Guardian writers’ predicted position: 3rd (NB: this is not necessarily Jamie Jackson’s prediction but the average of our writers’ tips)

Last season’s position: 3rd


Improving on third place, a Carabao Cup triumph and an FA Cup final defeat is a rather large ask. But that has to be Erik ten Hag’s ambition or why did he take the Manchester United job? A striker has been added in Rasmus Højlund but an imponderable is the potential sale of the club and how this could affect the manager’s role.

If rated by results the US tour was a quasi-disaster, as three matches were losses – to Wrexham (with a junior side), Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund – and just one a win, over Arsenal in the first game of the trip. Ten Hag, too, has lost the young midfielder Kobbie Mainoo to injury for the start of the season and observed Mason Mount fail to score and appear far from a £60m signing who should be a shot in the arm for United.

He may well prove to be as these are early days but, as with the other arrival, André Onana, it has to be proved where it matters: on the field, every three days. The same is true for the 20-year-old Højlund who scored nine goals for Atalanta in his sole campaign in an elite continental league.

The manager

As an intelligent man whose ambition is to join the pantheon of modern managerial greats featuring Pep Guardiola, Jürgen Klopp and Carlo Ancelotti, Erik ten Hag may shrewdly assess how the club is run by the Glazers – as quasi-absent owners detested by large swathes of fans – and pray that it is sold sooner rather than later. New custodians with the spending power and smarts of those at Manchester City would be welcome. Pressed on the sale towards the end of last season, Ten Hag offered hints of frustration at a process that began in November and was stuck in a groundhog day. It still is. Much, no doubt, to his chagrin.

Leading the shirt sales

George Best, Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona, David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo … Mason Mount. The £60m arrival from Chelsea takes United’s heritage-heavy No 7 jersey and the list of predecessors is an intimidating one to live up to. But his perky persona, assist for a Champions League-winning goal (against City in 2021, no less), and statement that the club was his first choice when leaving Stamford Bridge will surely make him a fan favourite. Onana has also arrived, with calling cards that include being compared to a holding midfielder with the ball at his feet (in a Uefa technical report) and a crowd-pleasing devil-may-care attitude.

Folk hero

The freshly bleached hair, the delight in a scything tackle, the ceaseless stream of United-love, the Argentinian nationality, the winning mentality: here is a package that makes the 25-year-old Lisandro Martínez hero-worshipped and the definite cult favourite. Even more than Marcus Rashford, who as a local-lad-done-very-good takes some beating.

Lisandro Martínez tackles Lyon’s Amin Sarr of Lyon during a pre-season friendly

Lisandro Martínez’s no-nonsense style of play has endeared him to the Manchester United fans. Photograph: Malcolm Mackenzie/ProSports/ShutterstockLast season’s results

One to watch

The 17-year-old Kobbie Mainoo was not in the triumphant Carabao Cup final squad but was on the pitch to soak up the celebrations when Ten Hag took time to have a word in his ear, a sign of the midfielder’s potential. Another came in him being named eight times as a substitute in the Premier League last season – one of which preceded his 10-minute debut, v Leicester on 19 February. He made several authoritative displays in pre-season before injury struck.