Manchester United are still not ready for their first Premier League title since 2013 in the 2023/24 season, and whether Rasmus Höjlund can fill the vacancy in the forward line has to be doubted, to say the least. The Red Devils in check.
How did the transfer window go?
Nearly 200 million euros were spent this summer to lure keeper André Onana (27/Inter Milan) to Old Trafford as a successor to David de Gea (32), midfielder Mason Mount (24/Chelsea) and striker Rasmus Höjlund (20/Atalanta). High hopes are being pinned on the latter in particular. “I’m sure the whole team has been waiting for a guy like him,” said Erik ten Hag after the 3:1 against RC Lens on Saturday.
Otherwise, United kept their squad together for the most part, with only the loaned Marcel Sabitzer (29) and Wout Weghorst (30) notable departures apart from attacker Anthony Elanga (21/Nottingham) and left-back Alex Telles (30/Al-Nassr). A duo could still be added: According to the “Guardian”, West Ham United have made a double bid for Harry Maguire (30) and Scott McTominay (26) for 70 million euros – both are expendable for ten Hag.
What gives hope, what gives worry?
The results of the preparation gave limited cause for optimism, but the Red Devils won their dress rehearsal as mentioned against the French runners-up Lens. The attacking trio of Marcus Rashford, Antony and Alejandro Garnacho showed remarkable early form – without new captain Bruno Fernandes having to put his stamp on the game.
The team has now internalised ten Hag’s football, the ambitious Dutchman leading the team with a fertile mix of rigour, consistency and approachability. And when United kick off the new season against Wolverhampton on 14 August, United will already have clarity on the squad’s biggest areas of improvement compared to many a rival. In the meantime, ten Hag’s team showed itself to be particularly susceptible in the defensive area in preparation, which had only conceded 43 goals in 38 games in the Premier League last season.
“We have to raise the bar,” ten Hag said recently, referring to the “very strong competition”. He does not want to put too much pressure on Höjlund, who is associated with high hopes in the theatre of dreams. The Danish international scored “only” nine goals in 32 Serie A games for Atalanta. One factor will be how quickly he can get used to Premier League football. Otherwise, everything in last year’s seventh-best offense will once again hinge on Rashford.
Third place from the previous season is something Manchester United will first have to confirm. City rivals ManCity and the big-money Arsenal are likely to move ahead again, with the Red Devils having rivals of the calibre of Newcastle United, Liverpool, maybe Tottenham, maybe even Aston Villa breathing down their necks. A Champions League starting place must also be secured in view of the additional burden in the top flight. United can probably only win a trophy in a cup competition again.