Jim Ratcliffe's potential Man Utd investment assessed | Football Digest
Erik ten Hag’s second season as Manchester United manager hasn’t started as planned, bringing the Dutchman under scrutiny after a successful maiden campaign. But between the lines, United are showing the makings of a promising Ten Hag team, and his summer transfer business has played a significant role.
The Red Devils’ season so far has been nothing short of disastrous on and off the pitch, losing six of their opening 11 games in all competitions.
Ten Hag’s side are 10th in the Premier League, eight points off the summit, and rock-bottom of Group A in the Champions League, having lost to Bayern Munich and Galatasaray.
United somewhat overachieved last term, ending a six-year trophy drought and finishing third in the English top flight.
That, in turn, raised expectations this season when, in reality, it represented the true start to his rebuild, given the significant change in style prompted by Andre Onana replacing David de Gea in goal.
And while United have regressed in terms of results, it looks likely to be a case of short-term pain and long-term gain, as was expected when he took the hot seat last summer.
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Underlying numbers suggest that Ten Hag’s mission to make his side the ‘best in the world’ at transition play is on track.
Opta have released statistics comparing United’s pressing numbers between this season and last. The contrast is startling.
United ranked eighth in the Premier League for pressed sequences last term (14.3pg) but second this season (16.8pg).
They’ve also boosted from sixth in high turnovers (8.6pg) to first (11.3pg) and fifth (5.4pg) to first (7.8pg) in possession won in the final third.
United also rank first this season in start distance (45.2m) compared to sixth last term (42.8m), indicating they are playing with a much higher line.
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Finally, Ten Hag’s side have launched from the sixth-best team for winning possession in the middle third last season (24.3pg) to the second-best this time around (25.2pg).
Ten Hag’s focused his summer signings on players who will suit the system he wants to implement at Old Trafford, including Onana.
But outfield, he splashed £140m to sign Mason Mount, Rasmus Hojlund and Sofyan Amrabat with a high-intensity philosophy in mind, despite external doubts over all three.
The numbers showcase that that aspect of his vision has already been realised. United must now find more efficiency in front of goal and tighten up at the back for consistent results to follow.
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