Erik ten Hag is demanding at least three more signings for Manchester United before the transfer window closes after angrily laying down the law to the club’s under-performing players.
Ten Hag was left furious and shocked by the sorry 4-0 capitulation away to Brentford that followed the opening weekend defeat at home to Brighton which meant he has made the worst start to a season for a United manager in more than 100 years.
Ten Hag laid into the players after the loss at Brentford and there was further punishment as he cancelled a planned day off on Sunday. With United not playing again until next Monday, at home to Liverpool, Ten Hag had intended to allow his squad not to report to their training HQ, Carrington, for a recovery day.
Instead, having told the players that their performance was “shocking” and agreeing with the post-match analysis that they had played “like kids” Ten Hag demanded a response with an intense training session which, surprisingly for the day after a game, included an element of running.
Ten Hag punished his team by making them cover 13.8km (around 8.5 miles) in the training session in 30-degree heat - exactly the distance they collectively ran less than the Brentford players during the game.
Having wanted to give the existing players the chance to prove themselves this season Ten Hag appears to have accepted that he needs to accelerate changes with United also beginning to grow tired of the saga surrounding Cristiano Ronaldo and his continued desire to leave the club.
Ronaldo has strongly divided opinion within United, as well as outside the club, since his return and given the team’s troubles his behaviour is being talked about as selfish and damaging by his team-mates. Ten Hag fully intended to keep him, arguing it would be difficult to replace his goals given there is so much work to do elsewhere in the squad, but that resolve is being tested.
Ten Hag wants two midfielders signed before the end of August with hopes that Adrien Rabiot will be secured from Juventus for a fee of up to €20 million in time for the Liverpool game. His mother, Veronique, who represents him, met with United football director John Murtough in Turin on Friday to discuss the deal.
Having agreed a fee with Juventus, Murtough outlined United’s proposal and the talks were said to be positive. However, contrary to suggestions, United are not planning a follow-up meeting on Monday and the Rabiots are awaiting developments.
United also have a big decision to make as to whether they should finally end their pursuit of Frenkie de Jong. Despite agreeing a fee of €75m plus €10m in add-ons with Barcelona, United have so far failed to persuade the Holland international with his preferred destination appearing to be Chelsea should he have to leave Spain.
The deal may go down to the deadline day and United probably cannot wait that long especially for a player who does not appear to favour them. Walking away from the deal would be embarrassing – though less embarrassing than being gazumped by Chelsea – but would free up the budget to pursue other targets with Lazio’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, long linked to United, being proposed as an alternative by intermediaries. He would cost closer to €50m.
As well as midfield, Ten Hag needs to strengthen his attack and wants at least one versatile forward. However this also may become more complicated should Paris St-Germain follow up their talks last week with Marcus Rashford’s representative – his brother Dwaine – with a formal offer. United do not want to sell Rashford and will have to keep managing the future of Ronaldo who still wants to go.
Ten Hag is interested in PSV Eindhoven’s Cody Gakpo, with a fee of around €40m, although United sources claim this is tentative and may depend on more money being freed up. Agents are also trying to interest United in the Stuttgart striker Sasa Kalajdzic.
Goalkeeper David de Gea, who was at fault for Brentford’s first two goals, admitted the performance was “unacceptable” and “horrible”. He added: "It's difficult to be honest. It's still tough moments. I say this many times, but I know the lads, and everyone is working hard.
"I'm working hard, the manager's working really hard, so that's the beginning.
"We made a big change so these are just the first games. We need to improve a lot, listen to what the manager wants and of course start to win games.
"It doesn't matter who we play against. We need to prepare for the game very well. We have a long week.
"It's going to be tough of course, after this defeat. But let's put our lives in training, put our lives on the games, and let's play for the badge and our pride."