Tribal Football

Ten Hag survives: Why Man Utd contract gesture promises turned corner

Ten Hag survives: Why Man Utd contract gesture promises turned corner
Ten Hag survives: Why Man Utd contract gesture promises turned corner
Ten Hag survives: Why Man Utd contract gesture promises turned cornerAction Plus
COMMENT: The right decision. The sane decision. Erik ten Hag is confirmed (well, kind of) by Manchester United's new board for next season. But what sort of United will he actually be managing...?

So he's safe. At least for now. Ten Hag will start the new season still as United manager. The news arriving in what is now becoming typical of Sir Jim Ratcliffe's management of the club - that is, leaks to the press. Just as he did with this ridiculous 'end of season review', the confirmation from Ratcliffe came from the shadows. 

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No statement. No show of positive energy or force. Just skerricks of information from local media sources. Then, via the club's media team, a story carrying quotes from Ten Hag about the club's preseason jaunt to the US. The much maligned (or is that messy?) tech team - at least in Ratcliffe's eyes - doing us all a favour by going an around-about way in formally confirming the manager for next season.

Again, it's the right decision. The sane one. But the whole affair, leading right up to the confirmation, again smacked of insult. For Ten Hag. For his players - whom only discovered the news via these media leaks. And - most importantly - for the fans, who have been left hanging by Ratcliffe's refusal to engage with them on such critical decisions.

However, there is hope... Perhaps the dead comms lines will light up next month? By then, Omar Berrada will be free to take up his role as United's new chief exec. Charismatic. Bold - even brash. Berrada is a definite communicator. And the belief is that the last six months of allowing speculation to drive club headlines will end once Berrada is free to take his chair.

The latest we have is that Ten Hag is upbeat about his position. United's offer to extend his contract going some way to assuring him of the board's support. A June 11 meeting in Ibiza with United directors, including Sir Iain Brailsford, also helped ease the tension. There were apologies and explanations from both sides. With Ten Hag uplifted after the two parties broke up. For those involved, the new deal is being viewed as a sure sign that Ten Hag has Ratcliffe and the board's full backing. A show of public support not just for the press and fans, but also - crucially - for the players.

So with Ten Hag confirmed - via the web team - the work begins. And to be fair, it's significant the first piece of concrete transfer news involves one of the three positions the manager is seeking to improve this summer. Ten Hag pushing for a new centre-half, defensive midfielder and centre forward. Three roles highlighted during that Ibiza summit, but also regularly - and openly - by Ten Hag last season.

Within the day, terms had been agreed with Jarrad Branthwaite's camp and a first bid tabled to Everton. But a useless bid. 35 million quid? What was the point? The offer only drawing ire from the Blues board. Indeed, an offer which is likely to have them encouraging interest elsewhere. Much like the low-balling of Newcastle over Dan Ashworth, Ratcliffe's man to fill the technical director's position, his approach to negotiations is only generating insult.

Branthwaite isn't a £35m player. Not even close. For potential. For reputation. You can see him leaving Goodison Park for double such an amount - especially for United. There's always been that premium cooked into any transfer fee involving United. To land their targets. To find the right players. United will have to pay over the odds. This isn't Nice nor Newcastle. And it's a reality both Ratcliffe and Ashworth must quickly get used to.

For a Branthwaite, a Joao Neves and a Josh Zirkzee, you're not going to get much change out of £200m. Not these days. And certainly not acting as a Premier League club working the European market. Those now pulling the strings can question the fees paid by John Murtough and Richard Arnold. But the United premium has always been built in. It'll be interesting watching how this new lot navigate the same waters.

However, let's cut them some slack. The past week has been a good one for United. The manager not only confirmed, but a relationship with those above him now reconciled. The new contract gesture showing a real understanding of how perception can run this club. Though again,  we only have the word of media sources about this offer does leave some frustration.

But it's the right move. And it takes the club in the right direction. Sanity prevailed. Now what about doing the same in the transfer market...?