6 players that Erik ten Hag has improved at Man Utd: Garnacho…

Manchester United's Alejandro Garnacho during his side's Premier League defeat against Aston Villa at Villa Park, Birmingham, November 2022. Credit: Alamy
Manchester United's Alejandro Garnacho during his side's Premier League defeat against Aston Villa at Villa Park, Birmingham, November 2022. Credit: Alamy

Erik ten Hag has enjoyed a productive start to his Manchester United tenure and his impact can already be seen in a number of revitalised players at Old Trafford.

In particular, Ten Hag has improved plenty of the players that were at the club before he arrived, turning them into genuine contenders for Champions League qualification.

He’s also been clever with his recruitment, bringing in charismatic players who can lift the rest of the squad and who will blend on the pitch with the team already established by the former Ajax manager.

Here are six players that have improved under Ten Hag already.

Alejandro Garnacho

While Garnacho was already a star for Manchester United’s youth side, it’s hard to deny that the forward has blossomed under Ten Hag this season.

He scored his first senior goal against Real Sociedad and made an exciting cameo during the League Cup triumph over Aston Villa, making himself a hero with the club’s supporters.

“It was good that he came on and showed that performance and had that impact in the game, to be able to assist, make the dribbles and run behind,” Ten Hag said after the win against Villa.

“There are some things he has to improve, for instance when we go long to go for the second balls. He still has things to learn but quite obviously we are happy with his development and he can contribute to the team.

“It depends on his approach, his attitude. When he keeps working then yes, it is possible (for him to play more). He wants to improve every day. He has to do the right things in his lifestyle. He has the capability.”

Diogo Dalot

Dalot has been United’s first-choice right-back since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s departure as head coach last November, starting all 17 of his side’s matches this season, scoring once and providing two assists in the process.

And his development has accelerated under Ten Hag with a number of assured defensive performances that have left Aaron Wan-Bissaka gathering cobwebs on the substitutes bench.

The United boss called upon Dalot to continue his progress following his Man of the Match performance against West Ham last weekend.

“I hope he keeps progressing, so not only sticking to this level,” Ten Hag said. “Our approach, our philosophy is that good is not good enough. We have to do better,” Ten Hag told reporters.

“We’re happy with the development and the performances of Diogo so it’s quite clear.

“It’s heavy when you have to play every game but physically he’s got a really good profile and I’m sure he will keep going and he will keep developing. That is what we demand and I am confident he will do that.”

Marcus Rashford

Rashford, like many of his team-mates, endured a horrendous campaign under Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick last season.

Yet the 25-year-old has bounced back by scoring seven goals in his first 15 games which has fuelled calls for his inclusion in England’s World Cup squad.

His brace against Arsenal in September was Rashford at his best, with his speed and trickery causing the Premier League leaders untold problems, while he scored a thumping match-winning header against West Ham.

“I think he is already,” Ten Hag said when asked if Rashford was becoming an elite player. “Before you’re 25, to score 100 goals, I think you’re already there, but he won’t be satisfied with that.

“In the end, it’s about how many trophies you win with your club and I think he can develop his game even more.”

The striker has recovered from a horrific run of form and looks like a different player under Ten Hag.

David de Gea

After an uneasy start to the season, De Gea has begun to blossom under Ten Hag and produced a string of stunning saves in the recent victory over West Ham.

“So, everyone has their own opinion and their own philosophy,” Ten Hag said after that 1-0 win. “For me, for a goalkeeper, you have to protect the goal and make sure you don’t concede goals. In that fact, he is magnificent.

“On the feet, for me, he has the capabilities as well. I think when you see this season, he is progressing from game to game on that part. And that has to do not only with the keeper.

“It has also to do with the ones in front, how you give the keeper the options to bring passes in, because when they don’t run free, or in the wrong moments, or in the wrong positions, then he doesn’t have the options to pass around.

“But I am convinced he can do it and I think the games so far prove that. I think he will improve from game to game on that part.”

He’ll enjoy a break this winter after being left out of Spain’s World Cup squad and Ten Hag will be keen to oversee his continued improvement.

David de Gea celebrates after Marcus Rashford scores for Manchester United. Old Trafford, January 2022. Credit: Alamy
David de Gea celebrates after Marcus Rashford scores for Manchester United. Old Trafford, January 2022. Credit: Alamy

READ: Ranking Man Utd’s 23 Premier League keepers from worst to best

Luke Shaw

Shaw enjoyed an imperious 2020-21 season, followed by an excellent European Championship, but looked a shadow of that player during the last campaign.

And, when Ten Hag signed Tyrell Malacia, many expected Shaw to lose his starting spot and few were surprised when he was benched for August’s victory over Liverpool.

But the 27-year-old has fought hard to win Ten Hag’s trust and has regained his spot in the manager’s preferred XI.

“He speaks to the players individually quite a lot and I think, from the start of pre-season, I could see what sort of manager he was going to be and I was extremely impressed with the way he came across, not just in terms of how he speaks to you, but his ideas of how he wants his team to set up,” Shaw told club media.

“His structure and the way he wants to play with the ball and without the ball – it was really impressive. Things obviously take time, but I think we’re going in the right direction and I think it could be a really good next few months because I feel like we’re taking the right steps.”

Raphael Varane

Varane did well enough during his first season at Old Trafford but injuries limited his impact as United stumbled to sixth place in 2021-22.

But, after being paired with the irrepressible Lisandro Martinez, the World Cup winner looked much improved as Ten Hag’s side recovered from their opening two defeats.

His current injury has re-opened the door for Harry Maguire but we reckon Varane will be straight back in the starting XI once he’s fit again.

READ MORE: Revisiting the last Man Utd XI picked by Sir Alex Ferguson in May 2013

TRY A QUIZ: Can you name every South American to score for Man Utd in the Prem?

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