Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has hit out at the club’s transfer business in the years before he arrived, commenting on the ‘unimaginable number’ of players signed who were not good enough and/or lacked the character to succeed under pressure.
After several false dawns with previous managers, Ten Hag has been hailed for the work he has done whipping United back into shape after being allowed to rot since Sir Alex Ferguson retired.
The signings this past summer – Tyrell Malacia, Christian Eriksen, Lisandro Martinez, Antony and, perhaps the player to have made the most impact of any new arrival since Robin van Persie in 2012, Casemiro – have all brought the kind of attitude and drive that had been missing for too long.
“Manchester United didn’t exactly have the fear factor last season. There was no spirit. I saw no team dynamic in the squad. The mental resilience was very low. I saw that as an outsider – and also noticed it in my first weeks at the club,” Ten Hag told Voetbal International.
“I looked at the culture of the club. I asked ‘How did Manchester United become great?’
“The club has bought an unimaginable number of players in recent years who have not been good enough. Most purchases have been average – and at United average is not good enough. United’s shirt weighs heavily. Only real personalities, who can perform under great pressure, can play here.”
Indeed, even United chief executive Richard Arnold, who took over running the day-to-day operations from Ed Woodward last year, admitted £1bn had been wasted in the transfer market.
“What’s happened is we’ve f***ing burnt through cash – you can’t go to that training ground and say, ‘Show me where that £1bn is,’ because I don’t think we’ve done well with the money we’ve spent,” Arnold told a group of irate fans planning to protest outside his house.
Listen now as Scott Saunders hosts Graeme Bailey and Toby Cudworth in the latest episode of Talking Transfers. This week they discuss Man Utd’s interest in Mohammed Kudus, Enzo Fernandez and Chelsea, Jude Bellingham’s decision and Mykhaylo Mudryk’s preferred move. Available on all audio platforms.
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Ten Hag continued that the ‘personalities’ that have come in, including Raphael Varane – a player he inherited from the previous regime, have been crucial to the burgeoning success that is happening.
‘We needed personalities. That’s why the acquisition of Casemiro was so important. Along with Raphael Varane, we now have a second player who has experience of winning titles,” he explained.
“Malacia, Martinez, Casemiro, Antony are all fighters, while Christian Eriksen is a technical winner and a great personality. We want the best of the best. Any players we bring to Manchester United must meet the highest standard.”