Manchester United's search for a new manager is finally at an end. Attention can now turn to how Erik ten Hag will change things at a club - and to the notorious 'in-tray'. Few have ever been as daunting, as over-stuffed, as the one that will greet him at Old Trafford in May.
The timing of his arrival is intriguing given that Man Utd's 4-0 defeat to Liverpool on Tuesday night was arguably a new nadir for the club, serving to highlight the enormous gap between United and the top of the English game. Interim manager Ralf Rangnick even suggested Man Utd are six years behind their rivals.
United fans will hope it's fewer, and certainly Ten Hag will be lucky if he gets anywhere near that long before he is expected to win trophies. That is why, while others may focus on the idea of Ten Hag restoring United's 'DNA' or bringing a 'winning mentality' to the club, our in-tray looks at bringing a grounded realism to Old Trafford.
Here are five things Ten Hag needs to do over the first few months:
1) Implement a strict, cohesive identity
Everybody knows United need a cultural reset. How to achieve that is another question entirely. Leaks to the press have shown there is a toxic level of player power in the squad, while a rejig in the boardroom already looks a mess, filling most United insiders with pessimism despite the new managerial appointment.
The best way for Ten Hag to influence this is to set an example on the coaching side of things. His training sessions have been described by those with experience of him as gruelling, repetitive, and deeply intelligent. There will be a level of forethought and sophistication from day one that many of these United players, used to the laissez-faire attitude of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Jose Mourinho, will never have seen before.
Giving the club a new identity starts long before the tactical blueprint is understood - a process that may take many, many months. Of greater significance is setting a tone of hard work; of sweating blood for the new manager, with strict rules and an elite mentality put in place across Trafford training centre.
Former Ajax players have said that every day of Ten Hag training is a rich learning experience, and every day is clearly part of a wider plan to move them forward. That is the culture he must set in order to give Man Utd meaning again.
2) Upgrade full-backs and central midfield
Man Utd need as many as six or seven first-team players before they get close to Liverpool or Manchester City. Each will cost upwards of £60 million and each will most likely take a whole transfer window of haggling. That is modern football, and that is why Ten Hag cannot create a new super-club overnight.
Instead of expecting so much upheaval he needs to prioritise one or two positions. The best place to start is in the middle, not least because it shouldn't be too difficult to sign the perfect player to anchor central midfield: Declan Rice, currently 5.04/1 to sign for the club before September 3rd.
Fred has the energy and verticality in possession to function in Ten Hag's system but clearly United lack a defensive midfielder who can stamp out opposition counter-attacks at source while also ensuring there is always forward momentum. Rice has the qualities for United to start dominating matches.
Ten Hag should also look at the full-backs, which have always been key positions at Ajax, whether overlapping to provide the width or coming inside to create an overload in central midfield. Aaron Wan-Bissaka does not have the attacking ability to function in an elite team, and there are question marks over Luke Shaw.
Bringing in superstars is highly unlikely, unless Harry Kane, priced at 7.513/2 to join this summer, decides he wants to take the gamble.
3) Adapt his tactics to accommodate stars
Ten Hag will instil a highly-detailed vision of swirling possession football built on committing lots of bodies forward in attack, dominating the flanks, and rotating in pre-set patterns in midfield with the sort of 'automatisms' - open-play patterns drilled repeatedly in training until muscle memory - that we see at the likes of Liverpool and Man City.
He is a master tactician, hence the excitement surrounding his appointment, and yet Ten Hag will need to adapt to difficult circumstances in Manchester. David De Gea's poor distribution does not suit Ten Hag's emphasis on intricate build-up play from the back, Harry Maguire does not have the pace to play in such a high line, and Cristiano Ronaldo will not press from the front - and yet all three are highly paid and hard to get rid of.
Fortunately, Ten Hag has a history of adapting to his environment. He had to rebuild the team after his 2019 Champions League semi-finalists were gutted, and he did so in a very different manner, focusing more heavily on attacking through the centre and with a target man (Sebastien Haller) for his second act as Ajax manager.
4) Rejuvenate fringe players
Given that it will be hard to move on the biggest stars, and even harder to sign more than two or three players this summer, Ten Hag will largely have to make do with the squad he inherits - which means bringing fringe players in from the cold and promoting more academy products.
Youngsters' brains are more malleable, meaning they can absorb his complex and demanding ideas more readily, plus they do not have the ego to rebel; implicitly threatening the seniors that hungrier academy graduates will be prioritised if necessary can only be a good thing while the club gets used to such a culture shock.
Donny van der Beek already knows all about Ten Hag and can be a leader, tactically speaking, rotating around midfield and hitting sharp forward passes as his manager demands. Jesse Lingard's often under-rated positional intelligence means he may get one more chance too, while Victor Lindelof and Marcus Rashford have the qualities to rediscover their best form.
5) Prepare everyone for a long journey
Finally, as part of the culture change Ten Hag needs to be realistic, dampening expectations and speaking honestly from the outset about the task ahead. One would hope he had these conversations with the board prior to signing, giving him licence to speak openly to players and supporters about the state of the club.
Rangnick is right. It will take at least half a decade to get United back to the top, and even in that time scale the club will need to show incredible patience and loyalty towards the man charged with turning things around - not to mention significant financial investment.
The last man to hold the Man Utd job on a permanent basis talked endlessly about attacking football, DNA, and desire to wear the shirt. Ten Hag must not speak so vaguely. He needs to tell it like it is and prepare everyone for a long, painful slog.