Friday, September 29, 2023

Bruno Fernandes’ captaincy, Marcus Rashford role, midfield woes and new signings – what Erik ten Hag needs to fix at Manchester United

It may only be two games into the new Premier League season, but Erik ten Hag may need to rethink things already.

Manchester United have looked well below par in those two matches, scraping a win against Wolves and then comfortably being outplayed by Tottenham.

Ten Hag already has problems this seasonGetty

Club legends have been sounding the alarm already with the likes of Roy Keane calling them the new Spurs. It’s probably as brutal a put down as he could think of.

United have already spent £180million on signings, but they can forget about top four if things continue like they have started.

The Red Devils will have no hope of catching last season’s title winners Man City or their closest rivals Arsenal.

Liverpool have strengthened and even Chelsea, who have splashed the cash this summer, have shown more than United despite their own disappointing start. 

Brighton and Newcastle will likely be formidable again and Ange Postecoglou’s Tottenham already look like they will cause problems despite the sale of Harry Kane.

Here at, we have taken a look at what United need to do between now and the end of the transfer window.

Midfield rethink

The most damning stat from the first two games of the season was that Casemiro, Bruno Fernandes and Mason Mount have been dribbled past more than any other midfielders in the Premier League.

Ten Hag needs to rethink his midfield plans as they are currently being dominated in that area.

Man United’s midfield has struggled so far this seasonGetty

“I think they have big problems in midfield. The set-up of their midfield is not right for me. I think there are a few things wrong,” said Jamie Carragher on Monday Night Football. “The manager’s set up, what he is asking them to do in terms of the profile of players, is not right.”

Showing clips from their defeat to Tottenham, Carragher added: “This guy in midfield [Casemiro], as we saw last Monday night and as we saw constantly on Saturday night, is being left exposed in the middle of the pitch on his own and he cannot cope.

“James Maddison runs off the back of him, gets away from him and is right at Manchester United’s back four.”

Casemiro has not performed at the level he did last season and needs some help, whether that be Scott McTominay alongside him or a new signing.

New signings

What’s already clear from the first two games is that United are struggling to score.

They do have Rasmus Hojlund to come in, their £72million striker from Atalanta, but he is untested in the Premier League.

Hojlund could fix their striker issue, but a new midfielder will be a must before the window closes.

United will be hoping Hojlund can make his debut soonGetty

“Ten Hag wants a No.6 who can play alongside Casemiro and at the moment the club can’t get players out to be able to fund that,” United legend Gary Neville said.

“If they look at the first two weeks, they have to fund it or there will be big problems.

“What’s clear is that Ten Hag doesn’t want to revert back to (Scott) McTominay. He has seen him for a year, and he has played alongside Casemiro, and he is doing everything but get him on.

“He wants people to accept the ball, probably not the best because McTominay’s strengths lie in other areas. He’s probably not good enough on the ball to be a Man United player but would at least make a difference in this game.”

Bruno Fernandes as captain

It was a huge story earlier this summer when Ten Hag decided to take the captaincy off Harry Maguire and give it to Fernandes.

Removing Maguire is clearly the right call if he is not going to play week in, week out.

However, question marks have already been raised about the Portugal midfielder.

Fernandes was only made captain this summer, but questions have been raisedGetty

Former Republic of Ireland star Andy Townsend told talkSPORT: “A lot of clubs now, they make people captain because they want them to stay. They want to keep them there.

“I don’t think he (Fernandes) is captain material. Too many times now I see people given the armband, not because they’re the right man for the job, but because he’s the senior player, or the top man, or biggest asset.”

In response, Rangers legend Ally McCoist added: “Brucey, Robson, Keano, these people are captains on merit.

“They automatically got the armband because of the type of characters they were. I don’t see that with Bruno at all. 

“He’s a talented player, yes of course, but when starts waving and flapping his arms around and pointing fingers at people – it’s a wonder he doesn’t get a mouthful from some of his teammates.”

Potential replacements could include the likes of Raphael Varane and Casemiro.

Marcus Rashford role

Rashford has been playing as the central striker this season and it clearly has not worked.

The 25-year-old scored 30 goals in all competitions last season playing largely from the left and United would probably be better served putting him back there.

Ten Hag’s hand has been forced with no real other striker option, but once Hojlund is fit then Rashford will likely be shifted out wide.

Rashford is yet to score this season for UnitedGetty

Back in 2019, Jose Mourinho commented about Rashford’s best position and continues to be proved right.

“I always thought his best position is when he comes from the left to the centre, not when he’s a clear number nine.

“I always thought it was better for him to come from the side, especially the left side.”

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