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Manchester United 2022/23 season preview and prediction: Why United fans can dare to feel positive once more

Manchester United 2022/23 season preview and prediction: Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag at Old Trafford, looking upwards
(Image credit: Getty)

The Manchester United 2022/23 season preview and prediction was originally printed in the Season Preview edition of FourFourTwo. Subscribe today! (opens in new tab)

It’s a(nother) new dawn at Old Trafford, with incoming manager Erik ten Hag the new messiah for a mismatched, underachieving squad. Red Devils fans no longer expect annual bus parades or even a serious title challenge, but attacking football, some semblance of structure when the team loses the ball and a top-four finish would be nice. 

Aside from bedding in his new faces, Ten Hag must help Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane and Harry Maguire rediscover their mojo, and find a way to win matches that doesn’t solely rely on a wantaway Portuguese pensioner saving the day – Cristiano Ronaldo’s 18 goals delivered 14 points on their own, more than any other Premier League player. Scoring more than a measly seven goals from set-pieces would be a decent start.

Manchester United 2022/23 season preview and prediction: The lesson from last year

No matter how bad things get, firing the coach midway through the season and replacing him with a managing director from Russia’s top-flight isn’t very wise – especially if the managing director in question has no coaching experience in England, or spent only two of the previous 10 campaigns as a manager. 

There have been many lessons since Sir Alex Ferguson’s 2013 departure, but chief among them must surely be the importance of bringing in an up–and-coming coach with a clear philosophy and sticking by them until things click. None of David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer or Ralf Rangnick fitted that profile. 

Now there is a sense that maybe, this time, things might be different under Ten Hag’s stewardship. And, really, no more Europa League.

The coach: Erik ten Hag

Coach Mitchell van der Gaag and Manager Erik ten Hag of Manchester United in action during a first team training session at Carrington Training Ground on June 27, 2022 in Manchester, England.

(Image credit: Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images)

Erik ten Hag arrives with a solid CV, including two league-and-cup doubles during his four-and-a-half- year stint at Ajax. The Dutchman is a strong personality, advocating a possession-heavy philosophy that has fans excited. Yet a lack of experience in a top European league, or club, may prove telling.

The owners: The Glazers

Avram and Joel Glazer and Manchester United is probably the Premier League’s single most toxic owner-fanbase relationship. Responsible for dumping in excess of £500m of debt on the club, the family are the subject of constant protests. Neither side seems likely to blink any time soon, however.

The mood around United…

Following total post-Rangnick apathy, fans are daring to feel positive again, with a new manager in place and the hope of a new-look team. Many will celebrate Paul Pogba’s exit, yet there is an overriding sense that too many bad apples remain at board level to be fully satisfied. Ten Hag refused to take a holiday before starting work, and will look to Ajax for recruits to implement his philosophy at Old Trafford.

The one to watch

Jadon Sancho

(Image credit: PA)

Sancho faded into obscurity last time out, registering just six Premier League goals and assists combined after his €85m arrival. Now under a boss adept at deploying an attacking gameplan, can he match 114 goal involvements in 137 games for Borussia Dortmund?

Most likely to…

Fall back on the McFred midfield axis by the end of September. That duo, say Twitter wags, offers the structural integrity (and as much creativity) of a digestive biscuit in a piping hot tea.

Least likely to…

Finish the season with a plus or minus goal difference. United both scored and conceded 57 times last term; their defensive showing comfortably worse than relegated Burnley’s (53). It was the first time since 1989/90 they failed to record a positive goal difference.

The fan's view: Jamie Ward (@jamie_ward84 (opens in new tab))

Last season was a huge disappointment. Confidence was high after we’d finished 2nd the season prior, and the homecoming of Cristiano Ronaldo. Everyone knows what happened afterwards... 

The big talking point is whether the Glazers will give Ten Hag the backing he needs. The gut feeling is no, but they have a history of sanctioning big deals when there’s no Champions League to boost the coffers. 

This season will be different because it just can’t be any worse... can it?

Our key player will be Ronaldo, even at 37 and assuming he stays. The man is a phenomenon – if he can manage 18 league goals in a team that downed tools, what can he do if everyone else is on form?

I won’t be happy unless United win a trophy. Any trophy will do. The Europa League represents a realistic opportunity and could be a back-door option into the Champions League.

Our most underrated player is Harry Maguire. He became our scapegoat when there were perhaps only two players who could hold their heads up high. He’s a very good defender on his day.

The opposition player who grinds my gears is Mo Salah. An exceptional footballer. For Liverpool. With a nasty habit of scoring against us.

The fans’ opinion of the gaffer is high. Ten Hag talks the talk and walks the walk. He could bring silverware back to Old Trafford.

The player I’d happily drive to another club is Anthony Martial. He needs a move to resurrect his career.

The one change I’d make would be the owners. Every single Manchester United fan would say this.

We’ll finish an optimistic 3rd. Realistically, 5th.

FFT'S VERDICT… 6th

They’ve cleared deadwood and hired a man with a plan, but another year in transition awaits. Progress is pivotal.

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