Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag maintains that he wants to sign English players but that their fees are prohibitively expensive.
Tyrell Malacia and Lisandro Martinez have been acquired by United from Eredivisie clubs, and Christian Eriksen, who gained notoriety at Ajax and trained with Ten Hag earlier this year, was a free agent earlier this year.
While United continues to pursue Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong, who Ten Hag trained for 18 months at Ajax, he has also sought center-back Jurrien Timber and striker Antony from Ajax. Ten Hag coached both players for Ajax for 18 months.
United are restricted by the profile of player they can target in the transfer market as they failed to qualify for the Champions League but they have invested £55.3million in Argentina’s international Martinez.
Earlier this month, Raheem Sterling moved to Chelsea from Manchester City for £47.5m rising to £50m and Jack Grealish became English football’s first £100m player last year. United made Harry Maguire the most expensive defender in the game’s history at £80m three years ago and Jadon Sancho arrived for £72.9m last year
The ‘English tax’ stung United in 2019 when they invested £50m in Aaron Wan-Bissaka, now available for transfer. Senior United sources stated at the time their preference was to recruit British players and Ten Hag echoed that,
despite favoring familiarity with his three additions.
“I would like to sign English players because I think there is only one criterion and that’s quality in combination with the price,” Ten Hag explained. “It looks like English players are quite expensive. It’s a fact you cannot deny. In the end, it’s about quality.”
Ten Hag also allayed worries about Martinez’s 5′ 9″ height. Although he may not be the tallest, he is highly skilled in the air. That is OK with me. You must, of course, strike the proper balance. One of his talents is having impeccable timing.
“I believe we have quality players [at center-back], but I also believe we need a strong, deep squad. On the left side of the defense last year, I studied United. He has a left foot, which is advantageous for both attacking and defending.