Erik ten Hag is preparing for his first January transfer window at Man United as he looks to continue the rebuild of his squad..
Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag will have the words of his predecessor Ralf Rangnick ringing in his ears ahead of the January transfer window.
Not so long ago, a £225million spend in a single transfer window would have seen a club be expected to challenge for the Premier League title. Yet, so vast was the rebuild facing Ten Hag, United’s summer outlay can be seen as more of a step in the right direction.
The arrivals of Lisandro Martinez, Tyrell Malacia, Christian Eriksen, Antony and Casemiro have all helped strengthen United’s first-team options, with Martin Dubravka proving to be a curious loan deal, to say the least.
With the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, it is clear that United need to prioritise their striker options. The Dutchman can of course turn to Anthony Martial, but the Frenchman’s injury record means that he cannot be seen as a reliable long-term option – at least not just yet.
With the majority of the available transfer budget in January likely being put towards signing a world-class centre-forward, there is every reason to be equally excited and anxious.
The winter window is a notoriously difficult one to sign players in, with clubs often paying over the odds in order to convince the other team to part ways with their sought-after star midway through the season.
Major international tournaments also have a habit of inflating transfer fees, something United will be all too aware of with both Cody Gakpo and Goncalo Ramos. The pair have shone during their time in the World Cup, something that may just convince Ten Hag of their talent, but also undoubtedly adding millions to their price tag.
Therefore the Reds face a perfect storm next month, as they compete with post-World Cup transfer fees, while also entering into an already difficult window to buy.
For all the poor performances and disappointment that was associated with Rangnick’s time in charge at Old Trafford, the German does have one piece of sage advice for Ten Hag.
“In my experience, winter is not the best possible time for sustainable transfers,” Rangnick said. “With this quality of players we have here, it would in theory only make sense if you can get players who can almost guarantee you more quality.
As I said from experience, this will be difficult in the winter.”
United did not sign anyone during the January window last season, something that Ten Hag will be eager to avoid. The former Ajax manager knows not only how vital squad depth is, but also that he desperately needs further firepower up front.
Although United clearly need to strengthen in January, they still would be wise to follow Rangnick’s advice. Yes, they may well spend more than they had planned to in order to get the likes of Gakpo or Ramos over the line – but there is no denying that they would add more quality to their squad.
The PSV and Benfica stars are also just 23 and 21 respectively, a move that nods to the former United manager’s concern over sustainability and long-term planning.
Should the budget be able to stretch far enough, Ten Hag has been presented with a chance to add genuine quality, and benefit in the short-term while also building a squad that has a trajectory to improve in the coming seasons.
Next month could make all the difference in the pursuit of a top-four finish. Should United find themselves in the Champions League for the 2023/24 season – an extra £50million over budget now will seem like a drop in the ocean come May.