As featured on NewsNow: Football news

De Boer? Timber? Why Man Utd risk blowing up Ten Hag kickoff by mis-managed transfer policy

COMMENT: For Manchester United. And especially for Erik ten Hag. The summer's emphasis has to be local. If this new era is to launch successfully, the top brass must know United can't be rolling the dice on a swathe of imports...

And when we say imports, we're not talking foreign players. It's about Premier League talent. Players with the experience, the know-how and the physical capabilities to hit the ground running at the start of next season.

For the moment, it appears half of Ajax's title winning team will be following their old manager to Old Trafford. Jurrien Timber, the young, versatile centre-half, is a favourite for the gossip pages. Holland international midfielder Ryan Gravenberch has been mentioned. As has Sebastien Haller, West Ham's former centre-forward, the Argentine stopper Lisandro Martinez and the exciting Brazilian attacker Antony. Add Barcelona's sometimes playmaker Frenkie de Jong and you have the majority of an XI signed up for the age of Erik.

But as talented as the likes of Timber and Antony are. As gifted as De Jong is. These aren't players to make an instant impact. They're not signings who will be ready for that first rush of games in mid-August. These are project players. Signings on an 18-month plan. And that's including De Jong, Barcelona experience n'all.

Ralf Rangnick should know this. Six months of Premier League experience. Six months of seeing up close what works and what doesn't inside English football. The German must know for any player arriving from outside - including English lads like Jadon Sancho - the step up is unlike anything the game has seen.

Donny van de Beek and his issues is an obvious warning. But you can also raise his former Ajax teammate Hakim Ziyech at Chelsea. The former PSV midfielder Steven Bergwijn and his problems at Tottenham. And that's the Eredivisie. Even the jump from the Bundesliga still has Timo Werner battling to adjust, while his Chelsea teammate Kai Havertz is finally beginning to find his feet two seasons into his move from Bayer Leverkusen.

In time, those mentioned do have the talent to prove themselves major Premier League players. But United don't have time. They can't build a new team under a new manager with players from outside of England and expect instant success. It just doesn't work like that.


Ten Hag and De Boer together with Ajax

And this is where Rangnick should be earning that consultancy fee of his. On the training pitch. In the dugout. It hasn't worked for the German. But that was never his specialty. Rangnick is a talent spotter. A team builder. His reputation has taken a dent these past six months, but it can be redeemed over the next transfer window.

As we say, Timber is a talent. As is Antony. But they'd be additions made with a view to a long-term introduction. The reason Luis Diaz has been celebrated far and wide for his impact at Liverpool is that he's the exception who proves the rule. No-one predicted the Colombian would succeed as he has when first arriving in January from Porto - not even his manager, Jurgen Klopp. Diaz is a one-off. As we say, the exception. But also an exception who has benefited from joining a winning team.

At United, such a culture doesn't exist. And the reality is, any new signing won't be arriving to simply add to or improve the XI, but more to carry them. In character. In talent. There are holes right across this squad. Chasms. The responsibility and expectation for those new players joining this summer will be immense.

Could De Jong handle it? Perhaps. On paper, in comparison with Timber and Antony, it can be argued he's a different case. Two seasons now a Barcelona player. If the pull of Ten Hag proves greater than any lack of Champions League football, United could be welcoming a potential worldbeater this summer.

But that's with an emphasis on potential. The form of De Jong in Spain has mirrored what fellow Ajax old boy Ziyech has experienced at Chelsea. There's reasons why the boardroom at Barca have been so quick to nominate the Dutchman as one to sacrifice this coming market.

Again, the talent is there. As is the potential. But De Jong, as far as his coach Xavi is concerned, isn't ready to carry Barca's midfield. Just as he struggled in the first months under Ernesto Valverde, De Jong has found himself on the outer of Xavi's plans almost two years on.

For the Catalan, De Jong just isn't a Barcelona player: "It is a question about our football, being with the ball in the opposite field, having patience. We need people with the package to control the game.

"We don't have those kinds of footballers."

Perhaps De Jong, if he manages to stay, will grow into the player Xavi needs. But the Barca great isn't sounding like a man willing to wait. If Ten Hag does manage to land his former protégé, he'll be signing a reputation. A reputation created two years ago - and yet to be fulfilled.

Perhaps Ten Hag will prove the missing link? The man-management. The tactical approach. Perhaps it can all be recreated for De Jong at United? But that rebuild will occur at Carrington, not in Amsterdam. And it will have to happen in the midst of the demands of the Premier League and not the Eredivisie.

The arrival of De Jong. Of Timber. Of Antony. It can succeed. But such players will need to be signed as part of wider group of Premier League hardened talent. United don't have the luxury of being able to wait 18 months for things to click.

This Ten Hag era needs to have a winning start. And that won't happen by rolling the dice on a swathe of imports...

Need a VPN? Or seeking to switch? Then support Tribal Football by clicking here to sign up with our official partners NordVPN. Not only will you receive the best VPN experience, but also great discounts by signing up via Tribal Football. Thanks for your support!

Video of the day:

Chris Beattie
About the author

Chris Beattie

Have your say

Subscribe and go ad-free

For only $10 a year

  1. Go Ad-Free
  2. Faster site experience
  3. Support great writing
  4. Subscribe now
Launch Offer: 2 months free

Subscribe and go ad-free

For only $10 a year

Subscribe now
Launch Offer: 2 months free