DANNY MURPHY: Manchester United are so far behind their rivals

DANNY MURPHY: Manchester United have needed someone like Erik ten Hag for ages but they are so far behind their rivals that it could take a long time for them to get back to where they want to be

  • Man United have needed a manager like Erik ten Hag to dish out tough love 
  • It’s clear though that Ten Hag can’t progress without the right ammunition 
  • Elsewhere, Daniel Levy is backing Antonio Conte like no manager before
  • It’s going to take a long time for Ten Hag to get Man United where he wants to 

Manchester United have needed someone like Erik ten Hag to dish out tough love for ages. But they are so far behind their rivals, a change in fortune may not be quick.

Only a few months ago, Antonio Conte was disappointed not to get the call from Old Trafford yet he probably feels now he dodged a bullet. Looking at last season’s results and their business in the summer transfer window, I’d back Tottenham to finish above United again, and win a long-awaited trophy before them as well.

United were second a couple of years ago but it papered over the cracks because you never felt the manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was given full control and the players sensed that. Ten Hag is disciplined and ruthless, exactly what United require, but Conte is the same with the bonus of already being tested in the Premier League.

Erik ten Hag is the manager needed at Manchester United but has a long way to go

Ten Hag’s United team need more ammunition if they are to close the gap to their rivals

Which squad would you rather have? I think Conte will be happy with what he’s got. He can pick a front three of Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Richarlison. If Ronaldo goes, United have Jadon Sancho, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford. It’s not the same.

While Ten Hag is clear about what he wants, he can’t progress without the right ammunition.

Meanwhile, Daniel Levy is backing Conte like no other manager before. I think the run of 14 years without a trophy can end this season.

Signing Richarlison is a clever move because he has the flexibility to play wide or down the middle. He’ll compete with Dejan Kulusevski for some games and give Kane a rest in others.

Antonio Conte wanted the Man United job but will now be happy where he is at Tottenham

With five substitutes allowed this season, Conte has enough options and can keep more players happy. Ivan Perisic, Yves Bissouma and Clement Lenglet all increase options.

Right at the top, it’s hard to look beyond Manchester City and Liverpool for the title — they are the outstanding teams of this or any era.

It’s hard to see City’s move for Erling Haaland fail. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t reach 30 goals in his first season. City create chances, he converts all type of chances. I don’t see how opponents stop him.

It says everything about City’s belief in themselves that they have no problems selling players to other Big Six clubs, even when they are excellent players. They are so confident in what they do.

Oleksandr Zinchenko was used at left-back by City but his long-term future at the Emirates will be in midfield. Mikel Arteta knows all about him from working with Pep Guardiola and I have seen enough of Zinchenko in midfield for Ukraine to think Arsenal fans will be going ‘Wow’ at the end of the season.

I can see why Raheem Sterling has joined Chelsea. He will be guaranteed regular football, will be given goal chances by the likes of Mason Mount and will be excited to play in London where he grew up.

It’s tough to look beyond Manchester City or Liverpool in the race for the league title

Outside the main contenders, it’s been awkward for some clubs this summer. Everton have started to sign players but I’m sure Frank Lampard will want more to be competitive. They still need two forwards to compensate for losing Richarlison, two midfielders and a right-back to help Seamus Coleman, with Nathan Patterson not yet ready to be a regular.

Some teams will do better than last season. I expect Leeds to finish higher than 17th despite losing Kalvin Phillips and Raphinha.


Their manager Jesse Marsch brings energy and signed players he knows from Champions League clubs like Leipzig, Salzburg and Bayern Munich.

Aston Villa were 14th but have recruited well and Philippe Coutinho will benefit from a full pre-season. Steven Gerrard will be aiming higher.

On the flip side, Southampton won only one of 13 at the end of last season and were over-reliant on James Ward-Prowse. They need to start well. I worry Brentford will suffer from second-season syndrome as Sheffield United and Leeds have done.

The Bees have brought potential in Aaron Hickey and Keane Lewis-Potter but nobody in the class of Christian Eriksen who was a big factor last season.

Raheem Sterling’s move to Chelsea will benefit both the player and the club itself

Murphy’s Premier League predictions 

Winner – Man City

Top four – Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Spurs

Golden boot – Erling Haaland (Man City)

Best signing – Oleksandr Zinchenko (Arsenal)

Relegation – Fulham, Bournemouth, Brentford

Surprise Package – Leeds

World Cup dark horse  – James Maddison (Leicester)

Of the promoted clubs, Nottingham Forest have the best survival chances. Their owner has been very active in the transfer market and manager Steve Cooper is very tactically aware. Importantly, some of their signings have been in the Premier League before; Dean Henderson, Jesse Lingard and even Neco Williams.

It’s sad to see Sadio Mane and Antonio Rudiger leaving the Premier League — they both played with such infectious energy and passion.

Regular readers know how much I loved Mane. There is a case for saying he was Jurgen Klopp’s most important signing because his arrival in 2016 gave Liverpool the attacking impetus to qualify for the Champions League. From there, they attracted the likes of Mo Salah and Virgil van Dijk.

The difference this season is there is a World Cup in the middle. It’s going to be hard for anyone to make a late run into Gareth Southgate’s squad but if there’s one candidate, it’s James Maddison of Leicester.

Maddison’s form at the end of last season was phenomenal with plenty of end product in terms of goals and assists. Continue like that and he’ll have a chance. He’s a gamechanger and they are invaluable in knockout football.

I can’t wait for the opening weekend of fixtures. Fulham v Liverpool will tug on my heartstrings and United v Brighton is fascinating because their managers have similar philosophies, but Brighton under Graham Potter are a bit further down the line.

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