Manchester United’s first pre-season fixture is one to please the bean counters at Old Trafford and Anfield and thrill the crowds in Bangkok, but given their recent history, it’s not ideal to start a new era against Liverpool.
Erik ten Hag will have had a week with his full squad when he takes charge of United for the first time at the Rajamangala Stadium a week on Tuesday. It will be stiflingly hot and humid in Thailand’s biggest city, but just the sight of Liverpool will be enough to bring some of these United players out in a cold sweat.
At United there is excitement around the start of the Ten Hag era but it’s also been a slow burn of a summer, one that is now threatening to be derailed by the uncertainty around Cristiano Ronaldo’s future. The internationals return to Carrington for pre-season this week and the transfer window has been open for more than three weeks, but still United are yet to announce a signing.
Deals to bring in Frenkie de Jong and Tyrell Malacia are close to completion, but neither is yet done and United’s parsimony is once again being criticised by sections of the fanbase. United have played hardball with Barcelona over De Jong, but the delay in concluding a deal is now affecting the team, given the 25-year-old could be training with his new teammates this week.
Ten Hag and his team board the plane to Bangkok on Friday and the 52-year-old will be desperate for new faces to be on the flight, not only to give him more time to work with them and to get them up to speed, but to accelerate the notion of a summer rebuild.
The longer the delays go on, the less chance of any new arrivals playing against Liverpool in Bangkok. It’s already a fixture to bring back some bad memories, but if it’s a United side comprising only of players at the club last season then it’s going to be a slow start to pre-season.
There is plenty of time to go in the window and Malacia and De Jong could well be confirmed this week. After that John Murtough and his team will move on to other targets, with Christian Eriksen still wanted, a forward likely to be next on the agenda and a centre-back a distinct possibility as well.
But as Liverpool have shown with Nunez, getting your business done early doesn’t have to be difficult and before the two teams meet next week United could do with stepping up their own plans.