Erik ten Hag

Top 10 Players Erik ten Hag Needs to Rebuild Manchester United

Who are the players Ten Hag needs to get to bring life to the Red Devils?

by Konstantin Simidchiyski

It’s official now – Erik ten Hag is Manchester United’s new manager. The 52-years old Dutch tactician will replace the interim head coach Ralf Rangnick in the summer. Ten Hag will have the challenging task of turning the Red Devils into a contender again after a decade of mediocrity. 

Since the legendary sir Alex Ferguson retired from the game in 2013, Manchester United has had trouble finding success. The club managed to win a few trophies here and there, including the FA Cup and Europa League, but they could not compete in the Premier League or the Champions League. Several managers tried their luck at the Old Trafford, and they spent a tremendous amount of money on signings, but nothing seemed to work out.

Who is Erik ten Hag?

Erik ten Hag is Manchester United’s new hope for finding success again. Performing as a centre-back during his playing days, Ten Hag didn’t have a bright career as he played for a few average Dutch clubs. He proved to be much better as a head coach, especially since being appointed at Ajax in 2017. He won a few trophies with the Amsterdam giants and reached the Champions League 1/2-finals in 2019, one of his most impressive achievements. Erik ten Hag also won three times the Rinus Michels Award for being the best football manager in the Netherlands. 

What must Erik ten Hag do to succeed at Manchester United?

The Dutch manager will need some new players, and that’s clear, but he also needs to show the door to others. We know that Paul Pogba will leave the club in the summer, and that’s the right decision because he never looked like a good fit anyway. And what is the technical staff going to do with Cristiano Ronaldo? The Portuguese star is 37-years old, so they must decide for him. 

At the same time, Harry Maguire’s future looks uncertain because he’s being ridiculed for his performances for the majority of the season. Players like Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Phil Jones, and Eric Bailly could be shown the door as well.

So, who are the players Erik ten Hag could and should sign at Manchester United to improve the team? 

Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus)

Erik ten Hag is the man who made Matthijs de Ligt Ajax’s youngest captain ever in 2018, so he knows his qualities more than well. Since 2019 the centre-back has been playing for Juventus, but there are rumours he wants to leave Turin and move to England or Spain instead.

The 22-years old Dutch international was instrumental for Ajax when the club reached the Champions League 1/2-finals in 2019. His impressive physique would help him excel in the Premier League, while Manchester United desperately needs a new centre-back because of Harry Maguire’s poor performances. De Ligt could become the perfect partner for Raphael Varane in the heart of the defense.

Every manager likes to work with players he already knows well, and that’s why we expect to see Erik ten Hag asking for Matthijs de Ligt’s availability in the summer. 

Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona)

Just like De Ligt, Frenkie de Jong is another great player who used to play for Erik ten Hag in Ajax. And he was also essential for the team’s excellent Champions League campaign in 2019 before moving to Barcelona

Just 24-years old, Frenkie de Jong’s peak years are still about to come. He has always been an important player for Barca, but the Catalans’ troubling financial situation could motivate them to sell some of their stars. And while players like Pedri and Gavi look untransferable, De Jong could be this guy.

Barcelona already secured the services of AC Milan’s Franck Kessie on a free transfer which would allow them to sanction Frenkie de Jong’s departure more easily. The Dutch midfielder is regarded as an important player by Xavi, but an outstanding offer could change everybody’s mind at the Camp Nou. De Jong himself knows very well that he will instantly turn into one of Manchester United’s undisputed leaders under his former coach Ten Hag.

Antony (Ajax)

Surely Erik ten Hag will try to sign some of the players he’s currently coaching at Ajax. That’s pretty normal, and we won’t be surprised. The Red Devils need a good winger, and the 22-years old Brazilian Antony could be the man for the job.

A product of Sao Paulo’s academy, Antony is one of the most exciting young wingers in European football right now. Playing mainly on the right flank, he’s an incredibly entertaining player who constantly reminds us why we started watching football in the first place. His technique and dribbling ability could make the Old Trafford easily fall in love with him. 

Antony has already scored 12 goals for Ajax and made 10 assists in all competitions this season, while Erik ten Hag probably sees him as an excellent addition to his next project. Thanks to his performances in the Eredivisie, Antony has already played 9 times for Brazil and even scored two goals. 

Jurriën Timber (Ajax)

The best way of building a great team for the future is by bringing the most outstanding young talents in the world. One of them is arguably Ajax’s 20-years old centre-back Jurriën Timber, who is currently playing under Ten Hag in the Eredivisie.

Timber is having his second season as a regular in Ajax’s first team, making noises around Europe with his performances. While you should expect to see him playing for the Netherlands at the World Cup in December, Timber’s progress is monitored by the biggest clubs on the continent. 

Signing Jurriën Timber would be much easier than bringing De Ligt from Juventus so going him for makes perfect logic at the moment. Ten Hag is the main reason Timber himself would choose United while many other big clubs are interested.

Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)

This one will be difficult, but if Manchester United manages to do it, they will make a huge, huge signing.

Maybe you remember that Harry Kane pushed for a move to Manchester City last summer, but Tottenham refused to sell him. The striker didn’t have any other choice but to stay and suffer another trophyless season in North London. Now Kane is urged again to leave Spurs and save his career – he’s already 28-years old and hasn’t won a single trophy yet. That’s just sad.

Doing business with Tottenham’s president Daniel Levy is a nightmare, but Kane must try to do what players like Dimitar Berbatov, Luka Modric, and Gareth Bale did in the past – push for the move and sign with the bigger club. He’s a player who could be an enormous addition to Erik ten Hag’s project, and his stats through the years prove it. Manchester United desperately needs a new striker, with Cristiano Ronaldo near his career’s end. Is Kane the answer here?

Max Aarons (Norwich City)

Manchester United needs reinforcement for the right-back position, and Norwich City’s Max Aarons is another young player on the table. 

Although he’s just 22-years old, Aarons has already established himself as one of the most wanted players at the Carrow Road. According to some rumours, European giants such as Barcelona and Bayern Munich constantly follow his progress.

Max Aarons is still about to make his debut for England, but he could make tremendous progress with proper coaching. One of Erik ten Hag’s best qualities is working with the youngsters, so this could be the right move for Aarons.

Darwin Nunez (Benfica)

Signing Harry Kane could be very difficult, so United should explore other options, too. One of them is arguably Benfica’s Uruguayan star Darwin Nunez – a striker getting some accurate recognition lately.

Just 22-years old, Nunez is making noise with his groundbreaking season at Benfica in the Primeira Liga. Since the beginning of the 2021/22 season, he has scored 33 goals in 38 games for the Portuguese giants. His record is just as impressive in the Champions League – 6 goals in 10 matches. He managed to score against clubs like Bayern Munich, Barcelona, and Liverpool.

It’s pretty clear that Darwin Nunez won’t remain at Benfica for a very long time. He’s linked to some of the biggest clubs in Europe while his improving record is feeding the rumours. If Manchester United fails to negotiate a deal with Tottenham for Harry Kane, they should turn their attention to Nunez, a player who has not even entered his best years.

Aurélien Tchouaméni (AS Monaco)

What Manchester United have in midfield is not good enough, and Paul Pogba’s forthcoming departure makes signing midfielders even more urgent. If the club is ready to spend some big bucks to welcome Erik ten Hag, they should turn their attention to one of the most talented young midfielders in Europe right now – Aurélien Tchouaméni.

Tchouaméni is another incredible talent produced by the French academies in recent years. Since joining AS Monaco from Bordeaux in 2019, he has built a spectacular reputation as a future star and world-class player. Being 1.87m tall and incredibly athletic, Tchouaméni looks like a perfect fit for the Premier League.

The problem? He’s already scouted by basically every other big club in Europe at the moment. His price will be enormous, but United could get a key player for the next decade with him.

Declan Rice (West Ham United)

Speaking of midfielders, United should not overlook the domestic market as well. West Ham United’s Declan Rice is one of the most significant midfield prospects in the Premier League right now, and he’s a player who seems ready to take the next step.

Rice’s situation looks a little bit complex at the moment, though. He refuses to sign a new contract with West Ham, but at the same time, the club said he wouldn’t be sold either. This means that United would have to invest a hefty sum in acquiring his services. West Ham put a £150 million price on him which could be a severe deal-breaker in this case.

It’s rumoured that Chelsea is the other big club seriously interested in Declan Rice’s services. He’s a product of the Blues’ academy, but he left Chelsea for West Ham in 2017.

Ryan Gravenberch (Ajax)

Alongside Jurriën Timber and Antony, Ryan Gravenberch is another one of Erik ten Hag’s current players in Ajax who could move with him to England. 

Just 19-years old, he’s considered one of the best young midfielders in Europe at the moment. Last summer Frank de Boer included him in Netherlands’ squad for Euro 2020, which was another recognition of his undeniable quality.

One of Ryan Gravenberch’s most significant assets is his physics. He’s dominating the game with an impressive height of 1.90m, making him a beast at the holding midfielder position. At the same time, being a product of Ajax’s academy, he’s comfortable with the ball, and he’s already used to Erik ten Hag’s philosophy. It sounds like a great deal, doesn’t it?

Bonus: Ousmane Dembélé (Barcelona)

With his contract coming to an end, Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembélé will be one of the most exciting free agents in football in the summer. There are rumours that he could sign a new deal with the Catalans, but so far, nothing is clear. Right now, Dembélé is free to listen to offers and decide his future.

Even if his injury record is concerning, Ousmane Dembélé remains one of the most unpredictable and exciting wingers in football. When he’s in good shape, Dembélé is unplayable – he’s too quick, technical, and unpredictable. He’s also good with both feet, making him exceptionally dangerous for the opposition.

Since Xavi’s arrival at Barcelona, the Frenchman has been thriving as he made tons of assists in the last few months. He’s still talking with Barca for a new contract, while PSG seems to be interested as well. Can United make a surprising move here? 

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