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Erik ten Hag knew exactly what to expect from Manchester United in summer transfer window – Dominic Booth

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Manchester United’s current role in football’s greater transfer landscape is a little like the roles actors Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill were given in the recent Star Wars sequels; a famous old name, great for publicity and PR, but shorn of the glory when it came to the climax.

The makers of the Star Wars reboot had their own reasons for putting the old names to the back and allowing Daisy Ridley et al to take the foreground, but at United it’s not their choice to be overlooked, used by the media and agents to drum up attention around transfer targets. So in the case of Erling Haaland and Darwin Nunez — snared by Man City and Liverpool respectively already this summer — you could understand if there was some annoyance at Old Trafford.

United did have a genuine interest in both strikers at one stage or another. In Haaland’s case, it was the winter of 2019 when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s pulling power as a former mentor of his fellow countryman didn’t quite pay off and the striker went to Borussia Dortmund. After that failure and Solskjaer’s exit, United were always going to struggle.

READ MORE: Four alternatives if United cannot sign Frenkie de Jong

Nunez was on their radar briefly, but the fee involved and the player’s desire to play for Liverpool proved decisive.

It’s symptomatic of United’s current position in football’s brutal hierarchy that they find themselves missing out on elite strikers like Haaland and Nunez. Their recent record in the transfer market is counting against them.

Who was the last player signed by United who proved an unmitigated success? Bruno Fernandes, perhaps, but his drop-off in form in the past 12 months has been significant.

Even bringing Cristiano Ronaldo back to the club last year brought up issues. His fellow 2021 summer signings Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane — destined for immediate success, it was decided at the time — fared a lot worse.

United’s struggles on the pitch and inability to boast Champions League football to would-be new signings is also proving problematic. But that wasn’t an issue in 2016, when the club lured Paul Pogba back from Juventus and signed Zlatan Ibrahimović.

No, the biggest issue is United’s recent reputation as a club at which talented players stagnate, or go backwards. At the same time — and this is equally as damaging — United’s size and stature means their name is consistently dragged into supposed transfer ‘races’, often when their interest in the player is minimal, if it even exists at all.



United wanted to sign both Erling Haaland and Darwin Nunez

Do Chelsea get used by agents and journalists in the same way, to beef up and spread the reach of transfer stories? Do Arsenal? City certainly don’t.

So when United don’t sign Haaland, Nunez, or the next elite player on the move around Europe this summer, it naturally causes an outcry among their fanbase. Supporters question why the Old Trafford decision-makers weren’t able to get the deal done, when City and Liverpool were.

This brings a pressure to every deal United are actually involved in, a pressure that new boss Erik ten Hag would surely have been aware of.

The former Ajax manager exudes calm in all his public utterances, and was especially composed in his debut United press conference. There has been some talk that Ten Hag wants to conduct transfer business on the quiet this summer, away from the media glare and with minimal leaks to renowned journalists in the press. Good luck with that.

Because although that’s a smart idea that shows Ten Hag is aware of United’s PR conundrum — their size and stature isn’t matched by their recent success on the pitch or in the market — it will prove difficult to pull off.

Even if United weren’t close to landing Haaland or Nunez, which they weren’t, supporters will crave incoming transfers and they won’t rest until the club officially announce a deal. When rivals sign players, the pressure ramps up.

Even when a signing is made, there’s always hunger for more. Frenkie de Jong? Fine, but who’s next?

It’s a situation Ten Hag and his team must control as best they can this summer, to keep expectations as low as possible. May the force be with you, Erik.




Manchester United's current role in football's greater transfer landscape is a little like the roles actors Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill were given in the recent Star Wars sequels; a famous old name, great for publicity and PR, but shorn of the glory when it came to the climax.

The makers of the Star Wars reboot had their own reasons for putting the old names to the back and allowing Daisy Ridley et al to take the foreground, but at United it's not their choice to be overlooked, used by the media and agents to drum up attention around transfer targets. So in the case of Erling Haaland and Darwin Nunez — snared by Man City and Liverpool respectively already this summer — you could understand if there was some annoyance at Old Trafford.

United did have a genuine interest in both strikers at one stage or another. In Haaland's case, it was the winter of 2019 when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's pulling power as a former mentor of his fellow countryman didn't quite pay off and the striker went to Borussia Dortmund. After that failure and Solskjaer's exit, United were always going to struggle.

READ MORE: Four alternatives if United cannot sign Frenkie de Jong

Nunez was on their radar briefly, but the fee involved and the player's desire to play for Liverpool proved decisive.

It's symptomatic of United's current position in football's brutal hierarchy that they find themselves missing out on elite strikers like Haaland and Nunez. Their recent record in the transfer market is counting against them.

Who was the last player signed by United who proved an unmitigated success? Bruno Fernandes, perhaps, but his drop-off in form in the past 12 months has been significant.

Even bringing Cristiano Ronaldo back to the club last year brought up issues. His fellow 2021 summer signings Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane — destined for immediate success, it was decided at the time — fared a lot worse.

United's struggles on the pitch and inability to boast Champions League football to would-be new signings is also proving problematic. But that wasn't an issue in 2016, when the club lured Paul Pogba back from Juventus and signed Zlatan Ibrahimović.

No, the biggest issue is United's recent reputation as a club at which talented players stagnate, or go backwards. At the same time — and this is equally as damaging — United's size and stature means their name is consistently dragged into supposed transfer 'races', often when their interest in the player is minimal, if it even exists at all.



United wanted to sign both Erling Haaland and Darwin Nunez

Do Chelsea get used by agents and journalists in the same way, to beef up and spread the reach of transfer stories? Do Arsenal? City certainly don't.

So when United don't sign Haaland, Nunez, or the next elite player on the move around Europe this summer, it naturally causes an outcry among their fanbase. Supporters question why the Old Trafford decision-makers weren't able to get the deal done, when City and Liverpool were.

This brings a pressure to every deal United are actually involved in, a pressure that new boss Erik ten Hag would surely have been aware of.

The former Ajax manager exudes calm in all his public utterances, and was especially composed in his debut United press conference. There has been some talk that Ten Hag wants to conduct transfer business on the quiet this summer, away from the media glare and with minimal leaks to renowned journalists in the press. Good luck with that.

Because although that's a smart idea that shows Ten Hag is aware of United's PR conundrum — their size and stature isn't matched by their recent success on the pitch or in the market — it will prove difficult to pull off.

Even if United weren't close to landing Haaland or Nunez, which they weren't, supporters will crave incoming transfers and they won't rest until the club officially announce a deal. When rivals sign players, the pressure ramps up.

Even when a signing is made, there's always hunger for more. Frenkie de Jong? Fine, but who's next?

It's a situation Ten Hag and his team must control as best they can this summer, to keep expectations as low as possible. May the force be with you, Erik.

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