Waking up in the morning in Manchester must surely be most sobering unlike in Amsterdam as the new Old Trafford boss has been unable to strengthen Manchester United’s squad.
Ten Hag is certainly finding out that his ride at the club is not starting off easy as United obviously no longer have the pulling power they once possessed – and this grim reality comes just a few years after Roy Keane predicted that the club would indeed struggle to attract top players. Suffice it to say that United have not had it easy since Sir Alex Ferguson retired back in the summer of 2013 and slumped unceremoniously to a sixth-placed finish in the Premier League last season.
No one is doubting Ten Hag has the credentials to improve United’s fortunes both on and off the pitch but the Dutchman is already being confronted with obstacles in launching off to a flying start and has instead struggled to attract the new signings that he desperately needs to get the club rebooting again.
With United not having even made a single signing yet this summer, it looks as though the cryptic prediction that Keane made back in April 2019 has come back to haunt them.
Speaking to Sky Sports about United’s fall from grace, Keane previously said: “The worrying thing for me is that [United] need two centre-halves and two full-backs. That’s four for starters. And who’s making the final decision? You get the impression that there’s chaos in the background. I know [executive vice-chairman] Ed Woodward gets a lot of criticism, the scouting department—and will Ole have the final say over [signing] players? I don’t know, because if you speak to the previous managers I’ll bet you that was a big problem for them.
“Also, which players out there, which brilliant players out there that are available will want to come to United? I always thought that when I was a player and up until the last two years, if I spoke to a player who had a chance to go to Man Utd I would say, ‘you’ve got to go.’
“I don’t care, brilliant club. Absolutely brilliant club. But you’re on about now players wanting to win the big prizes, then you look at Man Utd. If you’re a top player you will not want to come to Man Utd because there are better options out there in terms of winning trophies.”
United’s situation has not improved in the least bit since Keane’s bold prediction and has even, on the contrary, arguably regressed rather than improved – despite the fact that they were the ‘best of the rest’ after finishing second under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as recently as last summer.
Now it’s 12 months down the line and United’s new gaffer at the helm needs to quickly bring in his own crop of players but is quickly found out that the lure of playing for Manchester United is no longer an attractive one.
To date, United have yet to wrap up a deal for Frenkie de Jong, despite having been chasing the Camp Nou man for weeks. He had been one of Ten Hag’s most important players at Ajax, but is seemingly disinterested in reuniting with his former boss at Old Trafford as Champions League football isn’t offered as bait.
On the same front, Ten Hag has also reportedly been unable to convince another one of his Ajax mainstays, Jurrien Timber, to join him in Manchester as the Dutch defender has been warned that only those in form and playing regularly will make the cut for Holland’s World Cup squad and there’s certainly no guarantee of that at United next season.
It is indeed a justifiable concern that Ten Hag has been unable to convince the likes of De Jong and Timber – who had worked with him extensively – to move to Old Trafford, which highlights the immensity of the task he has on his hands in Manchester. It is also perhaps an indictment of just how far United have fallen in recent years.
Should Ten Hag be unable to attract his most trusted former and current Ajax lieutenants, apart from the game’s other top players being currently out of reach, then it’s quite a puzzle where he could turn to next in the transfer market.