Erik ten Hag is breaking his word by changing Manchester United’s transfer policy.
“We don’t just need any player,” Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag stated last week. “You need the proper guys.”
It is true that a broken clock is right twice a day, and Manchester United is hoping that the additions of Marko Arnautovic and Adrien Rabiot can change a transfer policy that has been broken for nearly a decade.
United was anxious to appoint Erik ten Hag in April so that they could hit the ground running in the summer transfer window, but that hasn’t exactly gone as planned.
They are still negotiating a contract to bring Frenkie de Jong to the club and have recruited three players to improve their first-team squad, albeit none of them have been particularly successful. Tyrell Malacia was set to join Lyon before United stepped in; Christian Eriksen was a free agent; and Lisandro Martinez, an Ajax player who idolized coach Ten Hag and wanted to play in the Premier League.
So, after a thrashing at the hands of Brighton on the opening weekend, they are back to the drawing board, this time sifting through the cheap bins and reduced aisles of footballing potential in quest of their next two recruits.
Ten Hag cautioned last week that United would not sign just anyone during the summer window, emphasizing that it was better to sign no one than the wrong player before the deadline. Then pursuing the controversial pair is hypocritical.
There is no denying that United are short on choices and wants further talent in their team, but buying a 33-year-old forward and a midfielder who Juventus has battled to sell all summer is not a long-term strategy.
Rabiot has some redeeming qualities, such as playing 45 times for the Turin club last season, winning six league titles in his senior career, and being a versatile option. However, he, like Arnautovic, has been dogged by controversy throughout his career and is not an apparent match for a team that is working on unity under Ten Hag.
In one case, PSG launched an internal investigation into Rabiot’s behavior after a video surfaced online showing the midfielder in a nightclub just hours after the French side was knocked out of the Champions League by Manchester United, and he also ‘liked’ a social media post from Patrice Evra celebrating the result.
“I find unacceptable a player’s attitude and lack of professionalism towards the club, his teammates, and his supporters,” former sports director Antero Henrique remarked before the midfielder was sidelined for several weeks.
Ten Hag believes Arnautovic is a character who would improve a self-believing dressing culture and provide United with more firepower in their bland attacking line. There are numerous personal reasons to doubt such an impact, in addition to football-related ones.
Arnautovic turned to social media last summer to stress he was ‘not a racist after scoring Austria’s third goal in a 3-1 win over North Macedonia at Euro 2020.
It was said that he shouted an anti-Albanian slur towards opposition player Egzon Bejtulai, before engaging in a heated dispute with Bejtulai’s teammate Gjanni Alioski. Both Bejtulai and Alioski are of Albanian descent. Although Arnautovic represents Austria, his father is Serbian, and hostilities between Serbia and Albania have always been severe. Following an investigation, Arnautovic was barred from the next game for insulting another player.
Even if the slanderous allegations are ignored, he remains an old striker with a volatile temperament and an inflated ego. Sure, there have been legendary characters of his mold before, but that doesn’t make his signing any less significant.
The actual question is: what kind of character profiling does United employ if any?
In the past, United have grown unduly concerned with new signings’ playing potential rather than taking a step back to consider how they may fit into the organization.
They risk destroying all of their hard work this summer by recruiting players who will upset the squad’s ethos and whose personality traits have not been properly addressed.
If there is one team that should know better, it is Manchester United, but if there is one club that is naive enough to repeat the same mistakes, it is also Manchester United.