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How Man United could line up next season as Erik ten Hag looks to close the gap to Man City



How Man United could line up next season as Erik ten Hag looks to close the gap to Man City

This season has certainly been a step forward for Manchester United with Erik ten Hag guiding the Red Devils back into the Champions League.

But they still have work to do to catch Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, and plenty will depend on their summer recruitment.

United are already being linked with some eye-catching transfers that would undoubtedly make them a force to be reckoned with next year.

Ten Hag’s men were the lowest scorers in the top six this season, and had some alarming away performances that saw them slip to heavy defeats at City, Brentford and Liverpool.

But the club look set to try and address these issues by bringing in some fresh faces this summer. Mail Sport has taken a look at how United could line up in a 4-3-3 formation in 2023-24.

Erik ten Hag has led Man United back into the top four but there is still work to do

Goalkeeper – Diogo Costa

David de Gea won the Premier League Golden Glove for the second time in his career this season, keeping 17 clean sheets in total.

But concerns remain about his ability with the ball at his feet after Newcastle’s Jacob Murphy revealed the Magpies deliberately targeted the Spanish goalkeeper at St James’ Park in April.

De Gea has also not agreed a contract extension yet, with his current deal set to expire at the end of the month. Ten Hag has insisted he wants to keep De Gea, but it may be time to start looking elsewhere.

Diogo Costa has emerged as a potential target, and United are reportedly willing to pay his £65m release clause. He is expected to leave Porto this summer, and Old Trafford could be his next destination.

Costa is nine years younger than De Gea, but has already established himself as Portugal’s No 1, and his distribution is far superior to United’s current first-choice shot-stopper.

If United want to start building from the back more effectively, Costa looks like a better option to go with moving forward.

Porto goalkeeper Diogo Costa could be on his way to Old Trafford this summer

Costa could replace David de Gea who is yet to sign a new contract with United

Right back – Diogo Dalot

Dalot’s future at Old Trafford looked to be uncertain at the start of the season, but he has won the trust of Ten Hag during the course of the campaign.

He featured in 26 league games and largely got the nod over Aaron Wan-Bissaka on the right flank.

The Portuguese star can still improve his attacking output to ensure United aren’t too reliant on their left-hand side, but he is only 24 and has time on his side to develop this part of his game.

He signed a five-year contract extension on Wednesday, highlighting that Ten Hag sees him as a key part of his plans for the seasons ahead.

With this in mind, Dalot ought to retain his place at right back next term.

Centre back – Raphael Varane

Varane’s fitness has been a problem ever since he arrived in England, and Ten Hag will have hoped for him to play more than 24 league games this season.

But there is no doubt that United are a better team when he is playing.

The World Cup winner brings calmness to the backline, and is comfortable stepping out of defence to start attacks.

He turned 30 in April, and United will need to start thinking about finding a long-term replacement in the not-too-distant future.

But for now, he is still one of the best defenders in the league and a guaranteed starter when fit and available.

Raphael Varane has had problems with injuries but remains a key part of the back four

Centre back – Lisandro Martinez

Jamie Carragher was adamant at the start of the season that Martinez would not succeed in the Premier League due to his height but the Argentine has proven the former Liverpool defender wrong.

The tenacious centre back has been a breath of fresh air at United, adding some much-needed grit to the defence.

He has slotted in seamlessly alongside Varane, and the duo are now the clear first-choice pairing for Ten Hag.

Martinez’s unfortunate injury against Sevilla in April brought his season to a premature end, but he ought to be back in plenty of time for next term.

There is no need for Ten Hag to switch things up – Martinez looks the real deal, and at 25, he is only likely to get better.

Left back – Luke Shaw

Completing the back four is Shaw, who has had an impressive 2022-23 season.

It has been a rollercoaster United career for Shaw over the last nine years that has seen him lose his place on multiple occasions, but he now appears to be at his peak.

Injuries have been less of an issue this year, and he has been one of the team’s most consistent performers.

There are not many better left backs in the Premier League, so it is hard to see how United would be able to upgrade in this position.

Shaw deserves to keep his place at left back, with Tyrell Malacia providing adequate cover if needed.

Luke Shaw has bounced back from multiple setbacks in his career and is now a regular starter

Defensive midfield – Casemiro

The Brazilian midfielder has been one of the signings of the season after there were initial doubts about how much United had paid for him last summer.

His experience in the middle of the park has been invaluable, and he has popped up with crucial goals in the Carabao Cup final and the last games of the league season to get his side into the top four.

His discipline has been a worry, and Ten Hag cannot afford to see his holding midfielder get sent off twice again next year.

He may also want to think about bringing in cover for Casemiro so that he can be rested from time to time during busy periods.

But when it comes to big games, Casemiro turns up, and he will have a key role to play if United are to close the gap to City and Arsenal in 2023-24.

Central midfield – Mason Mount

Mount looks set to leave his boyhood club this summer as he approaches the final year of his deal at Stamford Bridge.

A move to United could be on the cards, with the Red Devils expected to step up their interest in the 24-year-old after Saturday’s FA Cup final.

Mount’s 2022-23 season did not go to plan, as he missed a large chunk of the campaign due to injury while also losing his place in the England starting XI at the World Cup.

There remains some doubt as to his best position, having played as an attacking midfielder and out wide at Chelsea, but it seems likely he would be used as a No 8 at Old Trafford.

Mount brings energy and is technically sound, plus he has proven over the years he can chip in with goals and assists.

He is at a crossroads in his career, but a change of scenery at United could do him the world of good and remind fans exactly why he has been so highly-rated by every manager he has ever played under.

Mason Mount is linked with a move to United after failing to agree a new deal at Chelsea

Central midfield – Bruno Fernandes

Fernandes has been the on-field captain for United for much of this season in the absence of Harry Maguire, and looks likely to be given the armband permanently if Maguire moves on in the summer.

While he has struggled to reproduce the numbers he delivered in his first 18 months at United, Fernandes is still one of the first names on the teamsheet.

He has often played in a more advanced role for United, but dropped into a deeper position at times in the second half of the season and excelled.

With Mount potentially coming into the team, some United fans may be concerned that the midfield will be too attacking, leaving Casemiro on his own to deal with counter-attacks.

But if Ten Hag plays Fernandes slightly deeper, and he dovetails with Mount in terms of pushing further forward when in possession, United could find the balance they’ve been looking for in their midfield.

Right wing – Antony

The jury is still out on Antony with some sections of United’s fanbase, but Ten Hag is likely to persist with him.

After spending £85m on the Brazilian winger last summer, United will have expected more than just four league goals from him, and he does flatter to deceive at times.

Yet he has shown signs of settling in the second half of the campaign, and did produce some big moments, including scoring the tie-deciding goal against Barcelona in the Europa League.

The right wing has been a problem position for United for some time, and it would be premature to say Antony has completely solved the issue.

He deserves a second season, though, to show whether he can become the top-class player United need in their attack to challenge at the top of the table.

Antony has not completely proven his critics wrong in his first year at United

Left wing – Marcus Rashford

Rashford scooped the player of the year and players’ player of the year awards at last week’s end of season ceremony, and deservedly so.

His 30 goals in all competitions were crucial in ending United’s six-year wait for silverware, and they could yet win another trophy on Saturday.

It has been some turnaround for Rashford, who 12 months ago looked as though he could be on his way out of Old Trafford after a disappointing 2021-22 season.

Now United will be desperate to keep hold of him, and still need to agree a new deal with their star forward as he approaches the final year of his current contract.

They do not appear to be too concerned about losing Rashford right now, though, and he seems to be enjoying his football. He is the no-brainer selection for the left wing.

Striker – Harry Kane

What a signing this would be. Is it possible? You never know.

Kane has had arguably the best individual season of his career, scoring 30 league goals in a dire Tottenham side that failed to secure any European football.

United have made him their number one target for the upcoming transfer window, and Kane reportedly only wants to join United despite interest from other clubs in Europe.

There is a significant stumbling block to any deal as Daniel Levy is very reluctant to sell Kane to a Premier League rival, and would prefer to lose him for free when his contract expires next year.

There is still plenty of time for that stance to change, though, and it would not be a surprise to see United continue to push for Kane throughout the summer in a bid to get a deal over the line.

Harry Kane could be tempted by a move to Old Trafford after Tottenham’s dismal campaign

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