EXCLUSIVE: Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag has stepped up his interest players at former club Ajax and the Dutchman has been told his chances of bringing them to Old Trafford
Ajax will not allow Erik ten Hag’s plan to rebuild Manchester United lead to a mass exodus of the players he left behind in Amsterdam.
United have been circling the Dutch club for signings after Ten Hag drew up a wish-list on his arrival in Manchester. Ajax trio Jurrien Timber and Lisandro Martinez and Antony were part of his plans.
But Timber has turned his back on United after refusing to put his place in Holland’s World Cup squad in jeopardy following a warning from Dutch boss Louis van Gaal – and that has prompted the Reds to crank up their interest in his Argentine defensive partner Martinez in recent days. Ajax have already rejected an offer from Arsenal in the region of £30million.
Antony, the Brazilian winger valued at more than £50million, is another Ten Hag target. But Mirror Sport understands the word from inside Ajax is that they will not allow their former coach to tear apart the squad he built during his four-and-a-half-year reign. It is likely that Ten Hag will have to choose between Martinez and Antony – unless United make Ajax an offer that is just too good to refuse.
Ajax don’t need the money. They are Champions League regulars again and are about to sell former West Ham striker Sebastian Haller to Borussia Dortmund for £30million, having already raised £16.6million when Ryan Gravenberch joined Bayern Munich. Munich also snapped up Noussair Mazraoui on a free transfer and Ajax do not want to hand new coach Alfred Schreuder a squad that has been stripped bare.
They have cashed into the tune of more than £350million over the course of the last four years by allowing players like Frenkie de Jong, Matthijs de Ligt, Donny van de Beek and Hakim Ziyech to leave. Ten Hag left with Ajax’s good wishes after winning three Eredivisie titles. Chief executive Edwin van der Sar also has a working relationship with his counterparts at Old Trafford after serving United so well as goalkeeper under Sir Alex Ferguson.
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But they will not countenance United picking off their most talented assets on the cheap. Ajax are resigned to losing either Martinez or Antony following Timber’s decision to stay put – but not both. It would need a huge financial offer to change that stance. And with Barcelona making it clear to United that they will have to hand over most of Ten Hag’s budget to sign £80million-rated De Jong – talks are ongoing between the clubs but there has not yet been a breakthrough – it would need a major loosening of the Old Trafford purse strings to make it happen.
Chief executive Richard Arnold was secretly filmed telling angry fans that money was not an issue to deliver Ten Hag’s targets. United do not want to be fleeced after blowing more than £1billion in the transfer market over the last decade. But the club’s supporters have seen rivals Manchester City and Liverpool splash the cash already. Martinez, 24, made it clear to Ajax when he was linked with Arsenal that he could not turn down the chance to play in the Premier League. Anthony, 22, has also had his head turned by United’s interest. But it could come down to which player Ten Hag wants most. United, meanwhile, are still awaiting an answer from Christian Eriksen having offered the Denmark midfielder the chance to join Ten Hag’s Old Trafford revolution.