BANGKOK, Thailand — Erik ten Hag made a dream start as Manchester United manager on the pitch with a 4-0 win against Liverpool on Tuesday night, but off the pitch he’s already finding out how tough a job can be.
The Premier League’s real business is a month from now, but the Netherlands manager is discovering that even the off-season can be a baptism of fire at a club like United. His four days in Thailand were marked by questions about his star player Cristiano Ronaldo and doubts about the club’s ability to strengthen the squad ahead of the new season.
If all of this sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve been here before.
In 2013, new manager David Moyes arrived in the same part of Southeast Asia for his first tour as United boss amid further transfer chaos and speculation his key man Wayne Rooney wanted out. The similarities between this summer and nine years ago are striking.
Like Ten Hag, Moyes was asked to embark on a grueling journey halfway across the world in his first summer while attempting to lead a recruiting campaign to spearhead a new era. Instead, Moyes arrived in Thailand and asked questions about Rooney. The England striker initially made the move, only to leave soon after with a hamstring injury. There was speculation that Rooney wasn’t happy at Old Trafford and wanted to join Chelsea, and in his first press conference at Bangkok’s Rajamangala National Stadium, Moyes was immediately behind.
“If I didn’t speak Dutch twice last week, we said Wayne Rooney wasn’t for sale,” said the Scotland manager. “I think I’ve covered all things about Wayne. I gave you everything about his injury. You have to remember that Manchester United is a football club and I have a team and this is not about anyone as a person.
“In a lot of ways, I just care about the team. I will answer questions about Wayne, but some of them just return to things I’ve covered.”
Almost a decade later, Ten Hag sat in the same room on Monday afternoon and said the same thing at his first press conference of the summer – only this time about Ronaldo. “We are planning with Cristiano Ronaldo for this season, that’s it,” he said. “I’m looking forward to working with him. He didn’t tell me that (that he wants to leave). I read it but what I’m saying Cristiano is not for sale, Cristiano is in our plans and we want it. ” succeed together.”
While Moyes struggled to keep a player at the club, he also struggled to attract players, something Ten Hag can sympathize with. Moyes’ strategy was based around the signing of Cesc Fabregas from Barcelona but despite a number of offers from United, the midfielder stayed where he was. There were also doubts as to whether Fabregas actually wanted to leave. Fast-forward almost a decade and there are indications that Ten Hag’s top target Frenkie de Jong – another Barcelona midfielder – is also unwilling to join.
Moyes, too, returned to his former club Everton to oust Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini, while Ten Hag is keen to ambush his previous employers of defender Lisandro Martinez, winger Antony and striker Brian Brobbey, the latter of whom was at Ajax before he moved to RB Leipzig last season.
Fellaini ended up being Moye’s only contract this summer, with United eventually paying £27.5m on deadline date rather than the £23.5m they would have been due if the deal had been finalized by July 31. It was widely seen as a disastrous summer for new chief executive Ed Woodward, after Moyes later accepted a poor transfer window he had struggled with one hand tied behind his back earlier in the season.
Like Woodward in 2013, this is Richard Arnold’s first summer as chief executive, having assumed the post in February. Ten Hag has secured full-back Tyrell Malacia from Feyenoord and playmaker Christian Eriksen was set to follow, but in Bangkok he made it clear he needed more help.
“We know what we want and we don’t just want new players – we want the right new players,” he said. “In any case, we are looking for players in midfield – we have a need there and also in attack. We are still looking for players.”
“It’s going to be a long season, but a season that’s quite unusual because of the World Cup, so you have to be prepared for that and need more players than you would in a normal season.”
A key difference for Ten Hag is that his tenure has begun on optimism after beating Liverpool, while Moyes has suffered the outrage of losing 1-0 to the Singha All-Stars in his first game in charge.
Moyes was axed nine months later as he had never really grappled with a job many still say he underestimates. Ten Hag quickly finds out how tough it can be, but for now there’s at least hope he can succeed where Moyes failed.
https://www.espn.com/soccer/manchester-united-engman_utd/story/4699822/man-unitederik-ten-hag-in-danger-of-repeating-history-with-transfer-chaos-amid-a-new-start Man United, Erik ten Hag in danger of repeating history with transfer chaos amid a new start