A year ago
A year ago
One of the first Premier League teams to resume preseason practice on Monday is MANCHESTER UNITED.
They may have more work to complete than any of their competitors, which may be the reason behind this.
After ordering the lawn at their Carrington HQ to be cut, new boss Erik ten Hag is literally not allowing the grass grow under his feet.
The same cannot be said of those working behind the scenes, as it has been five weeks since the end of the previous season and no breakthrough has occurred in the summer transfer market.
Disgruntled fans' appetites are unlikely to be whetted by the sight of 15 or so first-team players reporting back after their vacations for the 2022–23 season.
After all, it is the same group that, with a few notable exceptions, finished the previous one in a dismal sixth place.
Their 58 points were the lowest total in 32 years, despite the fact that they narrowly avoided the humiliation of the Europa Conference League.
That put them 35 points from first place and 13 points short of reaching their minimum preseason goal of Champions League qualification.
Not to mention that with 57 goals allowed, the Red Devils had their worst league season since 1978-79.
Richard Arnold, the newly appointed chief executive, acknowledged that last season was a "f*****g disaster" and that he "hated every minute of it." Not everyone was like him.
Ten Hag, 52, has a solid reputation from his recent work in Holland, but he is hardly a miracle worker.
They sorely needed a huge signing or two to lift the mood at Old Trafford, but none have materialized thus far.
According to rumors, Cristiano Ronaldo is growing impatient with the absence of fresh faces and is worried about what the upcoming season may bring.
These sentiments are currently shared by a large portion of United supporters.
Famous athletes with expiring contracts include Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, and Nemanja Matic.
There won't be a lot of crying over any of them. However, despite the club being linked to more than a hundred players, no one has yet arrived to take their position.
Erling Haaland was acquired by neighbors Manchester City, and a deal for Kalvin Phillips was also reached.
That is difficult for the Old Trafford crowd to accept given that both had previously been targets for the Red Devils.
As if that weren't awful enough, Darwin Nunez, the striker they sought this summer, ended up playing for Liverpool, another of their rivals.
In fact, they now believe that Anfield's summer transfer business is finished, whilst United's has just begun.
Frenkie de Jong's transfer to Barcelona is becoming closer, and the team is also expecting that Christian Eriksen will respond favorably in the next few days.
They will also require a few more. But it would at least be a start if Ten Hag could have both on the flight when United takes off for a preseason tour of Thailand and Australia on Friday.
De Jong, 25, will be prepared because he collaborated with the new United manager when they were both at Ajax.
Donny van de Beek, a midfielder who is back at United after a failed loan at Everton, might also be prepared because they both worked with Ten Hag in Holland.
However, when the rest of the team reports for preseason today, including Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, and Anthony Martial, they might be in for a nasty shock.
According to insider sources, Ten Hag will be on the practice field for lengthy periods of time in the coming weeks. His players were appalled by the amount of work he placed on them when he took over at Ajax in 2017, even though it ultimately paid off.
He wants the players to embrace his "Total Football" philosophy, which was popularized in the 1970s by Dutch legend Johan Cruyff.
He will also want United to attack as a unit in a smooth manner, with the defense coming first.
Anyone who refuses to adopt the approach risk being quickly abandoned in the cold and making their way to Old Trafford's exit.
Beds were erected at the Go Ahead Eagles training facility when taskmaster Ten Hag was in command so that players could take a little snooze in between harsh practices.
Kofi Dekye Acquaye
A week ago