Five key transfer dilemmas for Man Utd & Erik ten Hag - including Cristiano Ronaldo decision

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We take a look at five areas of the squad where Manchester United are still experiencing problems.

The summer transfer window may have only closed a few weeks ago, but Manchester United will already be considering their next moves in the market.

Whether that’s recruiting new players or selling members of the current squad, these decisions tend to be the result of months of planning.

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While Erik ten Hag seems to have turned something of a corner at United, there are still several issues that must be resolved with the team.

We’ve picked out five of the most prominent problems for the Red Devils manager and how the club may address them in the market.

Ball-playing keeper

David De Gea is firmly established as United’s first-choice goalkeeper, and few could argue that he remains an excellent shot stopper.

However, questions have been raised about the goalkeeper’s ability with his feet, with home supporters at Old Trafford often voicing their discontent at the Spaniard’s ponderous nature in possession.

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Evidently Ten Hag wants to have a goalkeeper who is comfortable building attacks, but after the calamitous showing at Brentford he’s already altered his plans to accommodate De Gea.

David de Gea’s distribution has been a problem at times for United. Credit: Getty.David de Gea’s distribution has been a problem at times for United. Credit: Getty.
David de Gea’s distribution has been a problem at times for United. Credit: Getty.

Whether that’s a long-term solution remains unclear, or if United need a stopper who’s more comfortable in possession. Should they opt for the latter, it may result in the Red Devils looking for a new No.1.

There’s also the question of Dean Henderson in all this and whether he has a future at United. He’s certainly more adept with his feet, but his recent criticisms of the club will not have endeared him to fans. Either way, it seems at least one of De Gea or Henderson will be leaving the club permanently next summer.

Right-back questions

Diogo Dalot has noticeably improved since Ten Hag’s arrival, but there remain real doubts whether he’s a suitable permanent right-back for United.

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It’s a position the club did plan to recruit in over the summer, with Denzel Dumfries among the names discussed, but the late moves for Antony and Casemiro meant funds were unavailable to strengthen at full-back.

Whether Dalot is strong enough to start consistently is almost irrelevant, however, with back-up right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka not favoured by Ten Hag, while Brandon Williams’ career has plateaued.

Ethan Laird has shown plenty of promise, but it’s too early to say whether he has the quality needed to challenge for a first-team spot, or if the pathway into the senior side will even be available to him.

Dalot is currently playing his best football since signing for Untied. Credit: Getty.Dalot is currently playing his best football since signing for Untied. Credit: Getty.
Dalot is currently playing his best football since signing for Untied. Credit: Getty.

Therefore, United need to strengthen in this area and while goalkeepers and strikers are difficult to obtain mid-season, bringing in a full-back may be achievable in January.

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Donny dilemma

The arrival of Ten Hag was supposed to herald the beginning of a new era for Donny van de Beek at Old Trafford, instead, it’s been much of the same for the Dutchman.

Van de Beek didn’t impress in pre-season and began the campaign on the bench. So far, he’s played just 19 competitive minutes under Ten Hag, although that’s been impacted by injury and it’s likely he would have played in the Europa League, had he been fit.

But the midfielder very much remains a back-up player for United, a situation which surely can’t continue much longer. The status quo is expected to cost Van de Beek a place in the Netherlands’ World Cup squad, and his career has stagnated in Manchester.

Last January, the solution was to send him out on loan, an option which still remains viable this winter. Yet there needs to be a long-term solution for the former Ajax man, and it seems almost inevitable that he’ll permanently depart United over the next two transfer windows.

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Ronaldo saga

The Portugal forward’s future dominated the summer window, and Cristiano Ronaldo failed to finalise a transfer he so desperately desired.

Ronaldo still presents a problem for this United squad. Credit: Getty.Ronaldo still presents a problem for this United squad. Credit: Getty.
Ronaldo still presents a problem for this United squad. Credit: Getty.

Instead, he’s now playing back-up to Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, and is yet to score from open play this season.

His high-profile absence from pre-season training has also impacted his fitness and, subsequently, on-field minutes so far this campaign.

But there are bigger issues at play and no matter how often Ten Hag denies it, Ronaldo just doesn’t look suited to playing up front in the Dutchman’s set-up.

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The 37-year-old can’t press, link the play or stretch a defence, and United have been better this season when he’s been out of the team. Then there’s the media speculation and headlines that accompany Ronaldo, who remains a hindrance in this team even if he is still a proficient goalscorer when chances present themselves.

Yet, as this summer showed, moving him on presents a problem and it’s unlikely that a European side will match his astronomical wages. A January departure looks improbable, but a summer exit could be arranged even if Ronaldo’s status may have suffered in the meantime.

Attacking options

One of the strongest arguments for retaining Ronaldo’s services this summer was United’s lack of alternative options up front, especially given Martial and Rashford are both injured at present.

The latter isn’t a natural striker, and youngster Charlie McNeill’s recent involvement for the first team indicates how short of options the club are.

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It’s something United need to address, even if January is rarely the time to complete long-term signings, while John Murtough’s recent comments implied the Red Devils won’t do much business mid-season.

Nor has the short-term option proved particularly fruitful for United in the past, with the Radamel Falcao, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani experiments yielding mixed results.

United will most likely continue with their current forward options until the summer, and then reassess their transfer policy.

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