COMMENT: Why continue? Why persist? Manchester United and Frenkie de Jong. Why are United continuing down this road for the reluctant Dutchman...?
Offered the chance to nail down Ten Hag and his pursuit of the Barcelona midfielder, the press pushed the manager for an answer on his former Ajax protégé. But beyond an attempt to duck the question, Ten Hag let on that he was strictly working from his 'A' list of targets this summer.
He said, "I have a squad and I'm happy with the current squad, we make good progress, I'm happy with the signings until now. You don't need any player, you need the right player, that's what we're working for.
"If it's not the right player, no, we need the right players.
"We want Frenkie? It's about the right players and I cannot give comments on a player under contract at another club."
Tyrell Malacia. Lisandro Martinez. Christian Eriksen. There's a common theme running through all of United's senior arrivals. They're lock, stock and barrel, Erik ten Hag signings. John Murtough, United's technical director, has been giving Ten Hag a list of players to consider for certain positions where it's been agreed there is a need to strengthen. But when it's come to making a final choice, Ten Hag has gone with his man - every time.
It's now public that among the several names offered to Ten Hag as he sought a left-sided center-half was Pau Torres, of Villarreal. Murtough had followed the Spain international for over 18 months and saw the opportunity to bring him to Old Trafford this summer. But Ten Hag had other ideas and insisted United pursue Lisandro. The fee, which will reach £60m based on bonuses, had Edwin van der Sar, the Ajax GM and former United goalkeeper, being celebrated in the Dutch press.
Of course, Lisandro could go on and prove such a price to be a bargain. Dario Felman, the Valencia legend, dubbed his fellow Argentine "a phenomenon" in his column for Tribalfootball.com last week. But this isn't about valuations. It's about Ten Hag's rigid approach to this summer's market.
If a deal for Lisandro couldn't be done, would United still have a new centre-half going into the season kickoff? It's doubtful. And is perhaps why they are underway with a hole in midfield and also up front.
For the moment, Ten Hag is convinced he can bring De Jong to Old Trafford. Though it must be said, he's losing support within the front office. They'll back him, Murtough and co. But United's football chiefs are also well aware of the feeling generated amongst the United support towards the Holland international.
As it stands. In terms of perceptions. If De Jong is to sign for United, he'll do so kicking and screaming. Privately, it may be a different story. But the unfortunate thing for Ten Hag is that Ali Dursun, De Jong's long time agent, has allowed stories of the player running down the club and seeking alternatives to persist in the public arena. And with every story. Every soundbite. Every report of De Jong doing all he can to avoid pulling on a United shirt, the club's supporter base grows more hostile towards the player.
And it's not like Dursun is at odds with United, himself. The Dutchman moved Malacia from Feyenoord to United earlier this summer and also has Victor Lindelof and Donny van de Beek on his books. If there's business to be done between United and De Jong, you'd think Dursun would let it be known that those stories about Chelsea and the player's doubts were fantasy calcio.
Yet instead, it's been United's directors who have briefed local scribes about the situation. Some taking offense at claims from the De Jong camp that he's been turned off by the apparent "dysfunction" inside the club. One powerbroker - quite rightly for this column - pointing out that it's Barca who "the player and his agent are chasing up" for those deferred wages. Something United have never found themselves needing to do.
Indeed, as part of a carrot to convince De Jong, United have offered to cover that outstanding €17m he is owed by Barca regarding back-pay. Having already had their offer of €85m - including bonuses - accepted by Barca, United are effectively making De Jong a €100m midfield signing. Is it any wonder Joan Laporta is pushing the player to leave? Barca's president can see his own Van der Sar moment within his grasp.
But Laporta isn't alone. Xavi, De Jong's coach at Barca, also isn't against his sale. The Catalan doesn't see De Jong as a vital component of his team going forward and has been publicly critical of the player.
In contrast, Ten Hag has told his countryman in calls between the pair that he can be "the conductor of the orchestra' at United. Effectively guaranteeing De Jong No1 status - something he has refused to do for Cristiano Ronaldo.
So those outstanding wages will be paid. He will play for a manager who wants him. The board will buy players to fit into his style of game. Yet for all that. For all those promises and assurances. De Jong, instead of doing all he can to make this move a reality, he and Dursun are allowing insulting stories towards Manchester United to continue to run through the European press.
So why continue with his pursuit? Why persist? With the acrimony growing between the player and the United support, surely it's time for Ten Hag to re-examine that list of Murtough names...