Manchester United will not feature in what will become a five-horse race for the top four and Erik ten Hag must face facts about their rebuild, Joe Cole has said.
United had high hopes of finishing in the Premier League’s top bracket last season following a second-placed ranking in 2020/21. But neither Ole Gunnar Solskjaer nor Ralf Rangnick could orchestrate further progress.
As a result, the Red Devils finished sixth last term and dropped into the Europa League.
Former Ajax boss Erik ten Hag is the new man tasked with moving Man Utd back up the table. He has a big summer transfer window on his hands but has watched his rivals make more signings and invest more than he has.
Indeed, last season’s fifth-placed team Arsenal have made five signings, with Tottenham above the Gunners adding six new faces.
As such, former Chelsea midfielder Cole has insisted that Ten Hag must face the reality of his club’s situation.
“I feel they’ve just reset haven’t they,” the pundit told the Daily Mirror.
“I can’t see Man Utd closing the gap. If they do the same as they did last year with a new manager, I think it’s levelling out now and then they’ll have to rebuild like Liverpool did.
“I might be wrong but I think Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham will go further away from Man Utd in terms of what they do.”
Man Utd told to copy Liverpool progress
Cole reiterated that United find themselves in a similar situation to Liverpool in 2012. Brendan Rodgers replaced Kenny Dalglish after a lacklustre spell and took the Reds close to the title.
After dropping off again from there, Jurgen Klopp came in and has now won every trophy possible at Anfield.
“From Man Utd’s perspective they have to hope Ten Hag’s as good a manager as Jurgen Klopp or even as Brendan Rodgers,” Cole said. “It’s a huge job he’s got on his hands at Man Utd.
“The three teams behind [Man City and Liverpool] have done great business so I think the gap will be shortened. I think it’ll be four out of five rather than four out of six.”
Ten Hag has added Christian Eriksen to his midfield, with Tyrell Malacia to compete with Luke Shaw at left-back. Meanwhile, Lisandro Martinez is a defensively versatile capture from Ajax.
But Ten Hag has his eyes on at least one more midfielder and a goalscorer, although progress has proved tough.
Ten Hag needs strong start
Nevertheless, Ten Hag has wasted no time in setting his stall out to his new squad in pre-season. And they have reacted well, picking up a string of wins and draws – and one defeat – in pre-season.
In particular, Anthony Martial has impressed after the Frenchman left on loan for Sevilla last season and his future looked unclear.
However, the injury bug has bitten with the Athletic confirming the 26-year-old is now sidelined with a hamstring complaint.
That could open the door for Cristiano Ronaldo to return and the Red Devils will be out for revenge after losing 4-0 to the Seagulls towards the back end of last season.
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