Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag would rather develop the players he has than sign the wrong man if the club fail in their pursuit of Frenkie de Jong.
Manchester United have been heavily linked with Barcelona midfielder De Jong for months and there were reports of their interest even before The Hag was officially named in April.
De Jong enjoyed his breakthrough at Ajax under Ten Hag, playing a key role in the team that almost reached the 2018-19 Champions League final.
He moved to Barca in 2019, but he probably hasn’t reached the level that many originally expected him to after his move to the Camp Nou.
The Hag apparently saw the acquisition of De Jong as crucial to the way United want to play, and media reports suggested the club had agreed a fee with Barca last month.
But it is claimed Barca owe De Jong millions of euros in deferred wages and he is apparently refusing to leave the club – which needs a big sale to ease its financial woes – until a settlement is reached.
While some fans may urge United to go ahead and sign an alternative, The Hag suggested that is not an option.
“Do we want Frenkie? I didn’t know,” he told reporters with a smile on Friday. “We want the right players, but I cannot comment on players under contract with other clubs.
“When we have news, we will bring it.
He added: “You work with the current squad, you develop the players who are in your current squad. At the moment the players in that position [in pre-season] have performed really well.”
While the De Jong saga shows no signs of ending, United have been able to add to their squad with promising left-back Tyrell Malacio, versatile Argentine defender Lisandro Martinez and Christian Eriksen.
With United’s lack of quality last season and eight first-team players leaving since then, many expected the club to be much busier on the transfer front.
Ralf Rangnick, who was caretaker manager in the second half of last season, suggested during his time in charge that the team needed up to 10 new players, but they have not brought in half that number.
De Jong aside, United are rumored to be keen to sign another striker, a right-winger and potentially a right-back, but again the Ten Hag insisted that he will not be satisfied with panic buying.
Asked if he was frustrated that they hadn’t strengthened all the areas he wanted, Ten Hag said: “It would be a good situation, but I’m happy with the current squad, they’re making good progress.
“I’m happy with the signings so far. You don’t just need any players, you need the right players. That’s what it’s all about and we’re working together.”
Afterwards, Ten Hag asked if he’d rather go without any signatures unless they were exactly who he wanted, and his answer was unequivocal.
“If it’s not the right player, no, I’m happy with the current squad,” he replied. “We need the right players.