Erik ten Hag wasted little time showing Manchester United players who’s boss as he tries to quell the chaos on and off the pitch at Old Trafford, but problems are piling up for the manager ahead of Sunday’s opening Premier League game. against Brighton.
How do you solve a problem like Ronaldo?
United enter the new season with their coach and star player on a potential collision course. Any hope that the Cristiano Ronaldo soap opera could calm down ahead of United’s opening Premier League game against Brighton at Old Trafford on Sunday has been dashed by the events of recent days. As if Ronaldo’s desire to leave Old Trafford and his absence from the entire pre-season tour of Thailand and Australia for family reasons weren’t enough of a problem, the striker has now found himself publicly reprimanded by Ten Hag for the “unacceptable” decision to leave. Sunday’s friendly at home against Rayo Vallecano before the end of the game.
Ronaldo wasn’t the only player to be reprimanded for an early exit against Rayo, but how the five-time World Player of the Year reacts to having his ego poked in this way will be interesting, especially as the doors close on a potential departure before the match. closing of the transfer window at the end of the month. By making an example of Ronaldo, Ten Hag has shown that he is not afraid to take on the most outstanding player in the locker room and the biggest earner and will not make exceptions in his attempt to instill discipline, raise standards and unite what was a last fragmented locker room. season.
But that doesn’t mean he made an already difficult situation any easier to manage and you only had to witness the strange exchange of lines between Ronaldo and Ten Hag during a first-half drinks break against Rayo to glimpse the tensions. Insecure stars are a manager’s worst nightmare and the reality is they are not much bigger than Ronaldo, whose much-vaunted 12-month return to Old Trafford is turning into a nightmare for both player and club. United maintain that Ronaldo – who was at a commercial session on Wednesday – is not for sale and not going anywhere, but at what cost?
There could be more trouble to come, with Ronaldo likely to have to fight for a spot on the bench in the first few weeks of the campaign after only reporting last Tuesday and it’s still unclear how he will fit into Ten Hag’s plans for play. a sustained pressure game.
Shades of Cesc Fabregas in the Frenkie de Jong saga
Fourteen weeks have passed since it became public knowledge that United were in discussions with Barcelona over the signing of Frenkie de Jong and fans are clinging to hope that the Dutch midfielder’s torturous pursuit does not turn into a repeat of the saga. 2013’s Cesc Fabregas – or worse and Chelsea steal it from under their noses.
As Ten Hag now with De Jong, David Moyes made Fabregas his priority transfer target in his first summer in charge at Old Trafford, only to face a frantic struggle for an alternative in the final three weeks of the window after the Spanish midfielder, for whom United had two rejected proposals, chose to stay at Barcelona. Moyes ended up having to settle for a last-minute deal for Marouane Fellaini after desperate plays by Daniele De Rossi and Ander Herrera also came to nothing. The situation is a little different this time around as United have agreed a £72m fee with Barcelona for De Jong. But the midfielder has given little indication that he wants to leave the Camp Nou and if United are forced to look elsewhere later in the window for midfielder Ten Hag, they risk being arrested or forced to compromise.
United insist they wouldn’t have made it this far if they didn’t believe De Jong was willing to come, but time is ticking and now there’s also the added threat from Chelsea. Chelsea’s new co-owner Todd Boehly recently had dinner with Barcelona president Joan Laporta in Barcelona and if De Jong is forced out of Camp Nou, it has long been felt he would rather join a club. in the Champions League, something Chelsea can offer that United cannot. It was also reported that De Jong would rather live in London than Manchester if the situation were difficult. Whatever materialises, a deal cannot happen until there is some form of resolution regarding the £17m De Jong owes Barcelona in wages he agreed to defer during the pandemic.
Where are the attack reinforcements?
De Jong’s saga is having a knock-on effect on United’s other transfer deals, most notably Ten Hag’s desire to beef up his attack. RB Salzburg and Slovenia forward Benjamin Sesko is a target of interest but United have so far been put off by their £50m plus price during negotiations and ideally want a No 6 midfielder in the building first . Anthony Martial, who is expected to lead the front line as a striker at Ronaldo’s expense against Brighton, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford have enjoyed encouraging pre-seasons.
But with Ronaldo out of play and wanting to leave and the inexperienced Anthony Elanga and the lightweight and unproven Amad Diallo, the only other fallback options now Edinson Cavani and Jesse Lingard have left and Mason Greenwood is still unavailable, United are one injury from a serious headache in the attack. United have already parted ways with Antony over Ajax’s assessment of the Brazilian striker.
Sales needed to increase transfer kitten
Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic, Juan Mata, Cavani and Lingard left as free agents and Dean Henderson joined Nottingham Forest on loan, which opened up considerable space on the payroll. But the £10m Fulham paid for midfielder Andreas Pereira is the only money United have recouped in sales so far and it remains to be seen how much money the club can realistically generate with a planned defensive cleanup in the coming weeks.
United – who currently have seven senior centre-backs on their books – are prepared to hear offers for Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Eric Bailly, Alex Telles, Phil Jones, Brandon Williams and Axel Tuanzebe, but a combination of high salaries, poor form or records of problematic injuries are obstacles to extracting healthy transfer rates from suitors. Telles will undergo a medical with Sevilla on Thursday ahead of a season-long loan, although the deal does not include a purchase option and a loan at best looks like the most likely scenario for Wan-Bissaka three. years after entitlement. the chilling £50m transfer back from Crystal Palace.
Sevilla are also believed to be interested in Bailly, who has also attracted interest from Roma, with the Ivory Coast defender and Williams looking to be United’s best chance at decent fees.
More anti-Glazer protests planned
As if Ten Hag didn’t have enough distractions to deal with, United’s game against Brighton will come amid more protests over Glazer’s “inadequate” ownership of the club. United Chief Executive Richard Arnold’s pleas for fans to direct all their energies towards supporting Ten Hag seem to fall on deaf ears, with The 1958 pledging to hold another demonstration on Sunday that they hope will lead to the innings. of the club’s Megastore and directors’ tunnel at Old Trafford being temporarily closed.
Probable Manchester United XI vs Brighton: David DeGea; Diogo Dalot, Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw; Scott McTominay, Fred, Bruno Fernandes; Jadon Sancho, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford.