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Erik ten Hag has fixed three Manchester United problems in the transfer market

Watching Manchester United under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick, the problems often looked obvious, but the solutions less so.

For too long this has been a team lacking balance and cohesion, without the coaches to put a sticking plaster over those defects.

The most obvious fixes always lay in the transfer market but United made the wrong moves and prioritised the wrong positions

But under Erik ten Hag they now have a coach capable of finding answers to problems on the training ground and during games. Perhaps as importantly, the former Ajax manager quickly diagnosed what this team was missing and used his first transfer window to correct some of those problems.

It’s not a great reflection on United’s transfer strategy of recent years that they have the world’s most expensive centre-back on the bench, but it’s also indisputable that having a left-footer in the centre of defence has improved this team.

Lisandro Martinez doesn’t just add aggression to United’s defending, but he opens up the pitch when it comes to their attempts to play out from the back. There are now more options open to the defenders when trying to pick a pass as a result of that balance and the Argentine has proved himself adept at firing quick passes into the midfield, often breaking the opposition press as a result.

Martinez and Raphael Varane have improved United’s defence immeasurably, both in and out of possession. Where that leaves Harry Maguire is a question for another day, given the positivity and momentum being built up, but it’s clear United have needed this balance for some time.

It was in July 2020, during the final days of that Covid-disrupted season, that Solskjaer told Bournemouth’s Nathan Ake that “we need a left-footed centre-back, so keep going.” Even then the issue was obvious, but it’s taken two years for it to be fixed with the £56million signing of Martinez.

Solskjaer also identified midfield as an issue that needed addressing but didn’t do enough about it. The signing of Bruno Fernandes in January 2020 added creativity and spark but the only other central midfield signing in the two-and-a-half years until this summer was Donny van de Beek, an opportunistic £35million signing that failed to fix any of the issues and appeared to be signed without a plan on how he was going to be used.

Under Ten Hag, United’s midfield already looks better. Casemiro can be the world-class defensive midfielder they’ve been missing – although Scott McTominay is doing a very good impression of him at the moment – but Christian Eriksen is probably the game changer in that area

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