John Murtough revelation confirms Man Utd haven’t ditched plan that enraged Jose Mourinho
Jose Mourinho saw a number of his transfer proposals blocked by the Manchester United hierarchy during his time in the dugout, with Erik ten Hag facing similar during his first window in charge
For all the talk of ruthless revolution, it appears that certain Old Trafford habits die hard.
In the last 18 months Manchester United have hired their first Football Director, a Technical Director, replaced their manager and saw a change at Chief Executive. But the braintrust of John Murtough, Darren Fletcher, Erik ten Hag and Richard Arnold are seemingly sticking with some of the methods which have produced such startling mediocrity over the past decade.
Ten Hag made the switch from Amsterdam to Manchester on the proviso that he would have the final say over transfer plans. In fact, it is understood the Dutchman was insistent that he would have the loudest voice when it came to recruitment.
“I set requirements in advance about how I want to work,” he said shortly after his appointment. “If they aren’t granted, I won’t do it. I am ultimately responsible and accounted for the results.”
And reflecting on his first window in charge, few could argue that Ten Hag didn’t have his fingerprints all over their transfer activity. Lisandro Martinez and Antony cost almost £150million combined – and both played under the new boss last season.
Christian Eriksen trained with Ajax at the turn of the year, whilst Tyrell Malacia caught his eye personally during an Eredivisie clash. Casemiro was the exception to the Ten Hag rule, arriving with a stellar reputation from an era of unprecedented success with Real Madrid.
But it has now emerged the man in the dugout didn’t get all his own way, the Athletic report that Ten Hag had hoped for another reunion, plotting a move for Barcelona right-back Sergino Dest. The 21-year-old worked with the United coach at Ajax and was on his radar as he looked to upgrade his options in the position.
Erik ten Hag
Erik ten Hag insisted he would have significant control over Man Utd transfers
However, Murtough foiled any potential move for the 21-year-old, instead telling Ten Hag he would need to back Aaron Wan-Bissaka. The £50m signing under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has fallen completely out of favour with the Red Devils and finds himself behind Diogo Dalot in the pecking order, but United’s Football Director wanted him to stick around.
And it’s not the first time a United boss has seen his ambitious transfer plans turned down by the hierarchy. Ed Woodward admitted that he personally vetoed a number of Jose Mourinho targets during his final couple of seasons in charge.
In the summer of 2018, ‘the Special One’ drew up a shortlist of players he wanted to bring to the club to help them mount a title challenge. But from his list of five players, only Fred was signed.
Sergino Dest went on to join AC Milan after Ten Hag’s plan was foiled
That meant Mourinho failed in his plan to land defender Toby Alderweireld, Gareth Bale, Kieran Tierney and Willian. And speaking after his exit, Woodward confirmed he was forced to block a number of transfers.
“It is true that we didn’t sign a centre-back in the summer of 2018 and it is true there was a difference of opinion on one or two players between the manager and the recruitment department,” Woodward told United We Stand in 2018. “Sometimes I have to be one who delivers the ‘no’, which isn’t easy. Our natural tendency is to back the manager in every possible circumstance. But we have to listen to the recruitment experts too.”
While Ten Hag’s relationship with the United higher-ups is still strong, should things go wrong and those refusals continue, it could sow some seeds of discontent – as it did with his illustrious predecessor.