Erik ten Hag wary of Chelsea’s post-takeover blues

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag. Photo by: Adam Davy/PA

Jamie Holland

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag believes Chelsea’s struggles this season are a warning of how difficult life can be after a takeover.

As the Glazers continue to consider a full or partial sale of United, a process which has been rumbling on since November, Chelsea will visit Old Trafford tonight limping to the end of a hugely disappointing first campaign since a group headed by Todd Boehly bought the club last summer.

There has been no lack of funding as the club have spent almost £600m (€690m) in the last two transfer windows, but the investment is yet to pay off with one of the league’s so-called ‘Big Six’ stuck down in 12th place.

Frank Lampard, Chelsea’s third manager this term following the early-season dismissal of Thomas Tuchel and Graham Potter’s ill-fated seven-month spell at the helm, has taken only four points from nine games.

Chelsea have been criticised for a scattergun approach, at one point signing so many players they could not all fit in the changing room of their Cobham training ground, and Ten Hag said their experience showed money is not always the answer.

“In this moment a centralisation of good players, of the best managers, also the money is all here in the UK, that makes a great competition but also a tough and a hard competition,” he said.

“You have to do the right things, you can have money but you have to do it and spend it in a smart way and you need to have a strategy behind it, otherwise the money doesn’t work.”

United have hardly been stingy themselves in recent transfer windows. Ed Woodward, who spent nine years as executive vice-chairman before stepping down early last year, tore through £1bn in signings, but United only twice finished runners-up in the league during that time.

Woodward is long gone, replaced by Richard Arnold in January 2022. While United are yet to shift all of the surplus players who date from Woodward’s time, Ten Hag believes the club is now operating much more smartly.

“I think we are in a good direction but also we can learn from this season,” he said. “We have to evaluate that after the season, make the right conclusions for the future and that is what we will definitely do.”

United will be sure of a Champions League place with a match to spare if they take a point against Chelsea. With the League Cup already in the trophy cabinet and the FA Cup final against Manchester City still to come, Ten Hag can point to progress in his first season, but these are only markers on the road to where United want to be.

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