Richard Arnold has said ‘money is not a consideration’ in Manchester United’s pursuit of Frenkie de Jong as he took aim at Ed Woodward’s handling of transfers.
United have identified the Holland midfielder as their No 1 target for the summer as new manager Erik ten Hag rebuilds the club and negotiations with Barcelona are in progress.
And in a sensational exchange with a group of United supporters in a Cheshire pub, the chief executive suggested Ten Hag will be handed a substantial budget to kick-start his project at Old Trafford.
Having criticized his predecessor Woodward and the way United had ‘burned through cash’ during disastrous forays into the market in recent years, Arnold hinted he would leave transfers and recruitment to others in the hierarchy rather than replicate his predecessor’s hands-on approach.
Manchester United chief executive Richard Arnold met with supporters in a Cheshire pub, where he was critical of predecessor Ed Woodward and the wastage on poor signings
Arnold said United were trying to close a deal for Barcelona and Holland star Frenkie de Jong
On De Jong, who Barcelona value at £69million, Arnold told the fans: ‘Money is not a consideration in who we want.
‘It’s that the manager wants him, that they’ve actually done the work on looking if he’s a great player.
‘Is it £100 million or £200million? I don’t know. Get who you f***ing want.
‘Do you want me buying the players? Doesn’t that ring a bell?’
According to the Twitter of one of the fans who spoke to Arnold, the United chief also said: ‘United officials are in Barcelona getting the deal done for De Jong.
‘As a club we’re doing everything possible to get the deal done, I’ve been up for days trying to get it done. The money is there but there’s things standing in our way which I can’t say.’
New manager Erik ten Hag has identified ex-Ajax man De Jong as his No 1 summer target
Arnold (right) took over as United’s chief executive after Ed Woodward’s departure in February and was critical of his predecessor’s approach during the secretly-filmed chat with fans
A spokesperson for Manchester United said: ‘Richard heard that a group of fans had gathered in a pub near his house.
‘He went to meet them, bought them all a drink, listened to their views, and explained what the club is doing to deliver success on the pitch, improve the stadium, and strengthen engagement with fans.’
Ten Hag identified De Jong, 25, as his principal summer target to solve the defensive midfield issue that has hampered United for several seasons now. The pair worked together to great effect at Ajax.
De Jong is seen by the new manager as a key player for the style of football he wishes to bring to Old Trafford but De Jong has made clear he wants to remain at Barcelona.
In a video leaked online, the United CEO tells fans that the club ‘burned through cash’
Ten Hag would like the majority of this summer’s transfer budget spent on De Jong before moving on to other areas of the team which needed strengthening.
United have offered £56m for the Dutchman but Barcelona value him higher, suggesting a second bid could potentially happen this week.
The fact Arnold’s comments about ‘money not being a consideration’ have come to light could well hinder United in their efforts to drive down Barcelona’s asking price for De Jong.
They hope Barcelona will be pushed into a sale because of their perilous financial situation, with debts of close to £1billion.
The Catalan club have to submit their accounts to LaLiga by the end of June, which will determine any spending limits for next season and, therefore, which players have to be offloaded to raise or free up cash.
Arnold was candid with the group of United fans in secretly-filmed conversations held in a pub close to his Cheshire home.
Not only did he criticize the Woodward era’s colossal waste in the transfer market on players such as £89m Paul Pogba, but he described the last 12 months as a ‘f***ing nightmare.’
United could only finish sixth in the Premier League and failed in every other competition after they sacked Ole Gunnar Solskjaer last November and replaced him with an interim manager in Ralf Rangnick.
In an honest appraisal of United’s recent history, Arnold on Saturday told the group of supporters: ‘We spent a billion pounds on players, more than anyone in Europe.
Barcelona want £69million for midfielder De Jong, who is reluctant to leave the Nou Camp
‘I’m not thrilled where we are. It doesn’t sit easy with me and I worry how we get this sorted for the future. What’s happened is we have f***ing burned through cash.
‘You can’t go to our training ground and say ‘show me where the £1billion is’ because we haven’t spent money well historically.
‘Last year was af***ing nightmare. There was hate at every game. We’ve blown through an enormous amount of money.’
It is understood a group of United fans traveled to the area in which Arnold lives and on hearing about it, he agreed to meet them and try to express his point of view.
United were affected by anti-Glazer protests at Old Trafford last season and Arnold suggested to the supporters he spoke to it would be better for those to stop.