The Dutchman kicked off the new era with the signings of Tyrell Malacia, Christian Eriksen, Lisandro Martinez, Casemiro, Antony and Martin Dubravka, while also managing to cut some of the deadwood from his inherited squad. Ahead of the summer rebuild, it was the outgoings which concerned United legend Gary Neville.
The former right-back called for Ten Hag to be “really brutal” and undertake a “massive change” of his playing squad. “If Erik ten Hag is going to be really brutal like Jurgen Klopp was when he first went into Liverpool and got rid of Christian Benteke or when Joe Hart was let go by Pep Guardiola, hes going to be letting a lot of this lot go,” Neville told Sky Sports in April.
“Because they cant press high up the pitch, they havent got the physicality, they dont want to win the ball back early, they dont chase down and hunt together. I think theres going to be a massive, massive change and obviously five or six of them are going anyway because they are out of contract but I can see even more being let go.”
Rangnick also suggested Ten Hag needed to undertake “open heart” surgery to his squad. “Its not enough to do some minor amendments – cosmetic things,” said the German. “In medicine you would say that this is an operation of the open heart.
“If this happens and everyone has realised that this has to happen and if people want to work together then it makes sense and I believe it doesnt take two or three years to change those things. This can happen within one year.”
Edinson Cavani, Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata and Nemanja Matic all left when their contracts expired while Andreas Pereira, Tahith Chong and James Garner were sold but it was not the mass cull that both Neville and Ragnick predicted.
In reality Ten Hag stuck to his guns after announcing he would “work with” United's faltering superstars rather than look to force them out of the Old Trafford exit door during his first press conference as the club's new manager.
“I am still in the process of analysing to set conclusions,” said Ten Hag. “I am looking forward to working with these players. The season before [2020/21], this squad was second in the league, so there is huge potential. I think if we improve, if we can work with them, I think we can get out more than what is now the result from this season.”
It appears the plan is currently working, with a number of United players including Scott McTominay and Diogo Dalot enjoying spells of good form during Ten Hag's first weeks in charge.