Man United need Maguire, Fernandes and Rashford to lift club up, as new signings won’t solve all problems

After the first wave of Manchester United returnees trotted onto the pitches at Carrington on Monday afternoon, new manager Erik ten Hag rounded them up in a group first.

Flanked by assistants Steve McLaren and Mitchell van der Gaag, the Dutchman explained what he expects during the first session of the summer before ending his speech with one more point – that success next season depends on them.

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Ten Hag has not hidden his desire to see signings during the transfer window, but in face-to-face meetings and Zoom calls with players conducted over the past six weeks, he has stressed that the biggest change has to come from within the squad, that he inherited.

He has told individuals that a miserable season last year does not make them bad players and that apart from those who have already made it clear they want out, they have all had a clean slate during the pre-season and the tour of Thailand and Australia expires on July 8th

United’s squad refreshment budget this summer has been described as “substantial” but those who know the finer details say there was an insistence back in April that fans shouldn’t expect sweeping changes.

The club immediately distanced themselves from interim boss Ralf Rangnick’s claims after the humiliating defeat by Liverpool at Anfield that up to 10 new players could arrive by the end of the season.

And since the announcement of Ten Hag’s appointment, the message from director of football John Murtough and CEO Richard Arnold has been the same – that the former Ajax manager’s first task is to get more out of the players already at Old Trafford.

“Erik will aim to maximize the potential of existing players while working toward long-term success,” Murtough told a fan forum in May.

“The squad will be reinforced and renewed this summer and Erik will play a key role in this process alongside the recruitment department to identify and secure targets. The existing squad still offers enormous potential and strong talents from the academy who are thriving.”

At its official reveal, Ten Hag presented a similar challenge to four players in particular. Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford were all part of the squad for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who finished second in the Premier League in 2021 but all suffered disastrous slumps in form to collectively contribute to a sixth-place finish last season.

“We accept the current situation, but we also know that this club, this team, were second in the Premier League a year ago,” said Ten Hag.

“There is potential and now it’s up to us to exploit that. It’s a process, it will take time, but I’m sure we’ll get to the point where we’re going to be successful. We have to work hard and build on that with the right philosophy and strategy.”

The point is that signings such as Frenkie de Jong, Tyrell Malacia, Lisandro Martinez and Antony – all on United’s radar – will help give the club a fresh start, but they cannot be expected to do so Turn things around and the easiest way to gain ground on Manchester City and Liverpool is to find a way to restore the standards set in 2020-21.

Only Champions City scored more league goals than United two years ago, thanks in part to Fernandes, who scored 18 times and had 28 goals in all competitions. In the two seasons between 2019 and 2021, Rashford scored 43 times, although he spent most of that time on the wing. On the back, Shaw was voted Premier League Team of the Year 2021 while Maguire was voted into the UEFA Team of the Tournament for Euro 2020 as England reached the final.

By contrast, Maguire and Shaw were part of a defense last season that conceded more goals than Burnley, who were relegated to the Championship, while Fernandes and Rashford combined for 15 goals. There’s a lot of room for improvement, even just compared to what they’ve done before.

United fans are waiting with bated breath for the first signing of the Ten Hag era, but success in the Dutchman’s first season at Old Trafford will not be defined by the new names that come through the door. Instead, the familiar faces are being asked to take responsibility, raise standards and get the club moving again in a bid to return to the top of national and European football.

Ten Hag was brought in in part to remind a team under fire and pressure that not so long ago they were real title contenders. Your challenge now is to prove him right. Man United need Maguire, Fernandes and Rashford to lift club up, as new signings won’t solve all problems

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