Down The Wings

Manchester United Fan Blog

How have Manchester United’s summer signings fared so far?

Christian Eriksen, Tyrell Malacia and Antony are three of Erik ten Hag’s first summer transfer window. (Photo by Oleg Bilsagaev/Getty Images)

In the summer of this year, one thing that Manchester United fans unanimously agreed upon was that fresh faces were required in the transfer window ahead of Erik Ten Hag’s first season at Old Trafford.

The Dutchman wasted no time in landing some new names, with over £200m spent as he looked to rejuvenate what could only be described as a dismal dressing room at the time.

Just as football fans have done for decades, it is important to analyse any transfer and weigh up the positives and negatives of a deal. Although the season did not begin too long ago, there is enough evidence to look at to enable fans to cast some judgment on the new personnel so far.

With that being said, here is a look at the six summer signings that were landed before deadline day and how they are looking in a United shirt…

Tyrell Malacia

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The first signing of the Ten Hag era, Malacia arrived in Manchester for a mere £13.5m fee from Feyenoord, which could be considered a shrewd bit of business given the exponential amounts of money thrown about in football, nowadays.

Arriving from the Dutch Eredivisie at just 22 years of age, many expected that he would play understudy to Luke Shaw as he looked to settle into the groove of English football; however, Malacia has been quick to displace the established first-teamer to the bench with his impressive performances in both domestic and European competitions.

Shaw looked drastically off the pace in the opening two defeats to Brighton and Brentford, so Ten Hag saw fit to hand Malacia his debut against Liverpool, with the Rotterdam-born fullback a key part of a watertight defence that contributed to a big 2-1 victory that night to get United’s season up and running.

Malacia has only gotten better from there after being thrown in at the deep end, starting every game since that marvellous Monday night. His pace has been there for all to see as he occupies the left in both the attack and the defence, with his spatial awareness and tenacity impressing fans.

If you had to critique the Dutch international, it could be argued that his attacking output could be better. With that being said, though, United are yet to really dominate in the final third against teams, so you would hope that this element of his game will come to show in the coming months.

Christian Eriksen

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If you had thought about your ideal summer signings as last season drew to an underwhelming close, very few fans would have mentioned Eriksen. Whilst his quality and work ethic has never been doubted in the footballing world, not many would have thought he was the solution to United’s midfield woes as the 30-year-old plied his trade at Brentford.

Reds fans were willing to back this move, though, with Ten Hag relentless in his pursuit of the midfielder on a free transfer. Clearly, the new boss had a plan for Eriksen, not as a bench warmer, but as a regular starter in the side.

It is fair to say that supporters have not been let down. The Dane has started every game so far this season and has shown why he is key to keeping the system ticking out on the pitch.

Since playing an unorthodox role as a false-9 against Brighton on the opening weekend, Eriksen has occupied one of the box-to-box midfielder roles, otherwise known as part of the ‘2’ in a 4-2-3-1 formation. His ability to pick a pass from deep and keep possession in the midfield has been important to a side that has lacked those abilities for so long. He is a significant upgrade on Fred, with the former Spurs man also able to switch the play well on the counterattack.

The performances have not set the world on fire, but consistent good showings have allowed Eriksen to pick up multiple man-on-the-match awards and become an instant fan favourite. He has been nominated for player of the month as of now, and will likely coup the award ahead of Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho, who are also nominees. He is a true bargain on a free transfer, for sure.

Hopefully, Eriksen can crack on and get that much anticipated first goal for his new club.

Lisandro Martinez

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How could a centre-back succeed in the Premier League at just 5 feet 9 inches tall? That was the burning question on the lips of pundits when Martinez landed a move to Old Trafford for nearly £55m not so long ago.

There was more doubt than support from the wider footballing world for the Argentine, with mainstream ‘pundit’ Jamie Carragher actually saying live on Sky Sports that he was “convinced this can’t work” due to his height, despite the defender winning over 70% of his aerial duels at Ajax during the 2021/22 campaign.

It was quite a presumptuous statement from a man who started that very sentence with “we should never judge managers (and) players too early”. However, we should not focus on the dire state of English football punditry, but more so on how Martinez has proved people wrong so far.

The best compliment that could be given to the 24-year-old is that many fans believe he is the closest thing the club have had to Nemanja Vidic since the Serbian left the club almost a decade ago. Whilst undoubtedly being smaller than the average centre-back, Martinez can match any defender in relation to his tenacity in the tackle, his clever reading of the game and his ability to play out of the back to transfer the ball from defence to attack.

United have craved a left-footed centre-back for many a year, with Marcos Rojo the last left-footer to play in central defence for the Red Devils. His ability on his left foot aids the balance of the team in both defending and keeping possession under pressure.

“The Butcher”, as he is now known, has formed a strong partnership with Varane at the back, with the likes of Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof hardly having a sniff in recent times. Martinez is particularly useful towards playing a high-line, something that himself, Varane, Dalot and Malacia have looked good at so far. Maguire and Lindelof cannot do this due to the lack of pace between them.

You can certainly see why Ten Hag wanted to bring his centre-back over with him from Ajax, with the trust between the two there for all to see as Martinez thrives in a red shirt so far.

Casemiro

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One thing is for sure with Casemiro- he was not on Ten Hag’s list of wants at the start of the summer transfer window. He was not part of the plan from the get-go. An aimless pursuit of Frenkie De Jong turned stale, so the people in charge shifted their attentions from Barcelona to Real Madrid.

Yet, with that being said, United have lacked a top-quality, defensive-minded midfielder for a considerable amount of time. Even Nemanja Matic started to decline rather quickly after he arrived in 2017, so fans cannot be too displeased with a five-time Champions League winner who has made a name for himself as one of the world’s best at his trade over the last decade.

The bottom line is with Casemiro is that he is yet to hit the ground running. Whilst some fans are displeased with his contribution so far following a move worth over £63m on a big money contract, other fans are sympathetic to his cause after a very sudden switch of surroundings; not only has he swapped sunny Spain for miserable Manchester overcast, the Brazilian has also gone from a top Madrid outfit to a rebuilding United side.

The truth probably lies somewhere in between. Aside from a few sloppy passes here and there, the midfielder has done his job well, which is to break up the play and quickly move the ball to the more probing midfielders such as Eriksen and Bruno Fernandes. He has not had much of a chance to show his best self, though, with a much-improved Scott McTominay currently keeping Casemiro out of the side.

Time is the key with the Sao Jose dos Campos-born man. He is one of the club’s top earners, so he will surely become a consistent part of the side very soon. There is only so long this period on the bench can continue, you would think, as there is certainly a quality player there.

Antony

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The transfer of Antony was the flashiest of the lot, with the deal for the tricky winger totalling up to £100m with add-ons included. The Brazilian was the main target for Ten Hag throughout the window and was eventually delivered after a shambles of negotiations all summer long, with John Murtough and Richard Arnold culpable for having their heads in the clouds as the price got higher and higher as the window progressed.

The former Sao Paulo man arrived with a lot of expectation, and he lived up to that instantly with a cool, composed finish just 35 minutes into his debut in a red shirt against Arsenal, accompanied with that passionate celebration that will live long in the minds of fans.

In his two appearances since then, however, it has not been as dazzling as Reds fans would have hoped for from Antony. That is not to say that he has been poor by any means, though. Naturally, there was bound to be a comedown from that debut and fans are aware of that. The 22-year-old has looked comfortable in the system so far and has not done a lot wrong.

The thing that many have pointed out is that Antony is best running at players whilst using his skillset to find space and put a cross in. Ten Hag will definitely want to see more of that, and you would expect that will come as he adapts further to the Premier League and new teammates.

Being left-footed, he offers something different to the flanks for United, with Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Anthony Elanga all better off their right. His ability to cut inside and cross from his left foot will be an asset to the team, particularly to Cristiano Ronaldo should he find a way back into the starting eleven, with the Portuguese known for his heading abilty.

Time is the key and patience should be afforded for Antony. The media will critique his every move at that price, particularly with him being foreign and someone most journalists will know next to nothing about, so it is important United fans give him the backing he deserves.

Martin Dubravka

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Following his arrival from Newcastle on a season-long loan worth just over £2m, the United faithful are yet to see Dubravka in action.

Some thought that the Slovakian stopper would get time in the Europa League, but David De Gea has started in both the European fixtures that have been played so far.

The 33-year-old has not made the bench in a couple of games, which suggests he could be injured. The Carabao Cup is not long away, though, so expect to see the new goalkeeper in action sooner or later.

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