September 25, 2022

“We’ve spent a billion pounds on players. We’ve spent more than anyone in Europe. I’m not happy with where we are. It doesn’t suit me and I’m worried about how we We’ll sort this out for the future. We blew through a huge amount of money.”

Manchester United chief executive Richard Arnold was open about the club’s recruitment issues in his talks with supporters last month. The solution seems to be to leave it to the experts. Less interference. Erik ten Hag and John Murtough leading the reconstruction.

“The money that the manager and director of football wants is there. What is my job as CEO? I make sure John does his job on the football. Bring in players. The money is there, d OK? Go ahead, John. Get who you want me to buy the players?”

Murtough was a sports scientist at Everton before moving to Manchester United in 2013. He worked in the academy with a wide tenure, but it still came as a surprise to some when the club handed him the post of director of football , opting for an internal candidate.

Judging by the targets United have identified, Murtough is focused on giving Ten Hag what he wants. Many supporters see this as refreshing proof that the club backs the manager. But Ten Hag’s influence on recruitment strategy remains unusual for a top club.

Christian Eriksen is a former Ajax player who trained with Ten Hag last season while recovering from his heart problem. Frenkie de Jong and Lisandro Martinez also worked with him at the club. Tyrell Malacia is a player he knows from rivals Feyenoord.

Manchester United’s Tyrell Malacia poses with manager Erik ten Hag

There is nothing unusual about a manager pushing to sign players he knows well. David Moyes brought in Marouane Fellaini. Louis van Gaal signed Daley Blind, Memphis Depay and Bastian Schweinsteiger. José Mourinho opted for Nemanja Matic.

But leaning so heavily on the new coach is also an indication that Ten Hag might not have the structure around him. A club that trusts its existing scouting department – ​​and has a manager who trusts it – might expect to convince it that there is good business elsewhere.

It’s true that Thomas Tuchel has taken on greater responsibility in identifying talent at Chelsea this summer, but there are extenuating circumstances at Stamford Bridge. This is not an optimal arrangement. Most successful clubs don’t work that way.

When Manchester City signed young Argentine striker Julian Alvarez in January, head coach Pep Guardiola presented it as a club decision. “Man City saw him as an option now and an opportunity for the future. We have exceptional reports of the boy.”

Jurgen Klopp took a closer look at his January signing Luis Diaz – a player he doesn’t yet share a language with – when Liverpool faced Porto in the Champions League, but described him as “someone we follow for a long time”. time.”

These are clubs with established ways of working, while United are still figuring that out. There are positive signs. Allowing Lyon to fix Malacia’s fee with Feyenoord before stepping in may well have saved the club a lot of money, for example.

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Tyrell Malacia says he always dreamed of playing in the Premier League

Matt Judge, the man previously in charge of transfer negotiations, resigned this year, leaving with scout leader Jim Lawlor and world scouting chief Marcel Bout. With the release of the much maligned Ed Woodward, this marks an exodus of senior executives.

Few fans will mourn the change, but it still represents a shake-up, a period of transition that helps explain the Eredivisie’s emphasis on recruitment. This is the market Ten Hag knows best having not worked at first-team level outside of his native country.

United hope that the confidence in this talent is justified, that the confidence in Ten Hag is justified. Having given him this support by placing him at the heart of the club’s recruitment policy, it is all the more imperative to give him time to implement his ideas.

What is the alternative? Manchester United can surely no longer correct its trajectory. After nearly a decade of scrambling for a club ethos, it is the 52-year-old Dutchman’s ideas and principles that will now define this next era at Old Trafford.

“The reality is recruitment has been poor for four or five years at Manchester United,” Gary Neville said in 2018. “There has been no consistency or strategy behind this recruitment.” There is a strategy now. United went all-in on Erik ten Hag.