Exclusive : United Need Six New Players To Challenge, Says Club Legend


Erik ten Hag begins his work today as Manchester United manager and I think it’s pretty safe to say he’s got his work cut out.

One of the biggest questions to ask about the club is : how many players are needed to get them challenging again?

At the start of this season, and it seems a long time ago, there was a lot of optimism about what might be needed to move from second to first. Now it’s more clear that it’s not about fine tuning – what might have seemed like good squad options at the start of the year now looks like a lot of driftwood that Ten Hag has inherited.

I’ll be blunt with it. From the evidence of this season I think United need at least six players, and possibly more, if we want to be competing for Cup finals and league titles.

One thing you can say under Ralf Rangnick is just about every player at the club has now been tried and tested – anyone who claims they haven’t had a chance already had theirs a long time ago. Many league games have been used to evaluate who can perform and who doesn’t; who will perform and who won’t.

We can safely say it’s not gone very well under Ralf, but the one thing we can take from it is that it’s now much more clear to identify the players who it is time to move on, on top of the ones whose contracts are expiring anyway. And that number is roughly equal to the number of players we need to bring in.

Already Ten Hag is dealing with a lot of speculation about the players he will sign and as you would expect all the big names are being mentioned. That’s all well and good but I’ve said this for years – going back to when Louis van Gaal was spending money like it was going out of fashion – it’s not about getting someone in because they have a high price tag and are available. United need the right players with the right profile and attitude who are actually going to add something to the squad and team.

It’s good to see that Erik ten Hag has realised the size of the job he has inherited; it’s an uphill task, for sure, that’s a given. He has done a wonderful job at Ajax, one of football’s great institutes, but United is another level in terms of size and it does at least seem like he appreciates that.

He has a few months now to get the club and team with a fresh look for the new season and I truly hope he pulls it off.

I was heartened by the FA Youth Cup success last week. That has to be the track the club is on – to get back to offering that pathway. There are some great prospects in that team and they now have to be given a chance, or at least monitored, and given the right guidance to give them the best chance to succeed. That is one way to keep the club as healthy as possible and of course it’s what Manchester United stands for.

The feeling that United haven’t seemed to stand for those same qualities this season has been sometimes heartbreaking. Everyone knows where they should be. What they have done in the past. But that history, however grand, does not grant a divine right to even be in the top league, let alone challenge for the title. It must be earned.

A new manager, an FA Youth Cup success and a sharp sweep of the broom could be just the start to get United back on their feet. Certainly the youngsters can provide a real boost and if they are presented with a fair chance then you would have to say that’s one avenue of the club restored to how it should be. The overall task will be much tougher for Ten Hag than that first step – but it at least seems like he appreciates that. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for him.

Gordon Hill

Former Manchester United winger (1975-1978). 134 appearances, 51 goals. FA Cup winner 1977.

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Two wins, three losses, negative goal difference, and 13th in the league. That was the state