Five positions that Erik ten Hag must prioritise in the January transfer window after Manchester derby humiliation

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag was given a brutal reality check after losing 6-3 against Manchester City at the Etihad.

United bounced back after a difficult start to the season and moved up the table after securing four consecutive wins in the Premier League.

But United were second-best against City and hat-tricks from both Erling Haaland and Phil Foden exposed some of their weaknesses.

We’ve taken a look at five areas that Ten Hag could now look to strengthen in the January transfer window if he’s given more funds.


If Erik ten Hag wants United to play out from the back like Manchester City, he needs to sign a new goalkeeper in 2023.

David de Gea has been a fantastic servant for the Red Devils and has made just under 500 appearances in all competitions since his arrival from Atletico Madrid in 2011.

The Spain international developed into a world class shot-stopper at Old Trafford and has won United’s Players’ Player of the Year award four times. 

But for all his traditional goalkeeping abilities, De Gea has never been known for his distribution and the modern game has arguably left him behind. 

During the first-half against City, the 31-year-old lost possession seven times and completed just six passes to his United team-mates.

His shortcomings with the ball at his feet have seen him lose his place in the Spain squad and United have been told the let De Gea go at the end of the season.

United were linked with Borussia Monchengladbach’s Yann Sommer and Eintracht Frankfurt’s Kevin Trapp in the summer before ultimately signing Newcastle United back-up Martin Dubravka, who is yet to make his debut for the Red Devils.

Leeds United’s Illan Meslier, Aston Villa’s Emiliano Martinez and Everton’s Jordan Pickford are reportedly on United’s radar and they would be well suited to Ten Hag’s preferred style of play due to their ability on the ball.


Full-backs were an important part of Ten Hag’s system at Ajax and he made left-back Tyrell Malacia his first signing at Old Trafford.

According to reports, the manager also wanted a right-back and United showed interest in Borussia Dortmund’s Thomas Meunier, Inter’s Denzel Dumfires and Barcelona’s Sergino Dest.

But none of those deals materialised as United football director John Murtough was keen to stick with Diogo Dalot and Aaron Wan-Bissaka as right-back options.

Dalot has since cemented himself as Ten Hag’s first-choice right-back and enjoyed an impressive start to the 2022/23 season.

But there are still question marks over his defensive abilities and he had a few difficult moments against Gabriel Martinelli in United’s 3-1 win over Arsenal.

The Portugal international received a yellow card inside the opening two minutes at the Etihad after producing a late challenge on Jack Grealish. City then targeted him and made it an afternoon to forget for the full-back.

United need a right-back that provides defensive solidarity and attacking flair and are reportedly interested in Monaco’s Vanderson, who has also been linked with Barcelona.

Vanderson DE OLIVEIRA CAMPOS of Monaco during the French championship Ligue 1 football match between LOSC Lille and AS Monaco


United have now let in 14 goals in their opening seven Premier League games in 2022/23 so it won’t surprise you to know that a centre-back is on this list.

Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane had started to form a promising partnership, but the latter was substituted against City after picking up an injury.

The France international missed 16 games through illness or injury in 2021/22 and Ten Hag will undoubtedly be concerned.

If he feels that Varane can’t be relied upon, the manager should try and sign another centre-back in the January transfer window.

Ten Hag might raid Ajax once again and sign Jurrien Timber, who was linked with United in the summer and has since admitted that he could move on in 2023.

“Deciding whether to stay or go was the most difficult choice in my career,” he told Algemeen Dagblad. “I have only been playing in the first team for a year and a half. Having to make such a choice at 21 is not easy. Money did not play a role for a second.

“Whether agreements have been made to make a transfer next year? That’s the intention, yes, but you never know how it will go. But that has been discussed well together with Ajax.”

Central Midfielder

While Scott McTominay and Christian Eriksen have enjoyed a promising start to the 2022/23 season, the duo were overrun at the Etihad as City dominated possession.

“And as poor as they’ve been defensively their passing’s been sloppy, there’s gaps everywhere,” Roy Keane said on Sky Sports. “The two lads in the middle – McTominay and Eriksen – are getting pulled everywhere.”

Casemiro, who is yet to start a Premier League game, will get more opportunities in the coming weeks but United arguably need to bring in another midfielder in January as well.

Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong was Ten Hag’s top target in the summer transfer window and United could reignite their interest in January after failing to get the deal done.

The Netherlands international would add some composure to United’s midfield and allow them to dictate the tempo of games.

Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong celebrates after scoring against Cadiz in La Liga.


Marcus Rashford has led the line for Ten Hag this season and won plaudits after scoring a brace against Arsenal and the winning goal against Liverpool. But all those goals were scored on the counter-attack and he often struggles when he doesn’t have space to run in to.

The England international failed to make much of an impact against Pep Guardiola’s side and was substituted in the 59th minute.

Admittedly, Anthony Martial came off the bench and scored a brace against City, but he’s another player that often struggles with injury problems.

Cristiano Ronaldo, who is yet to score in the Premier League this season, remained on the substitutes bench at the Etihad and could push for a transfer in the January transfer window.

United have been linked with Napoli’s Victor Osimhen in recent months but are unlikely to match the £100m asking price. Benfica’s Goncalo Ramos and Brentford’s Ivan Toney are other options that Ten Hag might consider.

READ MORE: The top 10 biggest mistakes Manchester United have made in the transfer market: Stam, Di Maria…