In Focus: Five players Ten Hag can build around at Old Trafford
Erik ten Hag is expected to overhaul Manchester United's squad when he takes charge at Old Trafford this summer.
With several players headed for the exit and new transfer targets being touted on a daily basis, the starting XI could well be unrecognisable come August.
Yet the Dutchman will also be expected to make use of some of the side interim boss Ralf Rangnick puts out against Chelsea tonight.
We take a look at five United players who could be set to play a key role under Ten Hag.
Donny van de Beek
Since his £35million arrival from Ajax in August 2020, Donny van de Beek has failed to make an impact at Old Trafford — but Ten Hag’s appointment should offer him a fresh start.
Currently on loan at relegation-threatened Everton, the 25-year-old ace was a key cog in the Godenzonen side that reached the Champions League semi-finals under Ten Hag’s stewardship in 2019.
Van de Beek’s marvellous performances in central midfield during that stint were what eventually led him to Manchester — but he has found opportunities severely limited in the last two campaigns.
His 50 appearances in a United shirt have equated to less than 2,000 minutes of playing time, while his spell at the Toffees has recently been hampered by injury following an encouraging start.
With Paul Pogba expected to depart for pastures new, there should be an opening in United’s midfield — and Van de Beek will hope to seize it with both hands.
Marcus Rashford’s future has been a hot topic in recent weeks but the out-of-form academy graduate will still have hopes of turning his Red Devils career around.
Five goals in 31 appearances in all competitions has been a disappointing return for United’s No10, who has cut a frustrated figure both on and off the field in recent times.
However, England international Rashford, 24, managed double-figure goal returns in the previous three Premier League campaigns and is clearly capable of thriving under the right leadership.
The arrival of 52-year-old Ten Hag — a coach who has amassed a fine reputation for incisive and attacking football — could prove just the man to get him firing.
Impressive versatility should see Rashford given chance to impress by the Dutchman and it would be no surprise to see him return to his best in an improved side next term.
Former Borussia Dortmund ace Jadon Sancho has struggled to live up to his hefty £73m price tag so far but it feels inevitable that his best days in a red shirt are still to come.
Sancho took the brave decision to leave Manchester City's academy for Germany in 2017 and lit up the Bundesliga with some dazzling displays.
But the Three Lions star has needed time to adjust to the rigours of Premier League football since arriving at Old Trafford, managing only three goals and three assists in 29 top-flight appearances.
Though criticism has been scathing at times, Sancho still has the world at his feet at the tender age of 22 and, like Rashford, will be rubbing his hands at the prospect of implementing Ten Hag’s style of football.
Having shown a penchant for using technical wingers such as Antony and Dusan Tadic at his current club, Sancho looks better positioned than most to become a pillar of United’s new-look XI.
Alongside Sancho, the £34m capture of Real Madrid’s World Cup-winning defender Raphael Varane last summer looked to be some of United's best business of recent years.
But it is fair to say the Frenchman, 29, has not yet established himself as the commanding presence many had anticipated in his 26 appearances across all competitions.
Varane’s campaign has been disrupted by several injuries and ailments, while the struggles of his primary central defensive partner Harry Maguire have been well documented.
Yet if Ten Hag is looking for players with proven pedigree, few in the current ranks can rival the four-time Champions League winner and he could be considered potential captain material should the new boss feel a change was needed in that department.
Providing he can put his fitness woes behind him next term, Varane looks certain to play a key role in the new era.
For all of United’s struggles this term, Swedish winger Anthony Elanga’s emergence has been a rare bright spot and he looks primed to continue his upward trajectory under Ten Hag’s tutelage.
Elanga, who has only just turned 20, has featured in all 16 of his side’s Premier League games in 2022 and has notched goals against Leeds, Brentford and Atletico Madrid this year.
The club were quick to tie him down to a new long-term deal in December and despite still being very early in his development, he already looks to have outgrown a loan move.
Developing academy talent is a fundamental part of United's blueprint and club chiefs will appreciate the value of supporters having 'one of their own' to get behind in the starting ranks.
If Ten Hag wants to get Red Devils fans on board with the club's regeneration, building around the likes of Elanga is an easy way to guarantee their backing.