Manchester United have quite a lot of work to do before last season’s catastrophic Premier League campaign is forgotten but Erik ten Hag has made an impressive start to life at the club.
United endured a slow start to the transfer window and when pre-season began, the mood among supporters was low. Two positive results and a couple of signings later, spirits have drastically changed.
Four goals in consecutive games have ensured a winning start for Ten Hag and according to Luke Shaw, who started both games, the Dutchman has already overseen a ‘big improvement’ in the side.
“We can’t be satisfied anymore with how the team had been going,” Shaw told the official Manchester United website. “It’s not where the club should be and we know the levels have had to take a massive step in terms of higher intensity and what we’re supposed to be doing and I think from the start of the last two weeks, especially in training, it’s definitely a big improvement.
“And even in the games, I think you could see things that probably you haven’t seen before, so I think there are things to look forward to.
“I think the manager knows what the team needs and he has his own style and how he wants to manage and all the players have really taken it on board and they’re really enjoying it.
“He is very hands-on and he takes a lot of the sessions. He’s involved a lot and if he sees people aren’t hitting the standards that he wants in training he’ll make sure they know. I think that’s good because he keeps the standards high.
“The manager demands more and we have to be better and better. After the first game he said to the press and he also said it to us as well that there were mistakes made that we need to improve on, not just individually but as a team as well.
“He’s spoken a lot about the team and the structure and the way he wants to play. It’s a lot of details, but details win games and with his philosophy and the way he wants to play, we need to listen.
“It’s really good to have an idea of what the manager wants and it’s down to us to go and show that on the pitch. And like I said, there is still much more to come from us and this is only the start.”
As part of his revolution, Ten Hag has added competition to Shaw’s position. Tyrell Malacia, the former Feyenoord left-back, became his first signing at United earlier this month.
You always have to be cautious with jumping to conclusions during pre-season but Ten Hag has added a layer of optimism to the club going into the season.
The loss of Champions League football has been felt but a competitive side makes up for that tenfold. United spent the second half of the 2020/21 season in the Europa League but those six months were arguably the best since Sir Alex Ferguson retired.
United are also taking shape under Ten Hag, with Lisandro Martinez poised to become his third signing imminently. Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong is also a target for the midfield.
By the time United welcome Brighton to Old Trafford next month, Ten Hag will hope to have instilled his philosophy in the squad.