Manchester United 2023/24 Premier League Season Preview | The Hard Tackle

With the 2023/24 Premier League season about to kick off next weekend, The Hard Tackle assesses the prospects of Manchester United.

The 2022/23 season produced many intriguing narratives and stories. Nothing tops Manchester City finally winning the UEFA Champions League while completing the treble under Pep Guardiola. And Manchester United won the only other major trophy in England, the Carabao Cup.

It might not be much, but Erik ten Hag has left scores of Manchester United fans optimistic about a bright future. The cup triumph crucially ended a trophy drought that spanned half a decade. Not to mention the self-confidence the Dutchman displayed in his first press conference, and there is a feeling that he is the right man for the Old Trafford hot seat.

But the Red Devils have had a few false dawns in the past decade, which has primarily brought frustration and exasperation more than any other emotions. Louis van Gaal was supposed to make the team play an eye-catching brand of football that never arrived.

On the other hand, Jose Mourinho’s inimitable style and trophy-winning pedigree should have ended Manchester United’s run without the Premier League trophy. But a decade on from their last Premier League triumph, the gulf to Manchester City has widened, albeit not in the desired direction.

So Manchester United fans are treading with caution with the sense of being ready to get hurt again. But the few eternal optimists are looking into what they believe to be a bright future. Nonetheless, the expectations are rising heading into the upcoming campaign. But before we preview the new season, let us look back at 2022/23.


Manchester United had a horror start to the 2022/23 season, suffering back-to-back defeats. They began with a 2-1 loss at home to Brighton & Hove Albion before enduring a 4-0 hammering at Brentford. It seemed the nightmares of the previous campaign had surfaced again, this time earlier than anticipated.

But the early setbacks soon gave way to a run of just two defeats in their next 12 matches. While the two losses produced embarrassing scorelines, the progress was clear for everyone to see. And Manchester United stepped on the pedal after the World Cup break, barely losing a game until March.

The matches in these two runs produced many memorable results, including wins over bitter rivals Liverpool and Manchester City. But the over-reliance on Marcus Rashford was setting a dangerous precedent as March rolled in. So it was hardly surprising that Manchester United blew hot and cold when the Englishman was not in his element.

The Red Devils scored only one Premier League goal between the start of March and the first week of April. The run-in period also saw them losing to Sevilla in a tie they controlled for the most part. Back-to-back defeats to Brighton & Hove Albion and West Ham United did not help as Liverpool started to embark on a late resurgent run.

However, Manchester United somehow limped across the line while finishing third in the Premier League table. Four successive wins to end the season helped, with one of those results being a 4-1 victory against Chelsea. With UEFA Champions League qualification sealed, the job was done for Erik ten Hag’s debut season as the manager.

Squad Updates

The summer transfer window began with the departures of players who were on loan at the club last season. Manchester United opted against signing Jack Butland, Marcel Sabitzer, and Wout Weghorst on permanent deals.

Phil Jones and Axel Tuanzebe also departed after their contracts ended. But another player saw his deal expiring, although his exit was more shocking. That is because David de Gea’s long run with the Red Devils reached an unceremonious climax, with Manchester United choosing not to tie him to a renewal.

Alex Telles, Zidane Iqbal, and Anthony Elanga have been the other departures, with the trio leaving on permanent deals. But Manchester United might not be done yet, with Dean Henderson, Matej Kovar, Harry Maguire, Eric Bailly, Scott McTominay, Fred, and Donny van de Beek being on the chopping block.

Meanwhile, the Red Devils have made clever additions to the squad, although no one could have foreseen the return of Jonny Evans. And as it turns out, the 35-year-old might sign a one-year deal with Manchester United.

More crucially, Andre Onana, Mason Mount, and Rasmus Hojlund have bolstered the squad significantly. Onana, in particular, has big shoes to fill between the sticks. But the Cameroonian goalkeeper enables Manchester United to adopt a style that has been alien to them thus far.

Meanwhile, Mount bolsters the quality in the midfield unit, taking the creative burden off Bruno Fernandes. Finally, Hojlund’s arrival will help Marcus Rashford play more freely while handing Erik ten Hag a much-needed focal point in the final third.

Key Fixtures

The Premier League fixture list has handed Manchester United a mixed bag, with almost every month dishing out a game against another high-profile club. That said, there are no easy passes in the English top flight. So the Red Devils must be on their best behaviour throughout the season.

Nonetheless, facing Tottenham Hotspur in Gameweek 2 will be a challenge, especially if Harry Kane does not leave the North London club by then. Then, September will begin with a visit to the Emirates. And with Manchester United struggling to make a mark on the road last season, back-to-back away games in London will be the litmus test ahead of the international break.

The run ahead of the October international break is much more straightforward. So Manchester United can hope to be in the upper echelons of the table by the time they return in the latter part of October. And the next sticky period will come in December, as they will face Newcastle United, Chelsea, Liverpool, West Ham United (A), and Aston Villa.

How the Red Devils emerge at the turn of the year will make or break their 2023/24 Premier League campaign. 2024 will begin with easy to modestly difficult fixtures, apart from the trip across Manchester to the Etihad Stadium. But April will be another big test for Manchester United, as they will take on Chelsea, Liverpool, and Newcastle United.

The month will also dish out fixtures against potential relegation battlers Bournemouth and Burnley. And finally, the season will end with three more tricky fixtures, those being against Crystal Palace (A), Arsenal (H), and Brighton & Hove Albion (A). With the run-in being as difficult as it is, Manchester United can showcase the progress under Erik ten Hag in no better way. But failure to be in the zone can have a calamitous effect.

Key Players

Bruno Fernandes

The 2023/24 season will have a new Manchester United captain. Harry Maguire is no longer the top guy in the dressing room, with Bruno Fernandes inheriting the armband from the Englishman. And for many Manchester United fans, the decision has been a long time coming.

The Portuguese international donned the armband for much of the 2022/23 season anyway. And after officially becoming the Manchester United captain, Bruno Fernandes will be raring to go and lead by example.

The 28-year-old will also relish the opportunity to play behind a recognised striker. And while Rasmus Hojlund is still a little rough around the edges, his traits make him the ideal foil for Bruno Fernandes. The new Manchester United captain might finally see his chance-creation numbers get some justice through some actual assists.

Andre Onana

Marcus Rashford was a shoo-in for the second berth in the “Key Players” list. And while he should end another season as Manchester United’s top scorer, another player takes the cake for this spot. We are talking about Andre Onana, who has replaced the legendary David de Gea.

The Cameroonian goalkeeper has the power to transform Manchester United. And his ability to play out from the back should help them build the moves more confidently. However, many de Gea fans are already calling out Onana for not being as great a shot-stopper as the Spaniard.

So the 27-year-old will be under the scanner every time the Red Devils concede a goal. However, he makes Manchester United better in the grand scheme of things. And if he can continue developing his shot-stopping abilities, the sky is the limit for the former Ajax and Inter Milan goalkeeper.

Season Expectations

Manchester United will head into the 2023/24 season with many expecting them to be the outside contenders for the Premier League title. Reading that statement might leave many supporters bewildered.

Some will argue that Manchester United should be among the leading contenders to win the Premier League title after Erik ten Hag got the players he wanted from the summer transfer window. On the other hand, a few will suggest that Liverpool might leapfrog Manchester United after a season of horrors at Anfield.

But the former might have a point, considering the three summer signings improve Manchester United considerably, at least on paper. And if the trio can gel effortlessly, the 20-time English champions can gradually become a force to reckon with.

Erik ten Hag still have a Herculean task to overcome the Manchester City juggernaut. But the Dutch manager has famously proclaimed that “An era can come to an end”. So after oozing confidence in his first media duty as the Manchester United boss, the onus is on him to deliver the goods or at least get Manchester United closer to the title than they have in the past decade.

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