Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag would rather develop the players he has than sign the wrong man if the club fail in their pursuit of Frenkie de Jong.
United have been strongly linked with Barcelona midfielder De Jong for months, with reports of their interest emerging even before Ten Hag was officially appointed in April.
De Jong enjoyed his Ajax breakthrough under Ten Hag, playing a key role in the team that almost reached the 2018-19 Champions League final.
He moved to Barca in 2019 but arguably has not reached the level many expected of him initially upon his transfer to Camp Nou.
Ten Hag apparently saw De Jong’s acquisition as vital for the way he wants United to play, and media reports have indicated the club agreed a fee with Barca last month.
However, it is claimed Barca owe De Jong millions of euros in deferred wages, and he is apparently refusing to leave the club – who need a big sale in order to ease their financial issues – until a settlement is reached.
While some fans may be urging United to move on and sign an alternative, Ten Hag suggested that is not an option.
“We want Frenkie? I didn’t know,” he told reporters with a smile on Friday. “We want the right players, but I cannot comment on players contracted to other clubs.
“When we have news, we will bring it.”
“I’m convinced we have a good squad,” Erik says.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) August 5, 2022
He added: “You work with the current squad, you develop players who are in your current squad. In this moment, the players in that position have performed really well [in pre-season].”
While the De Jong saga shows no sign of ending, United have been able to add promising left-back Tyrell Malacia, versatile Argentina defender Lisandro Martinez and Christian Eriksen to the squad.
Given United looked short of quality last season and eight first-team players have since left, many were expecting the club to be far busier on the transfer front.
Ralf Rangnick, who was interim manager for the second half of last season, suggested during his spell in charge that the squad needed as many as 10 new players, yet they have not brought in even half of that figure.
De Jong aside, United are rumoured to be keen on signing another striker, a right-sided winger and potentially a right-back, but again Ten Hag insisted panic buys will not satisfy him.
Asked if he is frustrated they have not strengthened all the areas he wanted to, Ten Hag said: “It would be good situation, but I am happy with the current squad, they make good progress.
“I’m happy with the signings until now. You don’t just need any players, you need the right players. That’s the point, and we’re working together.”
It was then asked of Ten Hag is he would rather go without any signings if they are not exactly who he wants, and his response was unequivocal.
“If it’s not the right player, no, I’m happy with the current squad,” he replied. “We need the right players.”
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