Erik ten Hag will be arriving at Old Trafford with plans to overhaul the Manchester United squad, but it will take more than just funds to build the squad to the Dutchman’s liking
Manchester United are planning a grand welcome for Erik ten Hag to mark the beginning of a new era, and Ralf Rangnick’s revelation about their transfer plans will be music to the ears of the incoming head coach.
Ten Hag has verbally agreed to take over as Man United coach with a four-year contract as the Red Devils bring an end their search for their new permanent boss, although the appointment is yet to be officially announced. Under the 52-year-old, there is optimism United can replicate what Liverpool and Manchester City have achieved under their long-term plans.
But in order to do that, Ten Hag will be need to be backed in every area. And with the United squad requiring another major overhaul this summer, the club will have to be prepared to begin writing cheques with significant value.
The Dutchman is understood to have demanded that he has an important say in acquiring transfer targets ahead of his arrival and he will be working with John Murtough, Darren Fletcher and Rangnick to get them over the line. That would suggest that he knows from past experience United have not always followed their manager’s wishes when it comes to signing players.
But it feels different this time. As Rangnick alluded to in his press conference on Tuesday, it will require one of the biggest summer spending sprees to fix the issues within the squad — and the club are ready to sanction it. If you look at the size of the way the team needs to be rebuilt, I mean, it’s not enough to bring in three or four new players,” he told Sky Sports before the 4-0 humbling by Liverpool at Anfield.
“It will be more, bearing in mind how many players will no longer be here with the contracts running out. I think apart from the goalkeeping, we need to make sure that we improve the squad in all areas. To bring in players who really help the team to get better – again, it’s about the profile. What kind of players do we need in order to play whichever kind of football we want to play?”
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A club with United’s wealth and power can afford it, as demonstrated by their £500m spend under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer without winning a single trophy. And if they are serious about rebuilding under Ten Hag, players must be signed with only his philosophy in mind.
It is a risk, but a calculated one that can be justified by United’s recent business, where players were signed based on reputation rather than their suitability to the team’s system. Last summer was supposed to be represent the final pieces of the jigsaw, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho providing star quality in positions that needed strengthening.
But it is fair to say that none have slotted in seamlessly. Ten Hag will favour defenders capable of passing accurately, full-backs able to stride tirelessly up and down the flanks, and attacking players that ooze flair and creativity. Looking at the current squad, not many players fit the profile.
Ten Hag will have some targets in mind, but not all of them will be marquee signings. The head coach will know that improving the first team alone is not enough to compete on all four fronts — as the top two sides in England have shown this season. United’s star names have all dipped this season, but their reluctance to rely upon on their backup options has not helped alleviate the pressure on them either.
Man City left Gabriel Jesus on the bench for the majority of the season and saved £40m centre-back Nathan Ake in reserve, while Liverpool consistently left out Roberto Firmino’s talents and not felt any decline in their form. Why? Because both clubs have players ready to come into the team who can do their job without any concern they will weaken the team. If anything, the second string needs to be just as good and ready to step in as part of natural rotation.
Creating a top squad is the ultimate aim, and it has take Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp five years to assemble. Ten Hag knows he won’t be given as much time to build his dynasty at Old Trafford, and after Rangnick’s sounding call to begin planning for a memorable summer transfer window, he must ensure he gets it right.