Erik ten Hag’s top priority at Manchester United this summer has to be fixing the club’s recruitment, according to Rio Ferdinand.
United confirmed on Thursday that Ten Hag had agreed to take over as manager on a contract until June 2025, with the option of a further year. The 52-year-old Dutchman will take over the reins from Ralf Rangnick at the end of the season, once he has concluded his work with Ajax.
He will take on a major rebuilding job at Old Trafford, with Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Edinson Cavani, Juan Mata and Nemanja Matic all out of contract in the summer and doubts hanging over several other players. United signed Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane last summer, but will need another injection of new players ahead of the 2022/23 season.
The club have a whopping negative net spend of £908m over the past 10 years, having spent £1.3billion on players, while bringing in £397m in sales, according to a study by CIES Football Observatory . That is a legacy which reflects badly on United, but Ferdinand believes Ten Hag’s record at Ajax shows he has the ability to turn around the club’s fortunes on the transfer market.
“He’s had players that are rough diamonds, players that are off the conveyor belt of the youth system, bringing players from the academy that he’s integrated into the first team and helped become superstars,” Ferdinand said on his YouTube channel Vibe with Five .
“And he’s had players that have been discarded by opposition teams and teams from around Europe and seen that talent. And what that says to me is that he’s been working with a recruitment team who have been getting it right more often than not – and that’s a big, big element that needs sorting out at Manchester United – because recruitment, I think, has probably been one of the biggest downfalls of the last 10 years.
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Rio Ferdinand Presents FIVE/Youtube)
“I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: players have been bought where people have gone ‘yes, I see that’ but it hasn’t worked out, they haven’t improved when they’ve come in the building at Manchester United.
“What players have improved? What players have dramatically improved and gone to another level since coming to Manchester United? I couldn’t name them – Bruno [Fernandes] maybe and that’s it. Everybody else, they haven’t – they’ve either stayed the same or regressed down and gone backwards and they wouldn’t be able to leave for the fee that they came in for. That tells you everything.
“That’s an area that he (Ten Hag) will definitely need to look at. Man United have spent lavishly over the last few years on big, big players – players that have excited you. At the beginning of the season, Ronaldo comes in, Varane, Sancho, I’m excited, but it doesn’t work. We can’t afford to have windows like that again – the recruitment has to be right, you have to have the right reason to buy players that can help with the culture.”