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‘We have to act’ – Erik ten Hag frustrated as United struggle to sign players

Failure to secure Frenkie de Jong and slow pace to find a striker has frustrated manager sweating over squad depth

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Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag during last week's Premier League loss to Brighton at Old Trafford. Credit: PA

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag during last week's Premier League loss to Brighton at Old Trafford. Credit: PA

Erik ten Hag

Erik ten Hag

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Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag during last week's Premier League loss to Brighton at Old Trafford. Credit: PA

Erik ten Hag has revealed his frustration at Manchester United’s failure to move quickly in the transfer market and demanded the club make signings before deadline day.

The Dutchman was appointed four months ago but the club have been unable to secure a striker or deep-lying midfielder, with the only senior additions being Lisandro Martinez, Christian Eriksen and Tyrell Malacia.

Ten Hag wanted business done quickly when his arrival was announced in April and said the reason why United have been so slow in the market “is a difficult answer”.

United have been unable to secure a deal for Frenkie de Jong, Ten Hag’s primary target, and the Barcelona midfielder is now likely to move to Chelsea if he does leave Spain. The club have also missed out on strikers Darwin Nunez, who moved from Benfica to Liverpool, and Benjamin Sesko, who joined RB Leipzig from Red Bull Salzburg.

United are now trying to finalise a €17.7m move for Juventus midfielder Adrien Rabiot and the club’s football director, John Murtough, held talks with the player’s mother, Veronique, in Turin yesterday over personal terms.

Murtough has had to navigate the problems posed by Italy having a favourable tax system for foreigners, meaning Rabiot’s net salary is significantly higher than it would be in England.

Players at United often see their pay decreased by 25 per cent when they fail to reach the Champions League.

Now Ten Hag has revealed his frustration at the lack of progress in the transfer market and demanded more players are brought in after the club lost 2-1 at home to Brighton on the opening weekend.

Asked why there were delays in landing players, Ten Hag said: “When you have one hour, then ...

“It was better to get the players earlier in, because then you get earlier in the process, and now in the department of midfield and offence you have seen when we have one injury then we have a problem. That’s clear,” he continued.

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“It would be my preference because we could be starting the process earlier, but at the end of the day the season is long and you have to get in the right players.

“It’s really complicated but I think we are really happy with what we have done until now. I think that was the positive point from last week and the week before, Tyrell Malacia did very well, Christian Eriksen and Lisandro Martinez both did very well in the game against Brighton. We are very happy with that.

“I don’t know how it was in the past. But we have to meet high standards and keep the high standards. Also the profile of players we want to get in (must be right). Of course, character is always an issue. They have to be good and fit into the team.”

United travel to Brentford today (5.30) looking for their first points of the season and the Dutchman insisted the club must have a better squad by the end of the transfer window. He said: “We have to. I am convinced we will have.”

Cristiano Ronaldo, who wants to leave the club, is in contention for a starting place today. Marcus Rashford, meanwhile, is yet to speak to Ten Hag about his representatives meeting Paris Saint-Germain recently.

“He knows I love him, he knows I want him to be here so I will tell him that again,” Ten Hag said. “He showed already in the short time I’ve been here, in pre-season, what he can do. Often it’s an interest for players, for managers, we have to keep focused on what is most important. The priority is the next game.”

United’s pursuit of Rabiot was even ridiculed on the club’s TV channel, MUTV, by former player Lou Macari.

“I’d never really heard of him,” Macari said. “Clubs spend millions scouting players across Europe, but nobody else has made a move for this fella. Why do you think this is? I’ve got a bad feeling about the guy.”

While the pursuit of Marko Arnautovic was also criticised by fans, Ten Hag said there was a sense of urgency for the club to start winning games.

“When Manchester United is not performing, not winning, (criticism) is normal. I would be more in a panic when there wasn’t panic because we have to win,” he said. “That is the demand. Still, I would say panic isn’t the right word. It’s more like, ‘Come on, we have to act’. We have to think bright and do the right things.”

Ten Hag’s compatriot Ruud Gullit, meanwhile, said United were stuck in the past.

“I think they missed the opportunity to change football. They live too much in the past. They talk about the ’90s team too much,” he said. “Now players want to go to Liverpool, they want to go to Man City, they want to go to Chelsea.”

Gullit described Ten Hag as “a good coach”, but added: “If you come with a Dutch mentality to England, it’s difficult. You have to adapt. You have to understand that you don’t win games only with football, you need power as well.” 

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022]


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