football

Erik ten Hag dealt transfer dilemma as Man Utd face being priced out of three targets


With almost two weeks of the summer transfer window up, Manchester United continue struggling to find a breakthrough in negotiations for Erik ten Hag’s leading targets. And now, even deals that once seemed like bankers, given United’s positive relationship with Ajax and Ten Hag’s successful stint as manager, look bleak.

The Dutchman has been given free rein on transfer targets while John Murtough revamps a predominantly-failed scouting network. United have been heavily linked with three Ajax players, at least one of whom he hopes joins him in the Premier League – Jurrien Timber, Lisandro Martinez and Antony.

However, Mike Verweij reports that all three have an ‘extremely small’ chance of leaving Ajax this summer due to their excessive price tags. The Dutch Eredivisie champions are essentially pricing United out of deals for three players Ten Hag is desperate to reunite with at Old Trafford.

Ajax value Antony at between £60.3m and £68.9m [€70m and €80m], far from the £40m the club’s initial approach was based around. Meanwhile, United would have to chalk out between £43m and £51.6m [€50m and €60m] for Timber or Martinez. Although, the defence is currently viewed as less of a priority to the midfield and attack.

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United’s summer budget is understood to be around £120m before player sales, with a potential deal for Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong likely to exceed at least half. Ten Hag’s desire for at least four new additions suggests the Red Devils can ill afford to splash the other half on another single player.

The ex-Ajax boss is understood to want two midfielders – De Jong and soon-to-be free agent Christian Eriksen – a forward and a centre-back. If the budget allows it, player sales-dependent, he would also like to recruit a new right-back, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka up for sale.

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Timber’s versatility – capable of playing as a right-back and centre-back – could attract Ten Hag and United as a two-in-one signing. But the 21-year-old is expected to remain at Ajax for guaranteed minutes ahead of the 2022 World Cup. Martinez can play centrally, at left-back and in defensive midfield, potentially making him the most enticing option of all three.

But United are in desperate need of attacking reinforcements, with Edinson Cavani gone, Mason Greenwood suspended, and Cristiano Ronaldo turning 38 next season. But Ajax’s stance could result in Ten Hag’s transfer search heading elsewhere.

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