After a season away from the Champions League, Manchester United will return to Europe’s most prestigious club competition next term.
Erik ten Hag’s men were long in the driver’s seat to secure a coveted fourth spot ahead of Liverpool, which was crucial for the club’s lofty ambitions heading into the summer transfer window.
But they did one better, leapfrogging Newcastle United to third in the standings on the back of four consecutive victories down the final stretch of the 2022/23 campaign.
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Ten Hag put his stamp on the Red Devils squad after replacing Ralf Rangnick at the helm last summer, signing a few top players, including Casemiro, Lisandro Martinez and Christian Eriksen.
However, he doesn’t want to stop there as he looks to address United’s scoring woes at the end of the season by landing Tottenham Hotspur talisman Harry Kane among others.
Bringing the lure of Champions League football and the possibility of winning trophies to the table could prove vital to convincing the England captain to move to Old Trafford.
Kane could be a catalyst to turn Man Utd into genuine title challengers and help ten Hag’s team put a stop to Manchester City’s three-year reign in the Premier League.
After all, that’s been the club’s number-one priority for years, considering their last league crown dates back to Sir Alex Ferguson’s final season in charge back in 2012/13.
Despite only finishing second twice in ten Premier League campaigns in the post-Ferguson era, the Red Devils won’t settle for anything less than a season-long title challenge in 2023/24.
Sights set on domestic glory
Since Ferguson bid farewell to Old Trafford on that rainy day on May 12, 2013, Man Utd have lost the cutting edge in the top flight, leading to the club’s longest title drought in the Premier League era.
Ten Hag’s early regime has offered a glimmer of hope that United can return to being competitive in a fierce race for supremacy, but the Dutchman could use some help in the upcoming transfer window.
After massively relying on Marcus Rashford to shoulder the scoring burden in 2022/23, the Red Devils must add to their attacking ranks to bolster their chances for success.
Indeed, among clubs sitting in the upper half of the table, only Aston Villa (48) have netted fewer goals than Man Utd (51) this season, highlighting the frontline as the team’s weakest link.
That could be one of the reasons the record-time English champions are currently only fourth-favourites to reclaim Premier League glory next season, with Man City, Arsenal and Liverpool boasting better odds.
But if United’s bid to bring Kane goes through and ten Hag manages to reinforce several other positions, including a new right-back and a defensive midfielder, the narrative could change.
Substantial gap to be covered
Going into the 2022/23 season finale, Man Utd trail runaway leaders Man City by a staggering 19 points, which is mainly thanks to the team’s poor showings away from home.
One of the hallmarks of ten Hag’s first season at the club was United’s unique resilience at Old Trafford that’s seen them lose just once in 17 home league games (W13, D3) and concede a league-low eight goals.
However, the Red Devils’ performances on the road have left a lot to be desired, especially when it comes to their travels to meet high-profile opponents.
Trips to Arsenal, Liverpool and Man City have seen United on the receiving end of a humiliating 16-5 aggregate scoreline (L3), which must have caught ten Hag’s attention.
If he’s to take his side to the next level, showing more solidity in these so-called ‘big games’ is a must, but to do that, the Red Devils may have to open their chequebook in the summer to ensure more quality within the squad.
There’s a feeling the title is currently beyond Man Utd’s reach, given how dominant Man City have been in recent years.
But if the club’s effort to sign Kane and several other targets goes as planned in the summer, the Red Devils could improve their outside chances of fighting for supremacy.
Another top-four finish is a bare minimum the fans will expect for ten Hag’s lads, but depending on transfer dealings in the next few months, United could even dare to dream of a long-awaited title again.
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