United likely to promote Matej Kovar

With the likely impending move of Dean Henderson away from Old Trafford for next season, a position becomes vacant in the first team to back David de Gea and Tom Heaton. While omitting de Gea from the Spanish squad for the Nations League coach Luis Enrique reasoned "A goalkeeper should start the play and generate the first superiority, they must dominate the aerial play... I need a goalkeeper that transmits peace and calmness to me, that doesn’t mean they won’t make mistakes, errors are part of football. What they generate I like a lot." Despite this snub, and due to his excellent form for Manchester United in 2021-22 campaign David de Gea won his fourth Player's Player of the Year award, he is likely to remain the first choice keeper of the new manager Erik ten Hag next season. While the purists would argue de Gea is not ETH type of keeper and Henderson should instead get the nod but the practicality is that Spaniard's astronomical wages are unaffordable by most other clubs. 

Ex-United youth goal keeper Tom Heaton returned to the club last summer and has over a 100 English Premier League appearances mainly for Burnley with 3 England caps, making him a competent backup to the Spaniard. The squad usually needs three goal keepers for the entire season. Instead of looking in the transfer market the club might promote from within. Clearly the choice has to be Matej Kovar as Nathan Bishop has not got sufficient exposure yet signed in January, 2021 from Southend. To address this lacuna the club had Bishop loaned out for one full season at Mansfield Town playing over 50 matches and gaining valuable match experience including the high-pressure play-offs eventually losing 0-3 to Port Vale.

Kovar meanwhile in his 4.5 years at United has more game time at both academy level and away at two clubs for two half-seasons. The 22-year old Czech goal keeper Kovar got his first senior call last September after keeping two clean sheets in U21 games having represented his country more than 20 times from U18's onwards. He was later in January loaned out to Burton Albion in EFL League One where in 6 matches he collected 2 'Man of the Match' awards with whoscored rating of 7.35. Last year he helped Manchester United gain promotion to top tier in Premier League 2. Club official biography highlights one of his key traits as saving penalties.

Loaned to Swindon Town who play in EFL League Two where he had 'baptism by fire' in Wiltshire conceding 41goals in 20 games before his deal was cut short in Jan 2021. Kovar signed a new contract this February that expires in June 2023 with option to extend for one more year before agreeing a loan move to the Brewers. Perhaps the short span of new contract suggests lack of confidence in the player but since then there has been progress based on 2 'MotM' awards and the video below. This is a welcome change at United where contract situation has positively impacted players performance. Hopefully the sign of things to come under Richard Arnold and John Murtough. In this recent match highights below for Burton Albion against Accrington Stanley one can clearly see his superb shot stopping skills too. Looks promising and ready for first team participation.

Kovar already has experience of being in the first team having been an unused substitute on the bench when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took a young side to play Astana away in the Europa League in Nov, 2019 as United had already qualified from the group. In the recent Euro U21 championship Group G match the top two sides Engalnd and Czech Republic played each other on 3rd June. Matej Kovar played full 90 minutes for Czech Republic while James Garner played for England who won the match 2-1. Draw for the U21 playoffs will be announced on 21st June. United signed another young Czech keeper Radek Vitek in summer of 2020.

Sir Alex Ferguson was on a look out for potential signings to replace Roy Keane when he went to watch Eric Djemba Djemba play for Nantes vs Rennes. Czech legendary keeper Petr Cech was only 18 or 19 playing for Rennes and Fersguson deemed him "too young". Based on Cech's sucees at an early age at Chelsea later prompted Ferguson to go for David de Gea at just 21.

Erik ten Hag presentation

Manchester United suffered their 12th loss in the last match of 2021-22 English Premier League season 0-1 to Crystal Palace and finished with lowest points tally in EPL history with just 58 points that is 35 points adrift of the champions City. Goal difference was a perfect naught with only 57 goals scored thanks mainly to Cristiano Ronaldo's 18 and conceded as high as 57 goals placing the club 12th in goals against. United lost 5 of their last 8 matches ceding 16 goals as Ralf Rangnick era quaked to a meltdown due to player's apathy. Sensing the urgency of the situation Erik ten Hag rightly decided to advance his joining date, got his two assistants on board - Mitchell van der Gaag and Steve McClaren, and even attended the Palace game in London. The Dutchman formally took charge the very next day on 23rd May after the final matchday and was presented to the media.

Erik ten Hag sounded confident and methodical in his explanation having won his 3rd Eredivisie title in 4 years with Ajax Amstredam. On next steps he said "What we are now doing is first constructing the staff, constructing the squad and constructing a good plan. First it's the pre-season plan that we are now working on." His remit from the club was clear "They have to set conditions and I have to work with my squad to achieve success." and demands from a big club like Manchester United "We want to win every game, so we go from game to game and then we will see." with some big name players "But it is always players who dictate the way of play. I have the ideal, I will line up my best team, and I will line up my players like that to get the best out of them."

He simply had to sound ebullient when asked if the dominance of Klopp-Guardiola can come to an end before they leave? "I think, yes." After the worst season in 30 years the fans hope the only way is up and he echoed that "Although it is a fantastic history, the reason is there is a high potential for the future. That's why I am here." Most stinging criticism came from the first Dutch manager of Manchester United Louis van Gaal when he branded it as "commercial club" and hoped ETH will not join them. ETH naturally rejected that "I draw my own line and I’m convinced that is not the case. I spoke to the directors about it and football is one, two, three these days. Every club these days is commercial. Every club needs it. To be successful you need to do what is necessary, but football is one, two three in this club.”

Most important information that came out was his sharp dismissal of Ralf Rangnick's consultancy role and he simply cut the answer short "That is on the club." and refused to elaborate any further. Days later first it was Rangnick after being unveiled as Austria manager announced that he will end his role at United. "We have come to the conclusion that it is better for me and the club to concentrate fully on the Austrian national team. I cancelled the consultancy contract." Rangnick didn't salvage the situation at United rather added fuel to the fire with claims of board not backing him to recruit a striker in January after Mason Greenwood was ruled out. Fans do thank him for exposing the club but that situation cannot continue for long without becoming untenable. 

ETH distanced himself from Rangnick's conclusion of the club needing upto 10 new players after 0-9 thrashing over two legs by their biggest domestic rivals Liverpool, by harking back to era under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer "I am still in the process of analysing...The season before, this squad was second in the league, so there is huge potential." This perhaps gives a clue that despite United losing 6 experienced players whose contract expire this summer and central midfield positions still vacant that there will not be any wholesale changes but rather a evolution in squad. This dampened the spirits of many leading broadsheets who gave a pessimistic reading of ETH presentation. The Telegraph opined "New Manchester United manager deserves time to prove he won't be remembered as Erik Ten Months" while The Times were more considerate "Straight-talking Erik ten Hag will take no nonsense at Manchester United."

ETH has started work 5-weeks early compared to David Moyes who consequently failed to add any significant players to the ageing squad that had won the league in previous season. ETH is bringing in a known hand in Steve McClaren while Moyes failed to persuade Rene Muelensteen to stay while disbanding rest of Sir Alex Ferguson's formidable backroom staff. Richard Arnold and John Murtough have a new setup taking shape after a string of departures in Jim Lawlor the chief scout, Marcel Bout head of global scouting, Matt Judge director of football negotiations, Hemen Tseayo chief strategy officer and Ed Woodward the chief executive. This can be a boon for ETH to push through his requests or a bane if the new hierarchy cannot deliver the transfers in time for the pre-season - a deadline crucial for the new manager. Manchester United appointed Andy O'Boyle as Deputy Director of Football reporting to John Murtough, and like Murtough himself O'Boyle joins from Premier League's head of elite performance. This puts an end to the rumours of links with Paul Mitchell who has signed on for another season at AS Monaco or Luis Campos who has joined Paris St Germain.

Best piece of advise came from the gaffer Sir Alex Ferguson "Well, I hope he does well because the club needs someone to get in control. I hope he does well, yeah." No Dutch manager has won the English Premier League title yet(Guus Hiddink, Louis van Gaal, Dick Advocaat, Martin Jol, Ruud Gulit, Ronald Koeman, Rene Muelensteen, Frank de Boer) and that's a stiff challenge for ETH in itself. David Moyes flew to Thailand for pre-season so will ETH in July but hope history does not repeat itself any further.

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