Erik ten Hags arrival as Manchester United The manager came with the caveats of a project, a task that will take several years to resolve. Still the first signs – including the friendly win against crystal palace in Melbourne – are good, not least in attack.
norms. These were visible to all from the first day he set foot in Carrington and shook hands with every member of staff he met – whether that was the clerk in the club shop or some of his star players.
Ten Hag’s standards are notoriously high and Jadon Sancho learned quickly during the Thailand stage of that pre-season tour when the Dutchman took him to task for not matching an overlapping full-back in a training session.
“I look at the player and have a certain demand,” Ten Hag later explained.
“And I will tell them if they have skills, but you have to invest. This not only affects Jadon, but every player.
“I will tell every player what I expect from them. I have high standards because you’re here, you play for Manchester United, so you have to put yourself on the pitch every day. That’s an expectation I have.’
Anthony Martial (left) and Marcus Rashford (right) look transformed under boss Erik ten Hag
Jadon Sancho (left) thrives under the Dutchman, who focuses on outside players
Ten Hag is a stickler for discipline and that helps to weed out some old habits in this group
Discipline on and off the pitch is crucial for Ten Hag and this carries over into the early stages of the game.
Anthony Martial, seemingly overwhelmed by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and under Ralf Rangnick in recent days, looks completely reborn with newfound focus, Sancho is beginning to find the form he was dazzled with at Borussia Dortmund and Marcus Rashford is smiling again.
Sancho may have only had one season at United since joining from Dortmund, but the trio are a fascinating example of Ten Hag taking the old, refurbishing it and making it new again.
yes it is preseason only Yes, their opponents have fielded teams who are unlikely to see Premier League minutes in these carnations, but early signs are undeniably good.
Martial – who scored United’s opener at the MCG – is a perfect example of this.
Rashford looks confident again down the left and came inside to score in Melbourne
Rashford (right) knows a strong start to this season can put him back in contention with England
The Frenchman scored just one league goal for United last season – at home against Everton – before being loaned to Sevilla, where he was completely forgotten.
In the eyes of many fans, Martial was done for at Old Trafford. Forget his contract until 2024, the expectation was Ten Hag didn’t want a part of a player who upset previous managers including Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho.
And yet, for Ten Hag, the Frenchman was the jewel of the tour.
“I’m sure he can come back even better,” Ten Hag said recently of Martial, which is typical of a man who is rarely satisfied.
“I think if he has the right focus and motivation and works hard, he will perform because he is a good player.
“I’m saying if he has the right focus and delivers a lot every day, he’ll have the production and it’s up to him.”
It’s up to him. Challenge. glove put on. And so far, Martial has risen to the challenge, scoring in all three games on the tour.
Last season he looked like a shell of the player that his skills allow him to be in this United team
Martial (right) also seemed to have faded into insignificance at ManUnited in recent years
With Cristiano Ronaldo on the tour, there was an understandable feeling that Martial, if anything, was keeping the center forward warm.
And yet the 26-year-old is making the case for starting minutes when the season begins against Brighton.
His connection game with Rashford and Sancho in particular against Crystal Palace in Melbourne was great. The beauty of an attack comprised of these three players is that Ten Hag’s high-intensity style means the pace is always high and few can match United’s swift attack.
It’s the connecting game they offer each other that stands in stark contrast to what was seen under Rangnick and before that in the case of Martial and Rashford.
Take goals two and three against Palace – Martial was at the heart of both.
A brilliant shot of Victor Lindelof’s long ball to his chest started Donny van de Beek’s move to tee off Rashford. Martial then shoved through a perfectly weighted pass for Sancho to join.
Martial is far and away the story of United’s pre-season tour, but Rashford’s upswing makes him look like a whole new player.
Rashford scored just five goals last season as his form and confidence collapsed completely. He lost his place with England and many have started to discount him from Gareth Southgate’s plans for Qatar.
The Frenchman has developed well between Rashford and Sancho and Ten Hag wins the plaudits
But back with a smile on his face and a spring in his step, Rashford is poised for a resurgence next season and that’s on the back of Ten Hag.
“It’s a fresh start, something I’m looking forward to,” Rashford said before taking on Melbourne Victory.
“The first two and a half weeks of training were good. We’ve improved a lot and are much fitter than last season.
“We have a lot of room for improvement. I’m in a good place right now. I’m looking forward to playing more games and preparing for the season.”
Speaking specifically about Ten Hag in early July, he added: “It’s fresh ideas, fresh tactics and a new personality that’s been added to the team.
“I look forward to working with him, but also to giving ourselves time to fit into what he wants us to do and feel really natural about it.”
Sancho may be the key player in Ten Hag’s system and early signs are promising
And then there’s Sancho, the final track in that three-part tempo machine Tern Hag unleashed on this tour.
Check out United’s stats: Three games. Three wins. Eleven goals scored. Only conceded two goals.
Sancho has been an integral part of each of those wins and Ten Hag gives him a platform that Rangnick couldn’t match last season.
The first thing you notice is that Sancho looks confident – and that’s how he plays.
Used extensively on the right – Sancho performed best on the left last season – the former Dortmund winger takes full advantage of his devastating pace and also has that final performance quality that United have so often missed last season .
Like Rashford, he is not in England at the moment but is putting together a case if that pre-season form translates into the season.
Ten Hag’s system relies heavily on the wingers, giving them the platform to be the crucial figures and allowing Sancho to thrive on stage.
Three players who look completely different. It’s early and it is only Pre-season but new look United look different.