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08/01/2024 15:17

Ten Hag claims Manchester United signings have it toughest in world football

Ten Hag has had unprecedented backing at United, who have spent more than £400million across two summer transfer windows and arranged for six loans – as many as the club negotiated in the 25 years before Ten Hag’s appointment.

One Eredivisie alumni who has not enjoyed privileges under Ten Hag is his former Ajax charge Donny van de Beek, who left on loan for Eintracht Frankfurt last week after playing 19 minutes this season.

Van de Beek, 26, was a Ballon d’Or nominee in 2019 after his influential role in Ajax’s domestic double triumph and progression to the Champions Langue  semi-finals, but his career has flatlined since he moved to United in a £40m deal in September 2020.

When asked if Van de Beek could be a deterrent for other young players mulling over a move to United, Ten Hag replied: “That is always on those players and how much confidence you have in your capabilities.

“But I can tell you one thing – the Premier League  is tough. Man United, that is tough to play there because it’s easier to play in almost any other team than Man United because the pressure is that high always. You have to deal with that.

“But if you have confidence in yourself, this is the best challenge and this is definitely the best club you want to be at as a player. It depends on player to player, and it depends especially on the character of the player, their personality.”

Ten Hag felt Van de Beek “was not the same player he was at Ajax” when he took over at United as he was injured. However, Van de Beek was available for the entirety of United’s pre-season in 2022 and he was named on the bench in their first four fixtures under Ten Hag.

Van de Beek was not up to it at United
Van de Beek was not up to it at United

“He (Van de Beek) has had many injuries,” Ten Hag acknowledged. “First of all. I worked now with him for two years [at United] and before he was under different managers here. He had a loan before (at Everton) as well.

“Actually, from the first moment I came in here at Manchester United, he wasn’t the player he was at Ajax because he was injured. So many times he was not available and then he struggled for a long time to recover from that injury (Van de Beek ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament in January 2023). That is probably the main reason why he was not playing.

“We decided for a loan in the summer but it didn’t come and then his opportunities are few because also we make appointments and we make agreements with players and contract players in that position. The competition was high.

During the embargoed section of his press conference, Ten Hag was curiously coy when asked to amplify on his meetings with the INEOS chairman Sir Jim Ratcliffe and sporting director Sir Dave Brailsford last week.

Ratcliffe and Ten Hag in the Carrington canteen
Ratcliffe and Ten Hag in the Carrington canteen

“You know what is in the process and what is going on so I have to refer to that,” Ten Hag said of possible deals in the January transfer window.

When Ten Hag was asked about expected changes to United’s recruitment operations, he replied: “So it’s not up to me to share that with you.”

Nor would Ten Hag elaborate on his assertion he was “on the same page” as Ineos: “I think it’s too short to share that and I don’t think this is the place to share that.”

It was only when it was suggested Ratcliffe’s investment could create added pressure on Ten Hag that he spoke at greater length. “That is not up to me,” Ten Hag stressed. “But from my talks, I had a fantastic feeling after it. How the personalities, their ideas, the process they want to go in.

“So I am very positive about that and I am sure it will be beneficial for Manchester United.

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