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Five Players Sir Jim Ratcliffe Should Look to Rebuild Manchester United Around

It has been a bitterly disappointing season for Erik Ten Hag’s Manchester United. After securing a solid third place finish last season, there was optimism that United could kick on and potentially challenge for trophies this season, with the likes of Mason Mount, Andre Onana, Ramsus Højlund and Sofyan Amrabat all being brought in to strengthen the side last summer. However, the Reds have had a poor season so far, currently sitting sixth in the table, 11 points behind fourth place Aston Villa. Following back-to-back Premier League defeats against Fulham and local rivals Manchester City, it is clear that a huge rebuild is needed at Old Trafford over the summer. But who are the players that Sir Jim Ratcliffe should look to keep at the club, and build a successful team around?

Lisandro Martinez

Martinez has arguably been the best signing of Erik Ten Hag’s tenure so far, since joining United in a £56.7m deal back in July 2022. After famously being labelled “too small” by Jamie Carragher shortly after signing for the club, the Argentinian has proved his doubters wrong and become one of the best centre-backs in the Premier League.

The 26-year-old was key to Ten Hag’s first season at United, and a big reason why the Red Devils secured Champions League qualification, as well as lifting the Carabao Cup. He is an aggressive, no-nonsense defender who excels in 1v1 defensive situations.

Martinez has established himself as a fan favourite at Old Trafford, due to not only his ability on the pitch but also the passion he shows every time he wears the shirt. This is reflected in what he told the Daily Mirror ahead of his huge move to United: “Argentines do everything with passion and when I go out on the pitch, I fight for every ball. If I have to step over dead bodies, I do it."

Martinez’s aggressive style of defending has seen him nicknamed ‘Licha’ which translates to ‘The Butcher’. The nickname was given to the defender by Ajax fans, who were impressed with his fierce approach during his stint in the Netherlands.

As well as his impressive defensive capabilities, Martinez also has excellent ball-playing credentials, making him integral to Ten Hag’s team. Martinez is very comfortable in possession allows him to play out from the back with ease.

Martinez has received plenty of praise for his efforts in red so far. Legendary United centre-back Rio Ferdinand said: “I think he's dominant, he's aggressive, he's a leader, he communicates well, he shows character, he's there in big moments” when speaking about Martinez last year.

The defender has been a huge asset to United since joining the club, however injury struggles have been an issue in recent months. Martinez sustained a metatarsal injury last season against Sevilla and was rushed back at the start of this campaign before requiring further surgery to fix the issue. He made his return but sustained an injury to the medial collateral ligament in his knee at the start of February, which is expected to keep him out for around eight weeks. United fans will be hoping to see him back on the pitch as soon as possible, and hopefully, he can stay injury-free and play a huge role in any success the team have in the future.

Kobbie Mainoo

Mainoo is arguably the most important player that United should look to build around for the future. There is no denying that he has enormous potential and could go on to be one of the best midfielders in the country.

The Stockport-born midfielder has established himself as a key member of the first team since making his full Premier League debut at Goodison Park back in October, and he has been a standout performer for United this season. He has already racked up 14 Premier League appearances this season and has shone in most of the games he has played.

Gary Neville has been impressed by the performances of Mainoo this season, branding his impact "outstanding", and labelling him a “bright light.”He added: “I always think of his first three big games: away at Goodison Park, St James' Park and Anfield and he handled those really well. Him and Casemiro are better together.”

The 18-year-old’s top-class displays saw him rewarded with the club’s January Player of the Month award. Mainoo has brought so much to Ten Hag’s team, most notably a maturity that you very rarely see in such a young, inexperienced player. He always seems composed, whether in or out of possession, which will be exactly what Ten Hag wants in the middle of the park.

Not only does he remain composed, but he reads the game incredibly well too.

Mainoo is also a fantastic dribbler. He completed six dribbles, in the recent win over Luton, the most by a Manchester United player this season or last. This is out of the ordinary for a central midfielder but shows just how brilliant his close control is. Out of possession Mainoo brings tenacity and is capable of making crucial tackles in the vital moments. Plus, he has shown he is more than capable of chipping in with a goal, with two excellent finishes against Wolves and Newport County.

Former Manchester United academy coach Paul McGuiness has branded Mainoo a “really clever player”, while Mainoo was recently labelled a “generational talent” by teammate Rasmus Højlund. This highlights just how highly the youngster is regarded by everyone in and around the club, and it certainly seems as though he is destined for a bright future.

Bruno Fernandes

Fernandes has been a pivotal player at United ever since his arrival in the 2019-20 season. He has been a steady source of goals and assists for the Red Devils, registering 47 goals and 39 assists in 150 Premier League appearances for the Red Devils. He has also been an influential member of the squad, taking over captaincy of the club full-time last July. This shows just how highly he is regarded by Ten Hag as not only a player but a leader within the squad.

Despite United being in poor form when Fernandes joined the club, the Portuguese playmaker ended his first campaign at the club unbeaten at league level, which shows the instant impact he had after arriving at the club. This impact has not waned, and his creativity has been crucial for United.

The midfielder’s biggest strength is his ability to pick a pass and create chances for teammates. Fernandes’ range of passing can turn a defensive phase into a promising counter-attack. His passing choices are about risk and reward – he plays without fear of losing possession and always tries to play the incisive pass that is needed to unlock defences.

Erik Ten Hag has praised his captain’s passing range. He said: “Because he is such a genius at giving that final pass, we have to get Bruno in the right spaces on the ball.” Ten Hag knows that Fernandes’ creativity is a huge asset to the team. United will need to get the best out of him if they are going to have success in the near future.

Fernandes currently tops the list for expected assists this season, which suggests Fernandes has been a constant creative force, despite United’s struggles this season. The midfielder will be hoping he can guide the club forwards and lift his first trophy as captain in the not-too-distant future.

Alejandro Garnacho

Garnacho has been one of United’s most exciting academy prospects in the last few years. He loves to run at opposition full-backs and is incredibly exciting to watch.

The 19-year-old has become a mainstay in Ten Hag’s starting line-up in recent months. After spending two years in the United youth system, the exciting winger made his Premier League debut back in April 2022. He has since developed into a key player for United, starting almost every fixture so far this season.

Garnacho was mainly utilised by Ten Hag on the left wing after he broke into the first team, however, the youngster has also impressed deployed off the right flank this season, reminiscent of a young Cristiano Ronaldo.

Garnacho possesses some of the traits that were present in a young Ronaldo, including lightning pace, agility, and skill. He also loves to drive directly at his fullback, striking fear into the hearts of defenders whenever he plays.

The young forward has scored seven goals so far this season in 36 appearances so far this season, and it is likely his tally will continue to rise. Garnacho exudes confidence when he plays, and certainly has the potential to have a successful career for United and Argentina.

Rasmus Højlund

It was a tough start to life in red for Højlund. It took him 15 appearances to notch his first league goal, which came against Aston Villa on Boxing Day. He did have a positive Champions League campaign however, netting five goals before United crashed out in the group stages.

Despite receiving criticism for his lack of goals early in the season, he has drastically improved his goal tally since the new year began. He is now on 13 goals in 30 appearances so far this season, a very respectable record for his first season in England.

The Dane has shown poacher’s instincts in front of goal in recent weeks, getting into good positions in the box and being clinical. He has even become the youngest United player to score in four consecutive Premier League games for the club, a feat not even Cristiano Ronaldo achieved.

The former Atalanta forward is currently sidelined with a muscle injury, however, there is optimism that he may be back fit for this Saturday’s clash with Everton. United have struggled since he has been out injured, picking up back-to-back defeats against Fulham and Manchester City. It has been clear that the Reds have lacked a focal point up-front, which is what Højlund brings to the team.

Fans are hoping Højlund can lead the line for United for many years to come and become one of the best goal-scorers in the world.

In conclusion, a huge rebuild is needed for United to challenge for trophies, however, Ten Hag’s side have a core group of exciting players that they can build a future around.

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