Manchester United face Brentford today in a game which is likely to mean little in terms of their final Premier League place, but could matter a great deal for the futures of many players. United are limping towards the conclusion of a dismal campaign, yet should have plenty of motivation due to Erik ten Hag’s pending arrival this summer.
Under Ralf Rangnick United appear to be going through the motions. With Rangnick himself now looking forward to his next stint of employment with Austria, there is little impetus coming from above. Viewers of the first half of their 1-1 draw against Chelsea on Thursday know just how little many of the players appear to care.
United have won just two of their last 11 games. They have three left until what promises to be a major summer overhaul. Ten Hag will arrive from Ajax, several players will leave, whether they are out of contract or not, and likely several more will arrive in the transfer window. The hope then is that United can begin a successful new era under the Dutchman.
While there is an awful lot of forward thinking going on at Old Trafford at the moment, there should be plenty of focus on the present too.
Although Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Edinson Cavani, Nemanja Matic and Juan Mata might not mind much, given their impending departures, there are plenty of players who should be desperate to impress Ten Hag ahead of his arrival. The Dutchman is primarily concerned with securing the Eredivisie title for Ajax, but he will definitely have one eye on United.
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Wan-Bissaka, in particular, needs to step up his game. The £50m right-back has been turfed out by Dalot under Rangnick’s management recently and his United career appears to be stuck in a downward spiral. Ten Hag’s favoured playing style relies on full-backs to build up from the back – something Wan-Bissaka has shown little evidence of. That is worrying.
Harry Maguire should have plenty to play for, having lost his place in Rangnick’s starting line-up in the past two games. Scott McTominay has been particularly poor of late. Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford have been completely ineffective off the flanks for weeks.
United face Brentford, Brighton and Crystal Palace before the end of the season. Under normal circumstances they should be aiming to win all three of those matches. Three successive victories feels like too much to ask at the moment, but some solid individual performances could go a long way to securing a place in what is hoped will be Ten Hag’s revival next season.