MANCHESTER — Manchester United coach Erik ten Hag said he is aware that his club’s excessive spending in the close season transfer window means there is pressure to secure a top-four finish this term.
United spent more than £200 million (US$240.92 million) to bring in Brazilian duo Antony and Casemiro from Ajax Amsterdam and Real Madrid respectively, Argentine World Cup winner Lisandro Martinez and Dutch full back Tyrell Malacia ahead of the current campaign.
Ten Hag, who took over as coach from Ralf Rangnick in April, has revamped a squad looking to turn things around after their worst-ever Premier League points haul last term. United are fifth in the current standings, three points off the top four.
“I accept how it is, I accept that pressure,” ten Hag told a news conference. “But also for the manager of Chelsea and of Newcastle United, those clubs who have invested a lot in their squad.
“It’s big pressure for all of us to get into the top four. We want to be in the top four and fighting for trophies that’s our aim.”
It remains unclear whether two players key to United’s attempted transformation — first-choice centre back pairing Martinez and Raphael Varane — will be available for Tuesday’s home clash with Nottingham Forest.
Varane was on the losing side as France succumbed to Argentina in last weekend’s World Cup final, with Martinez watching on from the bench as an unused substitute.
“I can’t answer that question now,” ten Hag said of Martinez’s potential availability. “He’s still celebrating in Argentina, in Buenos Aires, he’s on the tour going around in Buenos Aires.
“I can understand that, it’s very emotional, very loaded when you win the World Cup (and bring it) into your country, it’s magnificent. But Licha Martinez also has to accept that on the 27th the Premier League will go on.
“Varane, of course, is disappointed about losing the final but he can also be proud of being in the final again and all that he has achieved in his career is massive, as a team and a player, to win so many trophies.”
Ten Hag does not expect Jadon Sancho to be available against Forest as he has still not returned to squad training. The 23-year-old started an individual training programme in the Netherlands four weeks ago and has not played since United’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea on Oct 22.