Man Utd will begin their new Premier League season on Sunday when they host Brighton at Old Trafford.
It’s been a summer of steady progress for Manchester United, but now the time for talking is over and the real work begins.
United begin the new Premier League campaign against Brighton this weekend and know that an early benchmark needs to be set to welcome their new era.
Erik ten Hag will be the eighth manager, including caretakers, to take charge of United in the nine years since Sir Alex Ferguson retired.
Six of the previous seven in that time have won their first ever match in charge of the club, with compatriot Louis van Gaal the only exception.
United will be hoping to show the Premier League how much they have changed since their disastrous campaign last time out, but any Ten Hag revolution is most likely to take time rather than be an instant transformation.
A win this weekend would help solidify his philosophy and justify the work he has been doing this summer, and with little margin for error, he needs to pick the best team at his disposal to do so.
Ten Hag’s approach in pre-season has already hinted at the side we are most likely to see this weekend, though there are still arguably three positions up for grabs.
The new United manager used a total of 34 different players over the summer matches, and a preferred starting XI was identified based on the minutes he gave to his squad during the pre-season schedule.
David de Gea is quite clearly the first-choice keeper heading into the new campaign following Dean Henderson’s loan exit to Nottingham Forest, with Tom Heaton a clear back-up option rather than a challenger to the role.
In defence, Harry Maguire remains the club captain and seems guaranteed to start whenever fit. Who starts alongside him, though, isn’t so clear. Victor Lindelof played the most minutes of any other centre-back this summer, and there are doubts over Raphael Varane’s fitness levels. Lisandro Martinez was signed with the intention of starting matches, but might need more time to settle before he is thrown into the line-up properly.
Diogo Dalot is the preferred choice at right-back, but on the opposite side, Tyrell Malacia has provided stiff competition for Luke Shaw to start. The Dutch youngster played more minutes than his rival during pre-season and could get the call this weekend.
Until a new midfielder is signed, Scott McTominay and Fred seem the most likely selections once again this season. That said, Donny van de Beek actually featured more often than the Scotland international this summer, while Christian Eriksen is another contender after two impressive performances last weekend.
United also have a selection dilemma this weekend given that Ten Hag may not be able to field the front three that featured most often for him this summer. Anthony Martial is expected to miss the match against Brighton meaning that Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho might need to switch roles to accommodate another attacker.
Anthony Elanga was the fourth-choice forward in terms of minutes played over the summer, with Amad and Tahith Chong next on the list. It means a start for Alejandro Garnacho is highly unlikely, while Cristiano Ronaldo is also some way off match fitness, with only three players featuring less than him this summer.
It means we could see three changes to the side that featured the most in pre-season in regards to centre-back, central midfield and a different attacker.
United XI based on most minutes played in pre-season: De Gea; Dalot, Maguire, Lindelof, Malacia; Fred, Van de Beek, Fernandes; Sancho, Rashford, Martial.
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