Erik ten Hag plots Man Utd fitness boot camp as Ralf Rangnick admits players struggled with pressing

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Erik ten Hag plots Man Utd fitness boot camp as Ralf Rangnick admits players struggled with pressing - GETTY IMAGES
Erik ten Hag plots Man Utd fitness boot camp as Ralf Rangnick admits players struggled with pressing - GETTY IMAGES

Erik ten Hag has ordered the first wave of Manchester United’s squad to return for pre-season on June 27, with the new manager determined to maximise his time on the training ground this summer.

With the new Premier League season due to start early on August 6 because of the World Cup finals in Qatar in November and December, Ten Hag feels there is no time to waste as he tries to impose his ideas and drastically improve United’s fitness levels.

United face Crystal Palace in their final game of the season at Selhurst Park on Sunday, when Ten Hag will be watching from the stands, and some members of the squad will be reporting back just five weeks later.

Those players involved in international matches next month will have staggered returns but could face an even tighter turnaround, with the squad due to fly to Thailand on July 8 for the start of a pre-season tour of the Far East and Australia. Ten Hag’s first game in charge will be against Liverpool at the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok on July 12, before United head to Australia to play against Melbourne Victory and Crystal Palace in Melbourne and Aston Villa in Perth.

The scheduling of international matches up to mid-June – England play the last of four Uefa Nations League games on June 14, against Hungary at Molineux – has frustrated lots of clubs and increased fears of burnout among players ahead of a marathon season.

Ralf Rangnick has admitted he made a mistake in hoping Cristiano Ronaldo could be a “pressing monster” and that his United team-mates could deliver his trademark high-pressing style of football, after he had been parachuted in as interim manager in late November following Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s sacking.

 Premier League - Brighton & Hove Albion v Manchester United - The American Express Community Stadium, Brighton, Britain - May 7, 2022 Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo reacts - REUTERS
Premier League - Brighton & Hove Albion v Manchester United - The American Express Community Stadium, Brighton, Britain - May 7, 2022 Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo reacts - REUTERS

Rangnick claims that, with no pre-season, he was forced to compromise because he “couldn’t really physically develop and raise the level of the team”, something Ten Hag is keen to address as he seeks to improve players’ conditioning and implement a pressing game where intensity levels can be sustained.

Ronaldo is due to miss the Palace match with a recurrence of the hip flexor problem that has troubled him at different junctures this season.

Ten Hag has stressed that he “can’t wait to work” with Ronaldo but United are keen to reduce the scoring burden this summer on the Portugal forward – whose 24 goals accounted for just over a third of the team’s goals in all competitions – and accept that, at 37, he cannot be expected to play every game next season.

Rangnick said: “Cristiano scored a few goals but, again, Cristiano – and I’m not blaming him at all, he did great in those games – but he’s not a pressing monster. He’s not a player, even when he was a young player, he was not crying, shouting, ‘Hurray, the other team has got the ball, where can we win balls?’

“And the same with quite a few other players; so we had to make some compromises at one stage, maybe we made a few too many, that's also possible, but we never found the right balance between what do we need with the ball and without the ball.

“Even in possession, we didn’t create as many chances as we should have done.”

Juventus face competition from PSG to sign Pogba

Ten Hag is keen for United to do their transfer business as quickly as possible to allow time for new recruits to bed in.

The recruitment of forwards and midfielders is being prioritised but Ten Hag also wants a quality centre-back and a right-back, with the club open to offers for Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

Paul Pogba is not expected to play any part against Palace due to the calf injury he suffered last month and has effectively played his last game for United. Juventus are hoping to beat Paris St-Germain and Real Madrid to re-sign the France midfielder on a free transfer, six years after he left for Old Trafford in an £89 million deal.

Juventus have offered Pogba a three-year deal worth around £10 million a season following the latest round of talks with his representatives in Turin this week, although PSG have not given up hope of snatching the player from under the Italian club’s noses.

PSG are offering more money than Juventus and are expected to make one final attempt to persuade Pogba to move to the French capital now his international team-mate, Kylian Mbappe, has turned down Real to stay with the club.

Having failed to prise Mbappe away from PSG and having lost out to Manchester City on Erling Haaland, it remains to be seen if Real now make a late push to capture Pogba ahead of Juve or PSG.

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