Erik ten Hag has always had a difficult start to his role as Manchester United manager, but it is unlikely that the former Ajax manager would have expected to start pre-season training with a weaker squad than the one that has endured the club’s worst season term laid down in the Premier League.
But by the time the 52-year-old and his players (minus United internationals) got down to business on the first day of training at Carrington on Monday, Ten Hag was already playing with rivals such as Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal due to the club’s failure to play in add a single new addition this summer so far.
United have left five players as uncontracted free agents so far this summer – Paul Pogba, Juan Mata, Edinson Cavani, Jesse Lingard and Nemanja Matic – but no money has been raised by sacking other unwanted players. While sources told ESPN that a deal for Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong is progressing, United spent weeks looking for a player before ending up with someone else.
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But even as United speed up their transfer deals and get everything in place ahead of the season’s opening game against Brighton & Hove Albion at Old Trafford on August 7, they have still wasted crucial time delivering the stability and certainty that Ten Hag and his team have no doubt have to step into the 2022-23 campaign.
Among the so-called Big Six of the Premier League only Chelsea has been similarly inactive on the transfer market. But at least the Londners, who finished runners-up in both domestic cups last season, can cite Roman Abramovich’s major disruption in the club’s sale to a consortium led by LA Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly as a significant factor in their lack of recruitment so far.
Reigning champions City have been as impressive and crucial off the pitch as they are on the pitch, beating the biggest clubs in the world through the £52m signing of Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund and they are on the verge of making a deal in the Value up to £50m for Kalvin Phillips to be sealed. The Leeds United England midfielder is seen by Pep Guardiola as a long-term replacement for Fernandinho, who left the Etihad as a free agent.
Liverpool have also been quick to build on last season’s success – two domestic trophies and near misses in the Premier League and Champions League – and struck a deal that could ultimately rise to £85million for Benfica forward Darwin Nunez. Fabio Carvalho (£8m from Fulham) and Calvin Ramsay (£6.5m from Aberdeen) were also added to Jurgen Klopp’s squad, who made notable departures from Sadio Mane (£35m to Bayern Munich) and Divock Origi, who close to him has made a free transfer to AC Milan.
Spurs, whose manager Antonio Conte is calling for an ambitious summer recruitment program ahead of their Champions League return, have gotten off to an impressive start in their business by signing midfielder Yves Bissouma from Brighton and winger Ivan Perisic from Inter Milan, as well as backup goalkeeper Fraser Forster . And even Arsenal, who have generally been as indecisive and wasteful in the transfer market as United have been in recent years, have Mikel Arteta’s squad up for grabs with the signing of Porto’s Fabio Vieira for £34m and a £5.5m deal for the US goalkeeper Matt has been joined by new faces Turner from the New England Revolution.
Further down the Premier League table, Aston Villa, Newcastle United and West Ham United have also made big declarations of intent in the transfer market, but striking deals early isn’t just about placating fans and ensuring there are regular positive ones News coming from within the club, it’s also crucial for planning on and off the pitch.
Every coach wants all signings to be completed before preseason starts and the unwanted players to have already moved on, because preseason gives them the time and space to implement new ideas and accept signings without being distracted by competitive play. New tactics can be tried out on the training pitch and in warm-up games, and players have time to interact with new teammates and build mutual understanding. And while summer tours around the world can be punishing in terms of travel and fatigue, the value of being in camp for 2-3 weeks means that relationships can be made before the real action begins in August.
It’s also important to close the transfer deal early on off the pitch. While fans often only see what a player is doing on the field, that’s just a small fraction of his time at the club and when it comes to moving to a new house, finding a school for the kids, adapting to a new language – even at Learning to drive across the street – everything takes time and energy, and it suits everyone when these issues are addressed in the summer. Most clubs try to take care of most problems off the pitch when it comes to signings, but there are always complications and it’s important to solve them properly. In mid-August, when the season has started and the player is training and traveling to games while his family is relocating to a new city, club and country, being asked to sort out all of the above is a big challenge and not it doesn’t lend itself to a successful outcome.
City, Liverpool, Spurs and Arsenal have all given their summer signings a chance to gradually find their feet by clinching deals early on. The coaching staff can also get to know their new player and tailor a training program to their needs. But United and Chelsea have already seen a valuable month go by without a player signing and the clock is ticking.
United flies to Thailand on July 8 for the start of their pre-season tour, and it will be months in advance from check-in for the Bangkok trip. And by failing to secure early deals, United have already made Ten Hag’s huge job even more difficult.
https://www.espn.com/soccer/blog-soccer-transfers/story/4691267/man-united-boss-erik-ten-hag-begins-work-on-back-foot-as-premier-league-rivals-get-transfers-done-early Man United boss Erik ten Hag begins work on back foot as Premier League rivals get transfers done early