It’s not an ideal start to life at Manchester United for Erik ten Hag, with the Dutchman growing increasingly frustrated with his transfer plans with no one yet to sign at all.
Erik ten Hag’s vision for Manchester United will be in tatters if the club fail to land Frenkie de Jong and Christian Eriksen.
The new United boss has told bosses at Old Trafford that the midfield duo will be the focal point of his squad. And after Jurrien Timber told his former Ajax boss he wouldn’t be moving to Manchester before the World Cup and Liverpool beat the Reds to the signing of Uruguay striker Darwin Nunez, it’s clear that the Dutchman’s plan is not progressing well.
Missing De Jong or Eriksen would be a major setback for Ten Hag just weeks into his reign. As revealed on Sunday Mirror Sport last week, Barcelona are demanding more than £80m for De Jong after rejecting United’s initial £60m offer.
But with Old Trafford bosses feeling they are being held hostage by the cash-strapped Catalans, Ten Hag thinks the 25-year-old would be worth it. He also wants to bring in Eriksen after he identified United’s midfield as one where the team lack genuine world-class quality.
Ten Hag’s position is that United may be paying a premium for De Jong, but the club can sign two stellar performers for the price of one because Eriksen is a free agent. Ten Hag was stunned by Jurrien Timber’s reluctance to follow him to Old Trafford.
But Dutch boss Louis van Gaal’s warning that he will only select fit players for Qatar who are regularly capped for their club has scared a player who has won just eight caps. Ten Hag also wanted Nunez, but accepts that using the bulk of his transfer budget to compete with Liverpool for the £85m striker would be unwise when he has other priorities.
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Ten Hag has alternate transfer targets for offense and defense. But sees De Jong as paramount to his plans as he wants the 25-year-old to build the game for his team.
De Jong is hesitant to talk about United’s interest when those at the club were so far apart on their valuations. But the fact that the player and his agent Ali Dursun did not deter United from bidding speaks volumes.
De Jong accepts his time at the Nou Camp is over after Barca coach Xavi admitted he could be sold for ‘economic reasons’. Both De Jong and Eriksen are steeped in the Ajax ethos that Ten Han immersed himself in during four and a half successful years with the Amsterdam club.
The new United boss is currently on vacation but remains in constant contact with the club. He is aware of the need to be patient as the transfer market develops this summer.
But he thinks a marquee signing like De Jong – followed by Eriksen – would be a huge statement of intent for him. A one-year contract offer for Eriksen has been tabled, with an option for a further 12 months.
And the financial terms of the deal are deemed acceptable for the midfielder who resuscitated his career at Brentford in the final five months of the season after suffering cardiac arrest at the Euros last summer.
But Anonio Conte played a big part in Tottenham’s bid to bring the Denmark international back to White Hart Lane. Eriksen announced that the chance to play in the Champions League would be tempting without him being a deal-maker. He carefully weighs all his options before announcing his decision.