Erik ten Hag has quite a job on his hands. The Dutchman took over at Manchester United this summer and has been tasked with elevating the once-great club from last season’s sixth-place finish to eventually challenging for the Premier League, something that once seemed to be their God-given right. It won’t be easy.
And to make matters worse, his summer is seemingly being defined by two transfer sagas – one incoming and one outgoing. The former relates to United’s seemingly hopeless pursuit of Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong, who Ten Hag worked with at Ajax. The latter relates to Cristiano Ronaldo, who wants to leave the club for pastures new as soon as humanely possible.
Frenkie has no interest at joining United and is determined to stay at Barcelona, the club he’s always dreamed of playing for. Cristiano has no interest in competing in the Europa League for the first time in his career – at 37, he’s aware his time is finite and still harbours ambitions of winning a sixth European Cup and drawing level with the great Paco Gento in the process.
But United remain determined in landing a player of Frenkie’s profile, Ten Hag told The Athletic without mentioning his name. “We are looking for a player who can play in the holding midfield position, but it has to be the right one,” the Dutchman said.
“There are not many in that position capable of the level we demand. When we can’t find him, we have to deal with the players in our squad now and we will develop one in that position. I will not react on a certain player. We need the right player. We have a list and we qualify the player who has the competencies to play that role. We will strike the moment the player is available.”