A former Liverpool defender has fired some serious criticism towards Erik Ten Hag and Manchester United over their summer spending – and has explained why the decision to invest well over £200m could come back to haunt the Red Devils.
With Erik ten Hag at the helm, it was clear United needed wholesale changes. The club had just laboured to a sixth-placed finish with Ralf Rangnick unable to pick up results in the manner expected. And with a number of players departing Old Trafford, it was clear the club were going to have to spend big.
Indeed, they shelled out close to £215m on new players – the most the club has ever spent in a single transfer window. Six new players arrived, with Antony – for £85.5m – the headline new arrival.
However, two worrying losses in their first two games suggested throwing money at the problem was not going to be the answer.
Thankfully for Ten Hag, the club has since recovered well with a 2-1 home win over Liverpool proving a turning point. Including that victory, United have won five of last six games in all competitions.
Despite that, former Liverpool man Glen Johnson suggests spending such huge sums this summer is no guarantee of an improvement.
He believes that rather than spending so much on individuals, they should have gone with a more restrained approach.
And he feels over the long term, United will come up short against the better sides. Ultimately, that may also see United missing out on the top four once again, showing them up for spending so heavily.
Erik ten Hag tipped to miss out on top four
“The way they’ve been going, they’re just spending money for fun aren’t they? I’m not sure [about it],” Johnson told the Daily Express.
“I don’t think they’ll get into the top four. We probably are back to having the big six fighting for those four spots again. But I think United could be the ones to miss out.
“Spending big money on individuals isn’t the answer. You need to buy players that are going to fit the way you play and suit the players you’ve already got.”
United are next in action against Manchester City in what will be the biggest test yet for Ten Hag.
And while the Etihad clash will show them how near they are to their ‘noisy neighbours’, Johnson reckons the game will illustrate the gulf in class that still exists.
“It’s certainly going to be tough to stop them,” he added. “I’d be surprised if United get a result because City have been fantastic, they look great.
“They’ve pretty much got the best striker in the league, or even the world, at the moment. They’re certainly going to take some pegging back.”
Early days for United – but some positive signs
It’s still early days in the Erik ten Hag era, though the early signs have been impressive. If Johnson is right and they do lose to City, United will still be expected to make the top four.
That will be the minimum requirement Ten Hag will demand of his players too.
And with Sunday’s clash kicking off an exciting month, United will have more chances to close on the top four with games against Everton and Newcastle. They then face Tottenham and West Ham at home before the month is out.
And the United manager, despite Johnson’s warning, is seemingly pushing for more new arrivals too. To that end, a report claims a Leicester star and another Ajax attacker are Ten Hag’s ‘chosen ones’ ahead of the January window.
Even so, Ten Hag is still settling in at Old Trafford and still trying to fathom his best side.
But when big-money arrivals Casemiro and Antony do hit full stride, United will hope for a major upturn.
They can take encourage though from the return to form of Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford. The two attackers were well below their best last season but now look hungry and keen to prove a point.