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What a difference a week can make.
It had been rather quiet on the transfer front at Manchester United until the Old Trafford machine belatedly kicked into gear last week.
As all of their rivals around them have strengthened with statement signings, United were in serious danger of falling even further behind – not exactly the start new manager Erik ten Hag would have wanted.
Of course, there was – and still is – speculation and rumour. United have already been linked with nearly 90 players in the summer window, enough for five brand-new squads of 18.
Three of those might finally be arriving, potentially by the end of this week – but question marks over whether they will be enough remain.
The first through the door will be left-back Tyrell Malacia in a £13million deal from Feyenoord.
The 22-year-old Dutchman, of whom Ten Hag is known to be a huge admirer, appeared to be heading to Lyon before United spotted an opportunity and gazumped the French club to get their man. He arrived at Carrington on Monday morning to carry out his medical.
Tyrell Malacia arrived at Carrington for his medical ahead of a £13million move to United
The highly-rated young Dutch defender will be the first signing of the Erik ten Hag era but Frenkie de Jong (right) is the new manager’s No 1 target this summer
While perhaps not one to get pulses racing among disgruntled and frustrated United fans, it is a position where United have long required depth and he will provide much-needed competition for Luke Shaw.
Alex Telles is still on the books at Old Trafford but failed to seize his chance to nail down his place in the side, and was arguably one of United worst performers in a dismal campaign last term.
The deal for Malacia was a rarity for United in the transfer market in recent years as it was done largely under the radar.
That cannot be said for the club’s protracted pursuit of Frenkie de Jong. The Dutch midfielder is United’s top target this summer and the club have been in talks over the player with Barcelona for weeks.
Ten Hag and De Jong worked well together at Ajax and United remain in talks with Barcelona
Discussions are now focused on the structure of payment. United look set to stump up an initial £55m for the 25-year-old, with the deal rising to a potential £70m including add-ons.
The De Jong saga took a strange twist last week when Barcelona president Joan Laporta suggested the Dutchman could end up staying at the Nou Camp if he is willing to take a pay cut.
Laporta has been keen to ease Barca’s financial crisis by selling De Jong to United but realises the star is unwilling to be pushed out against his will. So Laporta has claimed he could stay, provided he accepts a reduction in his wages.
At this stage, however, it is more likely that De Jong signs on the dotted line at Old Trafford in what would be an excellent signing for a side that has just lost Paul Pogba.
There is no doubt De Jong would improve the current crop of United midfielders – some may suggest that is not too arduous a challenge – and his relationship with Ten Hag can only be a positive.
United are also locked in a battle with Arsenal for the signature of Ajax’s Lisandro Martinez
Ten Hag had hoped United would get their business done before departing for on tour
Another of Ten Hag’s former charges at Ajax could also be arriving as United want to bolster their much-maligned defensive unit by adding Argentina centre-back Lisandro Martinez to their ranks.
United are going head-to-head with Arsenal for the 24-year-old, with both clubs having submitted bids for the player.
An Ajax delegation of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and technical manager Gerry Hamstra were in London at the weekend following United’s bid of £38million for Lisandro, the structure of which offered Ajax more guaranteed cash than that of Arsenal’s similar proposal.
Lisandro has made it clear that he wishes to move to the Premier League and could end up having a straight choice between the once-great rivals should a fee be agreed by both clubs. Ajax are thought to be holding out for £43m.
The Argentine, who has made 118 appearances for Ajax, would be another welcome signing for United, although they will be looking to shift at least one of their other central defenders. Eric Bailly and Phil Jones appear the most vulnerable but both are on significant contracts that do not expire until 2024 and 2023, respectively.
Christian Eriksen is also now set to arrive at Old Trafford. In a shrewd move from United, the 30-year-old free agent has verbally agreed to join on a three-year deal after telling them that he wants to play for the Red Devils, with the news breaking just hours after Malacia was pictured at Carrington.
The Danish playmaker – yet another former Ajax player – will add to their options in midfield after the departures of Pogba and Nemanja Matic.
Free agent Christian Eriksen is also set to sign for United after agreeing to join the club
The Danish international suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch during Euro 2020 last summer
Eriksen showed during a successful loan spell at Brentford, who he joined in January, that he still has what it takes despite his heart problems and it is no surprise to see supporters lauding it as one of the smartest transfers United have made in recent memory.
Joining United continues a remarkable comeback for Eriksen, who suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch playing for Denmark at the European Championship just 13 months ago.
There are those in United’s deeply fractured fanbase who will remain exasperated with the club’s business even if they do get all four over the line.
Only signing a player in Malacia, who is not expected to be first choice, four days into July would have represented a disappointing return considering Ten Hag was hoping to have most of the players he wanted in place before they depart for their pre-season tour of Australia and Thailand on Friday.
But the move for Eriksen is another step in the right direction following what had been an underwhelming window.
But Cristiano Ronaldo has stunned United by telling the club he wishes to leave
United still look miles short of rivals such as Manchester City, who have signed Erling Haaland
For all the noise surrounding possible incomings, the headlines have still been dominated by the bombshell announcement that Cristiano Ronaldo wishes to leave should they receive a suitable offer.
Ronaldo, 37, had been due back for pre-season training on Monday but was given permission from the club not to return, less than 48 hours after news that he wants away emerged.
The Portuguese star, his team’s top scorer with 24 goals in all competitions last season, has grown frustrated with the club’s inactivity in the transfer market and also wants to be playing in the Champions League, which Ronaldo does not envisage happening at United.
Ronaldo’s desire to depart Old Trafford for a second time could have far-reaching consequences beyond leaving a huge hole to fill as it would have a considerable impact on the remainder of United’s summer window.
Should he push harder to leave, the prospect of having to find a new striker will mean a stark re-assessment of United’s limited budget, throwing their plans further into chaos.
United would be in desperate need for a replacement if Ronaldo gets his wish, but they have seen Erling Haaland join Manchester City and Liverpool snap up Darwin Nunez from Benfica, a player club chiefs were keen on.
Fans are divided on Ronaldo, with some lamenting his potential departure and others believing a move is best for all parties. A sale is far from straightforward as he is under contract at United until June 2023 – with the option of a further year – and is paid around £480,000 per week.
His future is an issue Ten Hag and the club will want resolving – and fast.
Whatever happens with Ronaldo, the circus that is a United transfer window is sure to continue until the very minute that it closes on September 1.