As the Premier League season draws nearer, Erik ten Hag is realising the daunting task he has undertaken as the new Manchester United manager.
Pre-season was a breeze as compared to the intense scrutiny that will prevail come August 7. Results will be analysed, criticised and the Dutchman will have to bear the brunt of the ire of fans and pundits alike if match outcomes go awry.
All that could have been minimised if the club had managed to secure Ten Hag his priority signings. It has been over 12 weeks since the Red Devils first touched base with Frenkie de Jong‘s entourage, yet no resolution has presented itself till now.
According to Laurie Whitwell of the Athletic, senior figures in United’s transfer thinktank continue to rubbish claims that the Dutch playmaker refuses to make the move to Old Trafford.
United believe that the Netherlands international’s move is purely being held up due to wage issues and has nothing to do with the player’s preference to stay back in Barcelona.
Chelsea have entered the fray, as reported previously, and they are also in discussions with the La Liga club. The London club feel the lure of Champions League football and relocation to the English capital will be hard to resist for the diminutive playmaker.
“A wrong call by United there, even if based on Ten Hag’s guidance, would be calamitous to this summer’s recruitment,” is how the Athletic have summed up the situation.
The Red Devils were confident that Borussia Dortmund would ultimately cave in and sell the England international for a lower fee than quoted. It ended up backfiring spectacularly.
It is not like United are short of alternatives but not many are as talented as De Jong. Sky Sports had mentioned Ruben Neves and Renato Sanches but Wolves high valuation means a deal has not been forthcoming, Sanches has since made the move to PSG.
In the long-term, United do want to recruit either of Declan Rice or Jude Bellingham but those two might not be available before next summer.
United have backed their new Dutch boss but the recruitment department of the size and scale of United should have produced genuine, attainable alternatives by now.
“De Jong is the crucial piece of Ten Hag’s envisioned team, the heartbeat in midfield making those around him function better. It was July 14 when United agreed a deal worth €85million with Barcelona — chief executive Richard Arnold even joined Murtough in Catalonia to finalise the finances — yet the season will start without him in the squad,” the Athletic write.
Supporters will be less than pleased as United head into the season light on midfield, an area crying out for quality for some time now.
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