As Eric ten Hag sat at his press conference at Manchester United’s Carrington training ground on Wednesday afternoon, he told reporters he was not in a position to talk much about the potential new €95m signing of Anthony until the paperwork was complete.
But his smile said it all. By this point, he already knew he had his man and his personal battle to get the deal across the line had been won.
It has been a largely positive summer window for Manchester United, and their new manager is the biggest winner. The club has never spent more – more than £225m (€261m) – in a single summer and, most importantly, has been backed by Tin Hag to bring in his players.
Anthony (officially announced on Friday) and Lisandro Martinez were part of the Ten Hag squad at Ajax Amsterdam. Defender Teryl Malacia was a player who knew everything about him since his time with rival Feyenoord, while Christian Eriksen was invited to train with Ajax last season as he continued to recover from a heart condition.
Throwing five-time Champions League-winning midfielder Casemiro (signed from Real Madrid for €70m) and experienced goalkeeper Martin Dubravka on loan from Newcastle United, it’s no wonder Tin Hag is a happy man.
“I analyzed the team with a clear vision, but we continued [the same page] “From the first conversations I had with the club,” he said on Wednesday, “They saw the same thing as well, which positions we definitely had to strengthen. I am happy with these positions, we analyzed the team and managed to fill the best players.”
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Tin Hag got almost everything he wanted this summer, but it was also a window (also dominated by Cristiano Ronaldo’s survival saga in the end) that at times seemed random and reflected what was the power struggle behind it. view.
In the end, United signed more players and spent more money than they had originally planned, much of it attributable to Ten Hag’s insistence. Sources have told ESPN that the club has been keen more than once to walk away from negotiations with Ajax over Anthony. The Brazilian winger was a player identified as a potential target as early as March, but Ajax’s valuation of more than €80m made the deal problematic from the start.
It was agreed to consider other offensive options with Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic and Borussia Monchengladbach’s Marcus Thuram provided by the recruiting department, and PSV’s Cody Gakbo, who shares agency with Ten Hag, proposed by the manager.
Their respective deals were discussed internally, but Ten Hag insisted Anthony was still the best and pleaded with the club to return to the negotiating table. At this point Ajax felt emboldened to ask for more – in part to cover solidarity payments owed to Anthony’s former clubs – having already collected more than €116m in expenses. United saw a €80m bid rejected, and when an improved €90m bid was also rejected, hiring bosses wanted to end the negotiations.
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Only after Ten Hag intervened again was an initial agreement worth €95m reached with an additional €5m in add-ons to make Anthony the second-most expensive deal in the club’s history behind Paul Pogba when he arrived from Juventus in 2014. 2016 for 105 million euros.
With Anthony and Martinez in particular, United backed the manager’s ruling – ironically a policy they said they would move from with sources calling some hiring decisions made by Louis van Gaal a “disaster”.
Van Gaal was parachuted into a player-contracting system that former executive vice president Ed Woodward later admitted was “unfit for purpose”. Van Gaal became central to the club’s transfer strategy when he became manager in 2014 and used his power to sign players such as Morgan Schneiderlin, Daley Blind and Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Woodward was so impressed with the experience that he introduced a veto system that gave the hiring department, scouts, and director equal voting rights before signing. This was the reason why manager Jose Mourinho failed in his attempts to bring Jerome Boateng to Old Trafford at the end of the summer 2018 window and why Ralph Rangnick was thwarted in his attempts to sign a striker in January.
United insist players like Martinez and Anthony were closely watched prior to Tin Hag’s arrival, but there is no escaping the feeling that the club’s window has been heavily influenced by the Dutchman’s wishes.
Sources told ESPN there were initially reservations about his plan to sign another central defender just 12 months after the club spent €48m on the transfer of Raphael Varane from Real Madrid.
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The Ten Hag squad that he also inherited included Harry Maguire (signed in 2019 for £80m), Victor Lindelof (signed in 2017 for £31m) and Eric Bailly (signed in 2016 for £30m and awarded a new long contract). term in April 2021), and there was a feeling from within the club that this summer’s budget would be better used elsewhere. But Ten Hag insisted he needed a left-handed central defender to implement his style of play, and in the face of competition from Arsenal, Martinez arrived for a €57m sum that could rise to €67m by variants.
Bailly, who was under contract with United until at least 2024, was let go to make way for Martinez, while left back Alex Telles, who only arrived in 2020, was sent on loan to Seville following the arrival of Malacia.
However, Tin Hag did not have everything in its own way. Plans to sign Bologna’s 33-year-old striker Marko Arnautovic, a player he had known since his time at FC Twente, were scrapped after opposition from fans. He has also been turned down in his attempts to confirm interest in another one of his former Ajax players, Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech, while his summer top target, Frenkie de Jong – another Ajax player – is still at Barcelona.
Sources told ESPN that club chiefs agree they should have pulled out of talks with De Jong earlier than they did. Casemiro, the hiring department’s pick, was considered an acceptable alternative by Ten Hag – although he wasn’t in the original plan to sign 30 or more players – because the need for a No. 6 player to support their midfield was seen as vital.
Early defeats against Brighton and Brentford (especially those 4-0 humiliations), rather than weakening Ten Hag’s position, only provided him with more evidence that the team was in dire need of reinforcements.
How fruitful this summer has been for United will only become clear later, and they will know, more than most, that big money doesn’t always equal big success. The jury is out on the newcomers, but not when it comes to the influence Ten Hag is already wielding at Old Trafford. His smile said it all.