“We spend a billion pounds on players. We’ve spent more than anyone else in Europe. I’m not thrilled where we are. It’s not easy for me and I’m worried about how we’ll figure this out for the future. We’ve blown through a huge amount of money.”
Manchester United chief executive Richard Arnold was outspoken about the club’s recruitment woes when speaking to fans last month. The solution seems to be to entrust it to the experts. Less interference. Erik ten Hag and John Murtough leading the reconstruction.
“The money that the coach and director of football want is there. What is my job as CEO? I make sure John does his job in football. Get some players. There is money, okay? Keep going, John, do you want me to buy the players?
Murtough was a sports scientist at Everton before moving to Manchester United in 2013. He has worked in the academy with an extensive tenure, but it still came as a surprise to some when the club gave him the job of director of football, opting for an internal candidate.
Judging by the targets identified by United, Murtough is focusing on giving Ten Hag what he wants. Many supporters see this as refreshing proof that the club stands behind the manager. But Ten Hag’s influence on recruiting strategy remains unusual for a major club.
Christian Eriksen is a former Ajax player who trained with Ten Hag last season while recovering from his heart problem. Frenkie de Jong and Lisandro Martínez also worked with him at the club. Tyrell Malacia is a player who knows his rivals Feyenoord.
There is nothing unusual about a coach pushing for players he knows well. David Moyes brought in Marouane Fellaini. Louis van Gaal signed Daley Blind, Memphis Depay and Bastian Schweinsteiger. Jose Mourinho opted for Nemanja Matic.
But leaning so heavily on the new coach is also an indication that Ten Hag might not have the structure around him. A club that trusts its existing scouting department, and has a manager who trusts them, could hope to convince him that there are offers elsewhere.
It is true that Thomas Tuchel has taken on more responsibility in identifying talent at Chelsea this summer, but there are extenuating circumstances at Stamford Bridge. It is not an optimal arrangement. Most successful clubs don’t work this way.
When Manchester City signed young Argentine striker Julián Álvarez in January, head coach Pep Guardiola presented it as a club decision. “Man City saw him as an option now and an opportunity for the future. We have exceptional reports of the boy.”
Jurgen Klopp took a closer look at his January signing Luis Diaz, a player with whom he does not yet share a language, when Liverpool faced Porto in the Champions League, but described him as “someone we’ve been following for a long time”. weather.”
Those are clubs with established ways of working, while United are still figuring that out. There are some positive signs. Allowing Lyon to lock in Malacia’s fee with Feyenoord before stepping in could have saved the club a significant amount of money, for example.
Matt Judge, the man who was previously in charge of transfer negotiations, resigned this year and departed along with chief scouting Jim Lawlor and global chief scouting Marcel Bout. With the departure of the much-maligned Ed Woodward, it marks an exodus of senior staff.
Few among the fans will lament that change, but it still represents an upheaval, a period of transition that helps explain the Eredivisie’s emphasis on recruiting. It is the market that Ten Hag knows best, having never worked at first-team level outside of his homeland.
United will hope that the trust in that talent is justified, that the trust in Ten Hag is justified. Giving him that endorsement by putting him at the center of the club’s recruiting policy only makes it more imperative that he be given time to implement his ideas.
What is the alternative? Manchester United surely cannot correct course again. After nearly a decade struggling to find a club philosophy, it is the 52-year-old Dutchman’s ideas and principles that will now define the next era at Old Trafford.
“The reality is that recruitment has been poor for four or five years at Manchester United,” Gary Neville said in 2018. “There has been no consistency or strategy behind that recruitment.” Now there is a strategy. United have bet everything on Erik ten Hag.