The naysayers were out in full force when Manchester United took zero points from their opening two games of the 2022-23 season against Brighton & Hove Albion and Brentford, but by the final close of the curtain in May, much more of a buzz could be felt around Old Trafford.
Thanks to astute acquisitions, admirable defensive resilience on home soil and the red-hot form of Marcus Rashford in particular, Man United ended their six-year trophy drought in the EFL Cup, were only bested by treble winners Manchester City in the FA Cup and sealed their return to the promised land of the Champions League with a third-placed Premier League finish.
The less said about Man United’s Europa League capitulation against Sevilla the better, but Ten Hag’s first season at the helm will no doubt go down as a success, as the Red Devils won their final four top-flight matches of the season to fend off Newcastle United for the final podium place.
Ten Hag guided Man United through a tricky period of takeover negotiations – which are still moving at an incredibly slow pace in the background and foiling the Red Devils’ transfer plans to a certain degree – but the marquee arrival of Mason Mount has already been concluded, and Andre Onana could be the next through the door.
While the powers-that-be will also attempt to bring in a high-calibre striker, Ten Hag has a tour of the United States pencilled into his diary – where the Red Devils will face Arsenal, Wrexham, Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund – prior to which they will battle French giants Lyon in Edinburgh on July 19.
French powerhouses Lens and Athletic Bilbao also lie in wait for Man United before they kick off their 49th successive top-flight campaign against Wolverhampton Wanderers, but there will be no sojourn to Elland Road for a typically fiery affair after Leeds’ recent misfortunes.
Not even survival specialist Sam Allardyce could save Leeds’ top-flight bacon, as the Whites were made to pay for a spate of dire defensive displays and had their fate sealed in a 4-1 beating at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur on the final day of the season.
Spurs’ previous away-day deficiencies gave Leeds fans a glimmer of hope before kickoff, but they were soon forced to witness their side being torn to shreds by the Lilywhites, and Everton’s last-gasp win over Bournemouth would have rendered a Whites win inconsequential anyway.
Making the net ripple was not the issue for Leeds, who scored in 13 successive Premier League matches in the business end of the season, but new head coach Daniel Farke could do with taking a leaf out of Man United’s book in a bid to solve his side’s crisis at the back.
There were only four days between Man United and Leeds’ pair of Premier League battles last year, with the Red Devils rescuing a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford prior to a straightforward 2-0 triumph at Elland Road, and the Whites will also tackle Monaco and Hearts this month before their quest for redemption begins.