Diogo Dalot is enjoying the new dynamics brought by the meticulous Erik ten Hag as Manchester United’s players seek improvement rather than redemption after a difficult season.
Fresh from finishing runners-up in both the Premier League and Europa League, the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane last summer fuelled optimism around Old Trafford.
But things swiftly unravelled as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer departed and interim successor Ralf Rangnick floundered as United stumbled home sixth with a record low Premier League points tally.
Ten Hag was coaxed away from Ajax to oversee the rebuild and has quickly made a mark on the side, which is currently in Australia continuing pre-season preparations in Melbourne.
“Very demanding, pays a lot of attention to detail, which is good, and small details that that can make a difference in the long perspective.
“I think we players are adapting really well to it and obviously we want to keep going.
“We know that it’s going to be a long season, a different season from pretty much every season that we had in the past few years, so we want to we want to build something.
“We want to build a team together with players, together with staff, build something very good inside in between us and then do our job on the pitch and win games.”
Ten Hag is largely working with the same group of players that struggled last season, when the performances were as jarring as the results.
Dalot appears to have compartmentalised that disappointment as attention turns to kicking on and helping United to a first trophy since 2017.
“It’s a reflection of learn the things that we should not have done and take it to this season as a lesson to improve,” the Portugal international said.
“But obviously we have a lot of new things – we have new staff, a new manager, new energy as well, which is good for us so we want to keep going.
“We want to look at this season not in a way to redeem ourselves from the last season but to start a new season from scratch from zero.
“Then hopefully we can, like I said, get to the end celebrating, which is our main goal for this season but thinking that we have a lot of steps first and we have a lot of improvement.”
There have been promising early signs in United’s start to their pre-season tour, kicking off with an eye-catching 4-0 friendly win against Liverpool in Bangkok.
“He likes offensive full-backs,” Dalot said of Ten Hag. “He likes proactive full-backs, so we have to always have to think a little bit of ahead of what the game is asking, not be like feeling the game when the ball is on the other side.
“We need to be connected, everybody co-operating with each other, with the winger in front of you, with the midfielder alongside you.
“He always asks for co-operation between us but one good thing about it is that he always wants us to make sure that we need to know what to do in each position because sometimes we can swap positions inside the pitch and we need we need to know how to do that.”
Dalot is embracing Ten Hag’s push to make the team better than their opponents “physically” and “in mindset” as he begins his fifth season as a United player.
Having enjoyed a loan stint at AC Milan, the 23-year-old last season made his most Premier League appearances in a campaign to date and appears to have the edge over right-back rival Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
“I always like to see season by season,” Dalot added. “I don’t think too much ahead.
“But looking at the past and seeing where I am now inside of this club, I think it’s been a progressive four years, which is how I like things in general in my life, in football.
“I don’t want to be too much up and down, always progressively – even if it’s one per cent – so I think it’s been it’s been progressive.
“It’s been very good journey to learn and obviously now I want to step up a little bit more as well.
“Every season I always try to improve in some aspects that I think I should do it and I think I have everything this season to improve that new manager with the help of my teammates.
“I also want to help them as well to improve and hopefully, like you said, give this club trophies.
“That’s what this club is about and hopefully we can be in the end of the season celebrating with our fans that they deserve as well.”