Erik ten Hag has admitted Manchester United may have to be “creative” to sign an elite striker in January because of the cost and difficulty involved.
The manager wishes to strengthen his attack following the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo. Limited finances, though, meant United were unable to buy Cody Gakpo from PSV, bought instead by Liverpool for £35m, and the €22m (£19.5m) required to loan Atlético Madrid’s João Félix is also prohibitive. While Ronaldo leaving provides about £10m in saved wages for Ten Hag’s budget, he said it would be a challenge acquiring the level of forward desired when asked how realistic this was.
“It is always difficult, strikers are expensive and especially in the winter, you set the limits high so maybe we have to be creative,” he said. “We do everything in our power to get it done and get the right player who fits the balance.”
Ten Hag was asked if the club’s chances of being successful are around 50-50. “I don’t think you can judge that and rate it,” he said. “It is about timing, availability, about so many circumstances playing a role. It is now [late] December – the window has not even started.”
Lisandro Martínez is back with United after being a member of Argentina’s triumphant World Cup squad at Qatar 2022. The centre-back is available for Saturday’s trip to Wolves and Ten Hag urged him to continue to elevate his performance.
“It is good he arrived in Manchester,” the manager said. “It is definitely a boost [winning the World Cup]. He already is a player who is confident of himself and has high belief. This experience will strengthen him even more and he has to bring it to the squad.
“Argentina played to win in contrast to several other nations who played not to lose. I know there is high potential and if he works good then he can have huge space for improvement. Now he is returning from the World Cup and it is another challenge to go [again]. That experience is so emotional and now you have to manage that as a player. Opponents will be even tougher against him – he likes challenges.”
Jadon Sancho has returned to United after training separately in the Netherlands because of a loss of form and confidence but is not yet ready to rejoin the senior squad. “Of course there is coming a time [for this] but the time is not now,” said Ten Hag. “He is making progress, we will see when he is ready. He is back in Manchester and will start in individual training.”