Manchester United are still finding their feet in the post-Ole Gunnar Solskjaer era.
Having appointed Ralf Rangnick as interim boss on the back of Solskjaer’s dismissal in November, the Red Devils feel as though they’re in a state of flux as they look towards the 2022/23 campaign.
Besides, give or take competing for a place in the Premier League top four and throwing the kitchen sink at the Champions League, United are already having to plan beyond the summer for plausible success.
Links to Pochettino and Ten Hag
And while there have been murmurings that Rangnick could stay on as permanent manager, one can’t help feeling that the more realistic scenario would be for United to appoint Solskjaer’s long-term placement.
Nevertheless, as United fans will know all-too well, nailing down world-class coaches isn’t always the easiest thing to do and there’s already a quiet feeling that the club’s shortlist has slimmed down to two managers in particular.
We are, of course, talking about Mauricio Pochettino and Erik ten Hag.
Although everyone from Brendan Rodgers to Zinedine Zidane has also been linked with the job, fresh reports this week would suggest that a two-horse race between Pochettino and Ten Hag is more evident than ever.
Rangnick and United players’ preferences
According to The Sun, word from the United dressing room is that the squad would prefer a move for Pochettino whereas it’s believed that Rangnick would lean towards signing up Ten Hag.
The extent to which that might lead to a tug-of-war in the United boardroom remains to be seen, but it certainly feels like further evidence that the Paris Saint-Germain and Ajax bosses are the top contenders.
As such, here at GIVEMESPORT, we wanted to give United fans the opportunity to see whether they share the same opinion as the player’s or that of Rangnick by imagining how the club could line up under each coach.
Using our tactical knowledge of both managers and calling upon realistic transfer targets for the summer, we’ve drawn up exciting potential XIs that we can imagine in worlds where Pochettino and Ten Hag take over.
Pochettino and Ten Hag’s potential XIs
From Dutch ‘Total Football’ to prime Tottenham Hotspur vibes, there are exciting similarities and debate-worthy differences between both coaches’ potential United line-ups, so be sure to check them out below:
Ten Hag’s potential XI
There’s a lot to unpack here because Ten Hag’s 4-2-3-1 is an incredibly fluid one where the defence often evolves into a back three in possession with one full-back pushing much higher than the other.
As such, we’re plumping for Luke Shaw at left-back given his superior ability to play as a wide centre-back compare to United’s options on the right, which – in this reality – will be getting an attacking upgrade.
It’s not implausible to imagine a world where Ten Hag brings Noussair Mazraoui, who boasts five goals and three assists this season, with him from Ajax as an ‘inverted full-back’ to make use of his passing range.
Victor Lindelof would also likely come in for Harry Maguire due to his superior proficiency in switching to defensive midfield and either full-back positions during brief phases of play.
And the addition of Frenkie De Jong would perfectly compliment an attacking three of Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford by liberating Scott McTominay into his preferred box-to-box role.
De Jong would be a real coup for United given his ability to play as both a No.6 and No.8 with his metronomic passing and underrated dribbling allowing him to dictate the tempo and pull the strings from deep.
Marry that to Barcelona being cash-strapped and Ten Hag having worked with De Jong at Ajax with great success to see that this potential reality at United isn’t an impossible one.
Pochettino’s potential XI
Another 4-2-3-1 on our hands here and the need for a thoroughbred defensive midfielder is a little less pressing when Pochettino typically ensures that two deeper-lying players are always screening the back-line.
As such, there’s good reason to think that Declan Rice could form a similar partnership with Scott McTominay to the one he achieved with Kalvin Phillips for England to finally shore up United’s midfield.
Rice is the perfect player for Pochettino’s system as a Moussa Dembele surrogate with his physically-imposing brand of football mixing both defensive solidity and underrated ball-progressing skills.
In fact, according to FBRef, not a single player in Europe’s top five leagues has carried the ball a greater total distance than the West Ham United star this season, so you can bet that he’s worth the financial hit.
Elsewhere, Pochettino’s impetus on counter-pressing means that having an aerially-dominant centre-half is vital to neutralise long balls on the break – and that could be exactly what Maguire needs to get his United career back on track.
Finally, the only other major change comes at full-back with Diogo Dalot sneaking ahead of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, too, due to his superiority going forward, but it’s hard to imagine that Pochettino would sniff at signing Mazraoui either.
Which XI do you prefer?
So, how did you find your peek into the crystal ball of United’s future – exciting, worrying, a bit of both?
It’s easy to see why both Ten Hag and Pochettino seem to be on United’s radar because they’re two tactically ambitious and adaptive coaches with styles not widely dissimilar to the current set-up at Old Trafford.
There’s perhaps a little more excitement to get your hands on in Ten Hag’s potential XI, but given all the problems that have been going on in United’s dressing room, perhaps picking the players’ reported first pick wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
“GET MAGUIRE OUT HE IS AN IDIOT!” (Football Terrace)
However, no matter what the Red Devils choose to do in the summer, there’s no denying that something’s got to change if they are going to conquer the Premier League once again.