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Not one, but two? Why Ten Hag demanding Man Utd not settle on Kane as lone centre-forward signing

COMMENT: League Cup winners. FA Cup finalists. And (almost) Champions League qualifiers. These are exciting times for Manchester United fans. And that's only going to increase as their search for a new centre-forward (or is that two?) ramps up...

Mark Hughes. Ruud van Nistelrooy. Zlatan Ibrahimovic... they do like a centre-forward, do United fans. Intimidating. Courageous. Physical. It's a presence United's attack has been missing in recent years. But it's something that is on the agenda to be fixed this summer.

As we say, the Stretford End loves a centre-forward - as does their manager. And those stories about Erik ten Hag pushing to have not one, but two new strikers signed this coming summer aren't far from the truth.

Harry Kane, of course, is the priority. As we wrote last week, Ten Hag has spent the season studying Kane. Sounding out trusted confidants with links to the Tottenham striker. He's seen Kane up close. But has also built a profile of the player from information he's gathered. His character. His mentality. His leadership skills. Everything that Ten Hag has in a bulging dossier has him convinced Kane is worth the money - no matter how crazy the demands of Spurs chairman Daniel Levy.

It's why you're getting these stories about Ten Hag 'pushing' for United to prioritise Kane's signing. That's because it's exactly how it is. The England captain is the "standard". When Ten Hag, after victory over Wolves, discussed his plans for the summer market last week, it was with Kane front of mind.

“I have to develop and to progress the team, and to of course plan," he declared. "I will go for high standards, so I am planning my squad for next season in the background, with high standards. Then it is up to the others to decide if the finances are there."

Basically, the word from Ten Hag to Richard Arnold, the club's chief exec, has been: 'I want Kane. Now you make it happen'.

At Kane's end of the table, the latest is flux. Uncertainty. Everything you've read is right, but also wrong. A source very close to the player told this column early last week that "nothing has been decided". Though stressed Kane "loves" Spurs. This word came before that news from Paris of representatives meeting with PSG officials in a fishing expedition. Nothing was agreed. There were no commitments. But both parties left the door to negotiations open should things fall in place.

A concern for Ten Hag? Perhaps. And as an aside, this column can see massive upside for Kane by making the move to PSG. Indeed, things could certainly fall his way should Luis Campos manage to convince Jose Mourinho to quit Roma next month. Kane would love to work with Mourinho again. And the feeling's mutual. Giving Mourinho the resources PSG has would transform them into genuine Champions League contenders.

In the meantime, United are keeping their hand in and an offer to Levy will be tabled.

But it won't stop there. Ten Hag has his priority, sure. But the Dutchman also wants a second centre-forward through the Carrington Gates before the start of next season. A younger centre-forward. A project. A player he and his staff can develop and eventually bring through to succeed Kane.

It's why John Murtough, United's football director, had scouts posted last week to see Gift Orban hit a hat-trick for KAA Gent against Cercle Brugge. Days later, United representatives were in the stands to watch Goncalo Ramos score for Benfica in their 5-1 rout of Portimonense. Portimonense officials letting it be known that United had sought accreditation for the game.

And of course, United's interest in Atalanta's Danish sensation, Rasmus Hojlund, is now well known. So much so, that the player himself is happy to court United in public: "Now that you ask, I will not hide the fact that I am a huge Manchester United fan.

“So personally, it would be one of the biggest things for me (to join them)."

Indeed, in terms of that 'project' player, Hojlund fits the bill. His style. His physical characteristics. His personality. They all chime with what you'd dub a Ten Hag player. And the fact that United have ratcheted up their work in the Scandinavian transfer market these past 6-8 months does point to Hojlund being the first-choice.

We've spoken in the past about applying Ten Hag's work with Ajax to what we can expect from him at Old Trafford. And this centre-forward situation is no exception. At one stage with Ajax, he had no less than FOUR centre-forwards available to him: the veteran pair Lasse Schone and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, a young Kasper Dolberg and an even younger Lassina Traore coming through. At United he has nothing like that. Not even close. Even his attempts to push Marcus Rashford to play centrally were eventually abandoned.

So if it all goes to plan, United fans are in for an exciting summer transfer window. It won't be one new centre-forward they'll be welcoming to Old Trafford, but two.

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Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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