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Manchester United January transfer antics show Erik ten Hag’s policy change



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Manchester United’s actions as the January transfer window draws to a close show how Erik ten Hag has changed the club’s attitude towards signings.

In previous seasons, there have been plenty of examples of Manchester United panicking at the final moment and simply throwing money wherever they can to get deals over the line – with these players ranging from great buys to baffling failures.

In the last decade, Manchester United have typically acted towards the end of a window, bringing in whatever profile they can find to fill in gaps in the squad. Examples such as Marouane Fellaini and Edinson Cavani spring to mind.

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United have also acted on impulse on numerous occasions, signing a high-calibre player just because they are available without much thought as to how it would impact the squad and club in a boarder sense, such as Alexis Sanchez or Cristiano Ronaldo.

In the 2020 transfer window, Manchester United signed Cavani, Alex Telles, Facaundo Pellistri and agreed a deal for Amad Diallo all in the final two days of the window – four players in two days when they had 12 weeks to bring the right profiles in. Only one of these players was actually a starting XI player in Cavani, and even then he missed 14 games due to injury or illness that season.

The other player signed that window was Donny van de Beek, who played next to no minutes in comparison to what was expected when he initially put pen to paper at Manchester United for a £35 million fee. The club also spent about four months chasing the signing of Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund, a deal in which they did not meet a single deadline set by the German club then acted surprised and hard done by when they upped Sancho’s price towards the end of the window.

During the January window of that season, United completed their deal for Amad Diallo and let go of Jesse Lingard on loan to West Ham, and brought in no other players despite the clear holes in the squad that needed fixing.

The 2021 summer window saw the eventual arrival of Sancho to United’s team, with the winger signing for the club at the end of July. United made a further two monetary signings that season, with Raphael Varane joining in the middle of August and Ronaldo right at the end of the month – again, United were acting late and on a whim, despite the months they had to prepare.

United did agree an early deal to sign Tom Heaton that summer, but Heaton as made fewer than five appearances for the club since then.

This summer, 2022, was similar. United agreed to sign Tyrell Malacia from Feyenoord fairly early in the window, hijacking Lyon’s deal for the Dutch left-back at the final moment to bring him to the club – loaning out Alex Telles later in the window.

But that felt like that was it for a long time, with a flurry of players joining as the window entered it’s final few weeks. Christian Eriksen, despite being signed on a free contract, took a while to lock down, while it also took months of negotiations with Ajax to get the transfers of Lisandro Martinez and Antony over the line.

The Antony deal was only finalised in the final two days of the window, with United ending up paying £85 million for the player when Ajax only demanded around £50 million earlier in the window – United’s lack of organisation and ability to negotiate in a respectful and efficient manner cost them dearly.

Casemiro, admittedly, was one the club got right. Despite the fact that the deal came out of nowhere and felt like a £60 million panic-buy after the chasing of Frenkie de Jong failed to materialise in a transfer, it has since been reported on multiple occasions that United actually spoke to the player for months, with his performances this season proving just how brilliant of a decision it was to sign the Brazilian from Real Madrid.

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Martin Dubravka was also signed on loan during the final days of the window in August despite the club knowing that a back-up goalkeeper was needed at the beginning of July when Dean Henderson left the club on loan.

This January 2023 window, however, is different. After Dubravka was recalled from his loan by Newcastle United, United acted swiftly and signed Jack Butland right at the start. They then brought Wout Weghorst into the club in a matter of days, getting him over the line and starting for the team within a week of engaging their interest – despite Burnley and Besiktas making the deal difficult to do.

United then started planning for the summer, with it being reported that the club have already deemed which players they think are ‘sellable’ in the summer window. This means United can have a much better scope on what Ten Hag’s summer budget will look like, with the Dutch manager proving that he is a much better long-term thinker than those who were previously at the club.

Erik ten Hag changing United’s approach to transfer window into a more long-term process will work wonders for the club. He is also instilling the ability for United to be able to wait for the correct target to become available rather than just anyone who might say yes – proven by United’s hesitance to sign just anyone to fill the hole in midfield.

Weghorst’s signing being that of a loan move shows that Ten Hag is not just getting the club to whack a profile in his squad, but guiding the club into the correct method of short-term loan solutions to fill a hole, which gives United the opportunity to now spend three/four months scouting the correct options rather than just waiting until the final moment.

Ten Hag’s appointment as Manchester United manager has been nothing short of brilliant, benefiting the club across all levels.