Manchester United are now half way through their pre-season and Erik ten Hag will be starting to think about what the starting side will look like on the opening game at Old Trafford next month.
United host Brighton on 7 August as they look to start their Premier League campaign with a win, in order to kickstart what will hopefully be a much improved season for the Reds.
The manager has already spoken on the importance of the fixture against Graham Potter's side, and wants his team to be ready for the test, which comes in less than three weeks time.
"I see progression from day to day, and that has to be," Ten Hag explained on MUTV. "Because we have to be ready for the start of the Premier League."
It will be rather interesting to see how the manager lines up in his first ever competitive game in charge of the club, with some clues being shown in pre-season with his team selection.
So far, it has been the case of having a stronger team starting the game and then switching the eleven to include a team with fringe players and youngsters.
Against Liverpool and Melbourne Victory those changes were made at half-time, but in the latest clash with Crystal Palace there was only one change at half-time, with Donny van de Beek coming on for Scott McTominay.
The majority of the rest of the team were replaced around the 60 minute mark, with David de Gea the only player playing the full match.
It is likely to be a similar situation in Perth when United face Steven Gerrard's Aston Villa. The team seems to slowly be picking itself for the opening fixture.
Although, there are three big important names to be mentioned.
Firstly, is the situation of Cristiano Ronaldo. The striker's wishes to leave the club are looking ever-more unlikely to come to fruition, with a lack of suitors for the 37-year-old forward.
If he stays, many would say that he would have an argument to start the opening game, others would disagree.
However, it's unlikely that the decision will have to be made for this encounter, with Ten Hag having said that he thinks this will be the case. He did add that the fitness of the Portuguese will undoubtedly be perfect. You'd instead imagine that he needs to learn the tactical imprint that the Dutchman is setting if he's to stay at Old Trafford another year.
🗣 Erik ten Hag on whether Cristiano Ronaldo could miss the start of the season: “I think so but he is training. I think we all know Ronaldo is a top professional and he will be fit. That is the last concern I have.”— Utd District (@UtdDistrict) July 18, 2022
The other two will be the additions of Lisandro Martinez and Christian Eriksen. They are United's latest two signings as Ten Hag looks to strengthen his squad.
However, it was also stressed that the former Ajax man would have to adapt to the league and he will also be in individual training until United return from tour, likewise will Eriksen.
This could mean that the pair could start the opening fixture of the campaign from the bench, as they get used to working with the squad and manager under the new circumstances at their new club.
Speaking of those that could find themselves on the starting sheet, it seems that with Ronaldo all but confirmed to not start, the front three of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Jadon Sancho picks itself.
The attacking trident have been a joy to watch so far in pre-season, and they will likely get a chance to strut their stuff against the Seagulls. If they impress, it could end up being a difficult task for Ronaldo to find his way back into the side straight away.
Meanwhile, Harry Maguire's status as the captain has been reinforced by the new manager, who has publicly put his trust in the Englishman to regain form under him this coming season.
His partner for the opener will more than likely be Raphael Varane, who has expressed his positive stance of the addition of Martinez, who will bring competition that "every great club" needs.
While Tyrell Malacia did impress in his first start for the club against Palace, with a lovely deep cross with his weaker foot to spark Martial's opener, it will be likely that Luke Shaw will regain his place for the Premier League opener.
Diogo Dalot and Bruno Fernandes have been key cogs in the team so far in pre-season. Meanwhile, Fred has looked like he could be one of the biggest winners from the high pressing style implemented.
The only real potential head scratcher for the manager will be the right-sided central midfielder. McTominay has done well there, but Van de Beek also sparked to life with an assist from that position against Patrick Vieira's men, utilising the exact skills that his manager detailed were his best strengths days prior.
If there are chances ahead of the new season for the Dutch midfielder with the strongest team around him, then he could provide a difficult decision to make for Ten Hag. However, at the same time, McTominay, alongside Sancho and Dalot, has proven to help with the right-sided balance that United are starting to create in the team that has been known for their left-sided dominance in the past.
The potential starting XI (4-2-3-1) against Brighton
Featured Image Credit: Manchester United
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