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Where do United need to strengthen ahead of the new season?

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Manchester United ended the season in their worst league position since the 1989/90 season. The Red Devils limped to an eighth-place finish in 2023/24 and won just three of their final 10 league matches.

Erik Ten Hag saved some credibility for United. The Dutchman led his side to an FA Cup final win against old rivals Manchester City on Sunday – the club’s second major trophy since 2017.

However, it remains to be seen whether Ten Hag will be leading United into the 2024/25 campaign as the club remain outsiders in the title race amongst . The former Ajax boss’ future at Old Trafford could be in jeopardy, while new majority owner Jim Ratcliffe is targeting improvements at the club.

It could be a summer of change for the Red Devils and there are several areas where the club can strengthen in pre-season.

Long-Term Defensive Setup

Defensive issues plagued United’s 2023/24 season. The team kept just nine clean sheets and conceded 58 goals – 15 more compared to the 2022/23 campaign.

Arguably, injury issues played a part in Ten Hag’s ability to implement defensive stability. Harry Maguire, Raphael Varane, Lisandro Martinez, Luke Shaw, Jonny Evans, Willy Kambwala, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Victor Lindelof have all suffered injuries throughout the campaign.

Improving the defence will likely be a key area for United ahead of the new season. Raphael Varane has left the club and is now a free agent, while veteran defender Jonny Evans may not feature as heavily next season.

Ultimately, the Red Devils will be expected to build a central defensive unit around Lisandro Martinez, Harry Maguire, and Victor Lindelof.

However, keeping Martinez fit is perhaps the biggest task for the club next season. In the 14 matches where the Argentinian started last season, United only lost four matches – highlighting his importance at the back.

Transfer Policy Focusing on Youth

Radcliffe has already expressed his desire for United to target next-generation talents rather than signing older players with extensive experience.

Such an approach would be a noticeable shift in approach compared to recent seasons. Between 2021 and 2024, United spent over £100 million on older players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Casemiro and Varane.

However, the club changed its focus in the 2023/24 transfer market. For instance, the incoming signings of Rasmus Hojlund and Mason Mount showed a new direction for the club.

This is an area that Radcliffe wants to continue into the 2024/25. As a result, United might see several older players depart on low fees or free transfers. Anthony Martial has already left the club and the club might be willing to sell underperforming players like Casemiro and Christian Eriksen.

Moreover, the emergence of strong youth players from within the club might support the rebuild. 19-year-old Kobbie Mainoo has been a revelation, making 24 Premier League appearances. Mainoo’s development could influence Ten Hag, or a potential new manager, to offer more playing time to younger players within the squad. The likes of 19-year-old Willy Kambwala and Amad Traore were largely on the fringes or injured last season, but could feature more heavily in the 2024/25 campaign.