After pre-season: how Erik ten Hag may line up in Premier League opener – opinion

The first part of Erik ten Hag’s pre-season is over and after safely landing back in Manchester, he will be eager to introduce a couple of fresh faces to the side.

Christian Eriksen has signed a three-year deal and Lisandro Martinez will officially join when his work permit is approved as the deal is yet to be completed.

After an impressive pre-season tour of Thailand and Australia, the manager will have learned which players will be at the forefront of his thinking this season and his team selections have been telling.

Ten Hag kept a consistent theme throughout the tour of starting with his first-choice players and the most notable selection headache he will deal with in two weeks is the centre-forward position.

Anthony Martial has impressed, scoring three goals in four games. But he would not have had the opportunity to resurrect his career if Cristiano Ronaldo had been present.

Ronaldo has asked to leave United this summer and earlier on Sunday, it was revealed that his agent, Jorge Mendes, is still working on an exit for the 37-year-old.

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Clubs are not queueing up for his signature and there’s a real possibility that he ends up staying at United against his wish. If so, it will be interesting to see how Ten Hag handles that situation.

Martial’s relationship with supporters is hardly perfect but he has regained some supporters recently and it can be argued that regardless of what happens with Ronaldo, he deserves to start the game against Brighton in 14 days.

Behind him, the team starts to pick itself. Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, in conjunction with Martial, formed a devastating trio on tour and that will continue if they stay injury-free.

Bruno Fernandes has also impressed in a new role and he will spearhead the midfield. Thus far, Ten Hag has opted for a 4-2-3-1 system.

Scott McTominay and Fred have featured more than any other midfield pairing and as things stand, United are still light in that area. Frenkie de Jong remains a target but it’s unlikely that his transfer will be completed anytime soon.

Eriksen has signed and is ready to go but after missing the tour, it would be a surprise to see him on the teamsheet against Brighton.

In defence, Ten Hag has made it clear that he prefers Diogo Dalot over Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Maguire has been handed a lifeline after retaining his captaincy and Luke Shaw is also likely to play in front of David de Gea.

Tyrell Malacia is an option at left-back but he started just one of the four games, hinting that he will start the season as Shaw’s understudy.

That leaves one position – left centre-back. Raphael Varane and Victor Lindelof are both options but the latter is still struggling with his fitness and Lindelof did not impress in pre-season.

Martinez could be thrown into the deep end instantly but there is no clarity over whether a deal will be done in time. Eight days have passed since United confirmed that a fee had been agreed with Ajax and still, it has not been completed.

Ten Hag was keen on signing Martinez and United fans will hope to see him in action in at least one of the two friendlies next week. But as things stand, it’s far more realistic to assume that Varane or Lindelof will partner Maguire.

Predicted Man Utd lineup vs Brighton (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Dalot, Maguire, Lindelof, Shaw; McTominay, Fred; Sancho, Fernandes, Rashford; Martial

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