From the moment that Erik ten Hag put pen to paper on the contract that made him the new manager of Manchester United, the clock has been ticking to bring the glory days back to Old Trafford.
Having not yet made it as far as his first training session, the 52-year-old already faces a groundswell of pressure; largely focussed on whatever business the Red Devils conduct during the newly-opened summer transfer window.
Nine days in and while United have offloaded a host of first-team stalwarts and lightened their wage budget in the process, Ten Hag has failed to snap up any of his top targets.
Frenkie de Jong is the Dutch tactician’s priority candidate for his first signing, but negotiations with Barcelona are far from reaching a successful conclusion.
Chief executive Richard Arnold – who himself was only promoted four months ago following the departure of Ed Woodward – confirmed in a leaked video speaking to supporters on Saturday that the Red Devils are indeed attempting to thrash out a deal for the Netherlands international, while another ex- Ajax star is closely behind De Jong on Ten Hag’s wish-list.
The new Red Devils boss also wants to sign Christian Eriksen on a free transfer and United are believed to have this week tabled an offer.
However, the Dane has proposals from the likes of Brentford – where he shone throughout the second half of last season after recovering from the cardiac arrest which he suffered during last summer’s European Championship – and his former club, Tottenham Hotspur, both options which would allow Eriksen and his family to remain in London.
Ten Hag will welcome his the bulk of his squad back to Carrington for training on Monday, June 27 before flying to Bangkok for their pre-season tour 12 days later.
By then, the ex-Ajax manager will want to have laid the foundations for his rebuild and the Telegraph report that De Jong is seen as the catalyst, who needs to be signed before any major transition can take place.
De Telegraaf journalist Marcel van der Kraan has also affirmed how important Ten Hag’s first two signings are to his immediate plans at United. “Erik ten Hag doesn’t want any other players apart from those two first [De Jong and Eriksen],” Van der Kraan declared on Sky Sports.
“Ten Hag says he’s seen the style of Barcelona and Ajax – if you want to play a certain attacking style, then you need Frenkie.”
Given United’s issues in midfield, a problem position which plagued predecessors Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick.
It is more than understandable why Ten Hag views De Jong and Eriksen’s arrivals – two silky playmakers who were both nurtured in Amsterdam as youngsters – as the key components for imprinting a new style of play this summer.
Red Devils legend Gary Neville has even sounded the alarm for his old club to get a shift on with their summer business. “I know early in the window but it’s worrying that United are struggling to get business done,” the former United captain recently wrote on Twitter.
“The others seem set and ready yet United can’t get moving. Erik ten Hag needs his group together as soon as possible to mould them. Bringing them in late will only make it harder for him! Fingers crossed it happens soon!”