Manchester United are back in their place, according to manager Erik ten Hag, but the Dutchman believes he needs to strengthen this summer to make the progress he demands.
Ten Hag agrees with Arsene Wenger’s former assessment that claiming a place in Europe’s elite club competition is tantamount to winning a trophy.
However, he is not one to rest on his laurels and is already looking ahead to the transfer window as he tries to close the gap to FA Cup final opponents and the Premier League champions. , Manchester City.
“This club belongs in the Champions League,” said Ten Hag.
“Finishing in the top four was the main objective. The competition is tough, there are a lot of teams with very good teams, good managers and high budgets.
“At the moment it’s the maximum but we want more and I don’t have a lot of patience. The standards have to rise. Manchester City play exceptional football but we have a way to go.”
Former United defender Gary Neville said “investment is needed” for the club to progress further and Ten Hag had a similar view, adding: “In the summer we can work with the team we have. , but we have to strengthen ourselves.”
“You don’t get higher with this group”
United have been heavily linked with a move for Chelsea’s England midfielder Mason Mount in recent days, while Tottenham’s Harry Kane would be an obvious choice to fill the number nine role the club have identified as a priority if Spurs chairman Daniel Levy indicated a willingness to sell. .
United are known to be looking for an experienced central midfielder in what could be a summer of change at Old Trafford if the club can prove they are better at selling players than they have been in previous summers.
In all of this, there is the backdrop of the uncertainty of ownership.
The Raine Group, which is handling the potential sale of the club, continues to work towards a resolution after the Glazer family announced in November that they were considering selling.
There were suggestions of some clarity towards the end of the season, although representatives of Qatar’s Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani and Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s Ineos Group, the two main bidders, have privately said that they still did not know when the process would reach its conclusion.
Former United captain Neville, a longtime critic of the club’s current ownership, believes change must come for his former club to challenge City.
“Erik ten Hag has reached the maximum with this team,” Neville told Sky Sports.
“He will need an investment because I don’t think you will get higher with this group. That’s their limit. They are definitely not in contention for the title.
“The manager has proven he can handle the scale of the club. Now it’s about finding new owners and progressing on and off the pitch. Because they’ve been away for 10 years now, far from be close.”
While former Liverpool midfielder Jamie Redknapp believes Kane is an obvious target for the Old Trafford club.
“If Man Utd want to kick off next season they have to go get a better striker, Martial is not the answer,” he said. “They have to bring in Victor Osimhen from Napoli or Harry Kane, if they’re serious about challenging.
“Tottenham are a shambles, looks like if you were Harry Kane, with a year left on your contract, now is the time to leave. He missed the chance with Man City [last summer] and that’s the time it takes to grow. Tottenham is like a social experiment on how far you can push your fans. He deserves better.”
Lampard’s praise for Ten Hag
As he navigated the wreckage of an eighth loss in his 10 games in charge, Chelsea boss Frank Lampard identified the work done by Ten Hag immediately after taking over at United as key, with the manager granting his authority to a club.
This included dealing with the issues around Cristiano Ronaldo and his refusal to stay and watch his team-mates after being substituted at half-time in his first pre-season appearance – and then refusing to come on as a substitute in a game of the Premier League. against Tottenham in October
“There must be bases,” Lampard said. “There have to be fundamentals.
“I remember when Ten Hag first arrived people were talking about discipline and fines, Ronaldo’s situation and setting the standard. Those are where this club had a positive recovery .”