Erik ten Hag’s first six weeks in competitive football as Manchester United manager have seen mixed but ultimately positive results.
Three more Premier League victories in a row against Southampton, Leicester City and league leaders Arsenal saw Ten Hag’s principles become ever more clear among the squad.
Despite a 1-0 loss to Real Sociedad in the Europa League, the squad look much stronger than they did six years ago, with Erik ten Hag seemingly settled on his preferred XI, bar a couple of adjustments.
Now, after United beat Sheriff Tiraspol 2-0, 15 of the club’s first team players have travelled to represent their respective nations as the international stages warms up to its first ever winter World Cup, in Qatar.
Erik ten Hag, meanwhile, will be given two weeks with the rest of the squad to figure out his plan moving forwards, and spoke on how he intends to use the next two weeks.
“We have to improve the structures in and around the club. We will also look to the window in January or next summer already.
“But, also to improve our way of play by making plans.”
The fact that Erik ten Hag is already looking towards the next transfer window is a sure sign that he feels the squad is far from complete.
It is obvious that Manchester United are in need of another striker with Cristiano Ronaldo almost certainly departing next summer as his contract expires, and depending on the future of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, they will be looking for a new right-back too.
Frenkie de Jong was a failed-to-acquire target last summer and he will almost certainly once again be on Erik ten Hag’s radar for next summer, if not January.
This break will also be a great time for Ten Hag to assess the other options in the squad, eight of his preferred XI are away on international duty, leaving just David de Gea, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford (who was not called up due to injury) at Carrington.
“There’s coming a period where every third day: a game. We have to get ready for that,” Ten Hag added on Thursday.
“Ninety percent of the players are away (on international duty) — the others will train proper. We have to prepare. I hope everyone stays fit, returns healthy and then we attack.”
With the period coming up being full of fixtures just as Ten Hag pointed out, these next few weeks will be crucial in Ten Hag being able to properly understand what other players he has at his disposal to make sure the squad can get through this period with positive results.
Next up for Manchester United once the international break is concluded will be the Manchester Derby.