Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag has shed some light on his transfer strategy, acknowledging that Frenkie de Jong was his primary target to implement his famed Ajax tactics at Old Trafford.

De Jong, who thrived under Ten Hag at Ajax before joining Barcelona, remained the Dutchman’s top choice when he took the United reins in 2022. However, the Red Devils ultimately missed out on the midfielder, leading them to acquire Casemiro from Real Madrid for a hefty £70 million.

Ten Hag’s subsequent claims that replicating his Ajax style at United wasn’t feasible left fans scratching their heads. Now, he clarifies that the ideal midfield duo he envisioned consisted of both De Jong and Casemiro, a partnership that would have closely mirrored his preferred setup at his former club.

“It’s all about having the right players,” he explained to Sky Sports. “The Ajax style demands specific characteristics, and Frenkie de Jong alongside Casemiro would have been a perfect fit. They would have complemented each other beautifully.”

Ten Hag’s comments also touch on another missed opportunity – the failure to land Harry Kane before his move to Bayern Munich. This further underlines the challenges United have faced in the transfer market in recent years.

“Only outstanding players can truly succeed at this club,” he emphasized. “The expectations are immense, with United being one of the biggest clubs globally. Fans expect nothing but the best, and that translates to the playing squad.”

He elaborated, “Manchester United needs individuals with a complete skillset – not just technical ability, but also the mental fortitude to perform consistently under immense pressure. Every game demands a win, and only outstanding players can handle that weight of expectation.”

Ten Hag acknowledges the difficulties United have encountered in the transfer market over the past decade, often falling short of their targets. “Sometimes, building a team requires accepting the development of talent rather than simply bringing in established stars,” he concluded.

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