Martial, Rashford, Sancho, Van De Beek: Who will shine and who will fall short under Erik Ten Hag?
Updated: Aug 3
A huge clear-out was expected at Old Trafford this summer following a largely disappointing 2021-22 campaign, alongside the arrival of new head coach Erik Ten Hag, but the Dutchman has appeared to allow several outcasts a chance to prove their worth this season.
United's tour of Thailand and Australia has shown us a glimpse of how Ten Hag will set out his team this coming season, with both Anthony Martial and Donny Van De Beek getting a chance to impress their new manager.
Martial has impressed when leading the line, scoring three goals in four games looking sharp ahead of the upcoming campaign after spending half of last season on loan at Sevilla.
With Cristiano Ronaldo missing from the club's summer tour, Martial has taken his chance with both hands as he looks to resurrect his United career which has been very stop-start since joining from Monaco back in 2015.
Last season the Frenchman managed just one goal in eight league outings for the Red Devils, spending the second half of the season on loan at La Liga outfit Sevilla, where a disappointing spell saw the forward feature 12 times in all competitions scoring just once.
With the presence of a centre forward lacking at United and no incoming transfers in that position, Martial will be targeting the central attacking role when his team face Brighton on the on August 7 at home to Brighton & Hove Albion.
The fact that Ronaldo has so far not featured for United in pre-season has aided Martial's return to the side. But is Martial's inclusion down to a lack of options at the club, or has Ten Hag seen potential in the French forward?
Fellow Dutchman Donny Van De Beek is another who has been given the chance to impress. Featuring in all four friendlies, the former Ajax midfielder will be keen to prove his worth to his former manager after a slow start to his Old Trafford career.
Making just 27 appearances in his two-year stint at the club so far, Van De Beek has found his first team chances limited under previous manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær, and has started just four times in the league since he arrived in 2020.
The 25-year-old was loaned to struggling Everton in the second half of last season where he featured seven times in the league scoring once.
Ten Hag will know Van De Beek very well after coaching the midfielder whilst at Ajax from 2017 up until his Ajax departure in 2020. The pair won the Eredivise, KNVB cup together and were integral to Ajax’s incredible run to the Champions League semi-finals in 2019.
With Manchester United's Frenkie De Jong transfer saga in the balance, could we see Van De Beek get his chance this season?
At right back Diogo Dalot has so far started in every pre-season fixture for United, as he looks to cement his place in Ten Hag's side after sharing the right-sided spot with Aaron Wan-Bissaka last season. The Portuguese defender made 19 starts last term and with his inclusion in pre-season looks to have got the nod over teammate Wan-Bissaka heading into the club's opening fixture next week.
Whilst not outcasts last season at Old Trafford, more must be expected from England stars Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho.
Rashford's goal ratio reduced last season, scoring just four goals in 25 league starts. The Englishman had reached double figures in each of his previous three seasons. Scoring twice in pre-season, Rashford has featured predominantly on the left wing so far and is expected to play in a front three with Martial and Sancho, with Ronaldo wanting a move away.
The 24-year-old struggled to find any consistent form last term and will need to impress this time around, if he has any aspirations to make the World Cup in Qatar this winter.
Last summer’s signing of Sancho was over-shadowed by the late arrival of Ronaldo, just like Rashford, Sancho played second fiddle to the legendary Portuguese forward and scored just three goals in his first season at Old Trafford.
The 22-year-old has 23 England caps to his name and scored 38 times in the Bundesliga for Borussia Dortmund in four seasons during his stay in Germany. As one of Europe’s most coveted players last summer, we can only expect a strong second season from the winger.