidence of the tide turning in Manchester. The Red Devils now have clear a structure in place which can help Ten Hag implement his plan of bringing in the players he has targeted and offloading the dead wood, which may prove easier now that Rangnick has left if he had differing views on which players to retain.
But crucially, drafting in O’Boyle to assist could help speed up the pace of which players are signed. That would give Ten Hag longer to work with his new arrivals in pre-season and ultimately, hand him a better chance of getting United off to a flying start in the Premier League next season.