As the Premier League season approaches the halfway mark, Manchester United finds themselves in a haphazard situation. Erik Ten Hag’s team’s inconsistent performances have been a letdown for many fans and raised questions about the team’s depth and strength. Despite the club’s rich history and mammoth success, they have become a former shell of themselves. However, there is always hope for Man United — and that hope could come in the form of offloading players. On that note, let us unpack whether Ten Hag needs to offload players and sign reinforcements in January 2024.
Manchester United’s form has seen a poor start to the season. While players are being heavily scrutinised by the media and former players, their current losing streak has even seen Erik Ten Hag as one of the favourites to be sacked by an online sportsbook. While this is a talented team, their performances have been sub-par lately. A closer examination of the squad’s composition and recent form reveals key weaknesses.
Unfortunately, Man United’s defensive line has been a major cause for concern. There have been frequent lapses in concentration, which has led to multiple costly conceded goals. Additionally, and despite their experience, defenders Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane have struggled to maintain consistency at the back. Which in turn left the entire team vulnerable to counterattacks and also set pieces.
The midfield has displayed a few moments of brilliance, which has provided renowned hope to the team. However, there have also been instances where they lacked a dominant presence in the park’s centre. This has severely impacted the tempo of their gameplay and their ability to control the game. Bruno Fernandes’ inconsistent form, where he has struggled to impose his authority in crucial matches, has largely contributed to the team’s efforts in the midfield. Remember, Bruno is the captain, so supporters expect much more from him. The midfield, in particular, sees too many individual moments over teamwork. Much stronger English teams have exposed it.
Some forwards, particularly Marcus Rashford, have been dubbed ‘selfish.’ There seems to be validity to concern based on his lack of goal-scoring and passing on crucial instances that could have won the side several games. What is also clear is that United’s attacking options appear to be limited, especially when they are facing resilient teams with outstanding defensive setups.
Offloading Players: It Is Time for Change
To address the squad’s consistent issues, many have argued that it would be best to offload the players who have failed to meet expectations or do not fit into the plan of Ten Hag. Here are some players under scrutiny.
There are two evident issues with Maguire: his inconsistent performances and defensive lapses. While his leadership qualities and aerial prowess have been on display, it is simply not enough. Maguire’s lack of pace and susceptibility to errors have cost the team dearly. Offloading Maguire could free up resources for a more agile and reliable defensive option.
Firstly, he is 35, which puts him in the older bracket of modern football. He holds a position that could allow a young breakout star to shine. If Man United wants to revamp their defensive line, they will need young, up-and-coming, quality defenders. Evans is injury-prone, which does not bode well for United — perhaps his time on the pitch is ending.
This player is now at the tail-end of his career. Considering his position as a midfielder, Eriksen cannot keep up with the pace and makes sloppy mistakes when he should be playing strategically. He is another player who is holding the team back, and it is evident when you look at his recent performances. Another area of concern is the fact that he is holding the position of the many young and talented midfielders on the bench. So, Ten Hag does not even have to sign new talent; they are sitting on the bench.
While offloading players would solve the squad’s problems at face value, signing the correct reinforcements is equally crucial. For Man United to remain competitive, here are some positions that require immediate attention.
Considering the team’s current vulnerabilities in this area, it would be great to invest in a centre-back or a defensive midfielder who can shield the backline. A player with solid tactical awareness and leadership qualities should work for this team.
Two words: dynamic playmaker. That is it.
Rashford, while problematic in some cases, can perform, and he has proven it repeatedly. However, what is needed is a backup forward who is capable of sharing the goal-scoring burden. Preferably someone who is versatile and can adapt to different tactical setups.
Time For United To Improve
In light of Man United’s shortcomings, there is a need for a significant push in the second half of the season. Manchester United needs to carefully consider offloading underperforming players while simultaneously signing reinforcements in the January transfer window. What the team needs now is a balanced approach to address the team’s defence, its midfield instability, as well as its lack of attacking. However, the team’s success will rest upon signing the right players who can integrate and contribute to the squad’s success.