Erik ten Hag has denied there is panic inside Manchester United regarding recruitment but admitted that with less than three weeks until the transfer window closes, the club “have to act”.
United have so far signed Christian Eriksen, Lisandro Martínez and Tyrell Malacia, with the club hopeful of adding Juventus’s Adrien Rabiot. They also retain long-term interest in Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong and Ajax’s Antony. A bid to buy Marko Arnautovic from Bologna was abandoned on Tuesday following the rejection of a £8m offer and significant backlash from United fans to news of the club’s interest in the former West Ham striker.
The moves for Rabiot as a possible alternative to De Jong, and the 33-year-old Arnautovic as a different option to Antony, has provoked scrutiny of United’s acumen in the market. Ten Hag, whose first Premier League game as United manager ended in defeat to Brighton on Sunday, was asked if he sensed panic internally at the club.
“When Manchester United is not performing, not winning, that’s normal,” said the Dutchman ahead of Saturday’s visit to Brentford. “I would be more in panic when there wasn’t panic because we have to win. That is the demand. Still, I would say panic isn’t the right word. It’s more like, ‘Come on, we have to act’. We have to think bright and do the right things.”
Ten Hag was appointed United’s new manager nearly four months ago. The 52-year-old was asked if “disaster” is a fair characterisation of the club’s failure to sign the midfielder and forward he wants during this period. “No,” Ten Hag insisted. “Of course it would be my preference because we could be starting the process earlier [making these signings], that’s quite clear but the season is long and you have to get in the right players.”
Ten Hag was pressed on why this has not occurred. “That is a difficult answer,” he replied. “When you have one hour then [I can]. It’s really complicated but we are really happy with what we have done until now. That was the positive point from last week and before. Tyrell Malacia did very well, Christian Eriksen and Lisandro Martínez both did very well in the game against Brighton. We are very happy with that.
“Of course there are developments in the transfer market [that may cause compromises] but still we have to get the players in who can contribute and not get players in who cannot do what we want to with the squad we have and then improve the team. We cooperate well [he and the executive] and it is to my satisfaction. [But] it was better to get the players earlier because now in the department of midfield and [attack] you have seen when we have one injury then we have a problem. That’s clear.”
Anthony Martial’s hamstring problem rules him out of the trip to Brentford. Cristiano Ronaldo is fit to start, however, following a truncated pre-season. Ten Hag was asked how he handles a player who wants to leave the club. “That is your assumption [that Ronaldo wishes to depart],” he said. “That is not what he is telling me. So I deal with the players we have and we plan with him for this season and we have to fit him into the team so he has to come at the right fitness levels so that he can do the job that we expect him to do.”
Marcus Rashford was wanted by Paris Saint-Germain but the French club have apparently withdrawn their interest. When asked if he had spoken to the forward about the situation, Ten Hag said: “Not yet but he knows I love him, he knows I want him to be here so I will tell him that again.”