Eric ten Hag has been accustomed to facing questions about Kodi Jakobo ever since it became clear that Manchester United would need a replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo in the January transfer window.
Looking at Tuesday night’s Premier League clash with Nottingham Forest at Old Trafford, for example, Ten Hag was informed of a comment from PSV Eindhoven coach Ruud van Nistelrooy that there was a point at which the Dutch club would not be able to turn down an offer for Jackpo. .
Ten Hag remained a poker face, adhering to its policy of not discussing players of other clubs. “You can say that about a lot of players,” replied the United boss.
Cody Gacbo has been set for a £44m move from PSV to Liverpool after the clubs agreed a deal
Manchester United, led by Erik ten Hag, have long been linked with the Dutch international
Atletico Madrid’s Joao Felix has emerged as a potential transfer option for Man United
Van Nistelrooy’s comment was widely believed to be a signal of United’s long-standing interest in Jakopo after Old Trafford officials held talks over a move for the Dutch striker in the summer.
Liverpool turned out to be top-of-the-line with Gakpo and the offer Van Nistelrooy hinted at from PSV’s point of view was a club record £44m bid from Anfield.
No sooner had United fans digested the shocking news late on Boxing Day that Liverpool had eyed their opponents to sign Gakpo than they understood the fact that Ten Hag could be limited to loan options in January.
The uncertainty hanging over the club after the Glazers indicated they were ready to sell after 17 years in charge has weighed on United’s transfer strategy, as well as the fact that a club record £220m was spent in the summer window.
It was no secret that the Glazers had been looking to sell the club in recent months
Jakopo looked likely to move to Old Trafford after the dramatic exit of Cristiano Ronaldo
Loans might be a better bet for United at the moment, perhaps with an option to buy at the end of the season. However, Ten Hag’s assurance that he will not sign interim invitations is a delicate balancing act.
“We know we’ve lost a striker, so we need to get a striker,” he added, during the build-up to face Forest. “But it has to be the right person who brings quality to the team, not just an addition to the team. The standards are high here at Manchester United.
The problem is that it’s hard to scale up for quality when you’re working on a shoestring budget – and even more so when your competitors are willing to spend big.
Ten Hag said recently that CEO Richard Arnold assured him the takeover would mean more money for new signings. What he didn’t say was that money chains would tighten in the short term.
Erik ten Hag has admitted United need to sign a striker in the next transfer window
With the Glazers looking to sell for anything between £5-9bn, and more massive investment needed to redevelop Old Trafford, no one quite knows what the future holds. Against this backdrop of uncertainty, Liverpool swooped in to sign Jakobo who traveled to Merseyside to complete his transfer.
It was thanks to Ten Hag that people assumed United would be favourites, due to their Dutch connections. They served United well when Anthony and Lisandro Martinez moved from Ajax in the summer, the latter refusing competing interest from Arsenal.
Christian Eriksen also trained at Ajax with Ten Hag’s blessing as he returned to full health before joining United as a free agent, while Tyrell Malacia arrived from Feyenoord.
But Gakpo is the one who got away and United must now decide what to do next. Joao Felix has emerged as an option with Atletico Madrid looking to dethrone the Portugal star, and the club will have other candidates in mind. But January is never an ideal time to do business.
Atletico’s Felix is looking for a way out of the club after struggling in the Diego Simeone style
On the other hand, Ten Hag is well aware that United have scored just 20 goals in the Premier League this season, fewer than any of the other top eight clubs including Fulham and Brighton.
It was notable that he spoke with Marcus Rashford and young strikers like Alejandro Garnacho, Anthony Elanga and Facundo Pellestri when discussing his options. It’s not impossible – though still unlikely – that United will stick to what they have for the rest of the season.
“Goals can also come out of our team,” Ten Hag said. Look at Garnacho, Elanga and Pellestri who made quite an impression in the World Cup and also last week in a (behind closed doors) game against Everton, so there could be those first.
I think Marcus can score 20 goals in the Premier League. He’s got three in the World Cup so we know he can score those numbers in the league.
With a Gakpo deal off the table, United have a decision to make. Stick or twist? Loan or purchase? The window opens on Sunday and the 31-day countdown begins.
Ten Hag has called on Marcus Rashford to maintain his impressive form in recent weeks
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