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Man Utd transfer setback highlights Erik ten Hag's major Nemanja Matic issue

By Dan Marsh

Erik ten Hag is still weeks away from officially taking over at Old Trafford, but the new Manchester United manager is already encountering major obstacles in his bid to overhaul some of the club's deep-rooted issues.

Ten Hag has already suffered a relatively major setback in the transfer market after The Daily Star revealed that four of the midfield targets highlighted by the Dutchman are set to be unattainable this summer. The club had earmarked the likes of Jude Bellingham, Kalvin Phillips, Declan Rice and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic to provide the quality that they have been sorely lacking in midfield.

It now seems highly unlikely that any of that quartet will be gracing the hallowed turf of Old Trafford next season. But Ten Hag is going to have to go back to the drawing board - because United have been in desperate need of a midfield anchor for some time.

Chelsea have Jorginho, Manchester City have Rodri and Fernandinho, Liverpool have both Thiago and Fabinho. But United, despite their leaky back line, have nobody capable of sitting in front of the defence and mopping up opposition chances. Nemanja Matic and Juan Mata have already confirmed that they are set to depart the club at the end of the season, while club-record signing Paul Pogba is poised to walk out on United for the second time.

Although United's numbers in the engine room will be boosted by the return of loan stars James Garner and Donny van de Beek next year, neither of them are the type of midfielder that United lack. The club have desperately needed an upgrade on Matic - who failed to hit the heights he scaled previously at Chelsea - for years.

Unfortunately, it seems as though Ten Hag will have to pay the price for the negligence of others by addressing the issue in a tough market. It still defies belief that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, after leading United to a second-placed finish last term, failed to amend the biggest issue in his squad last summer.

Join the debate! Who do you think Man Utd should sign in the summer? Let us know here.

Manchester United have needed an upgrade on Nemanja Matic for years (David S.Bustamante/Soccrates)

It's far from ideal for Ten Hag to entertain the prospect of bringing in someone who wasn't his first-choice, but he simply cannot afford to make the same mistake as Solskjaer and ignore the issue - even if it means a stop-gap signing.

In truth, it's hard to see United troubling any of the Premier League's top-four until they rectify their deep-rooted midfield issues. Manchester City have Rodri, while Fabinho has excelled for Liverpool this year in their seemingly endless hunt for trophies. It's no coincidence that United - who have no-one in that mould - are streets behind the rest of the Premier League's top-hitters.

Competing in the transfer market was always going to be an issue for Ten Hag after United failed to qualify for next season's Champions League. While he has a plethora of issues to contend with at Old Trafford, it's imperative that he manages to come up with a solution to their current transfer impasse in midfield if he is to get United firing again.

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Dive Deeper:
Inside Erik ten Hag's Man Utd meeting: Who got the invite and transfer plans revealed
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Erik ten Hag's four midfield targets ALL reject Man Utd transfer before he even starts
Incoming Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag looks set to face disappointment in his attempts to strengthen the club's midfield…
Man Utd icon Rio Ferdinand gives Frenkie de Jong transfer verdict to Erik ten Hag
Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong has emerged as a target for Manchester United ahead of the summer transfer window, and…
Man Utd 'privately dismiss' claims over Erik ten Hag's summer transfer budget
Manchester United have confirmed the appointment of Erik ten Hag as their new first team manager, but has a daunting…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
5 free agents Erik ten Hag could target with Man Utd summer transfer budget in question
Manchester United's new manager Erik ten Hag is set for an exceptionally busy first summer in charge, with the Red…
Frenkie de Jong at 25: Costing Ajax €1, Erik ten Hag's solution and Man Utd transfer hope
Frenkie de Jong turns 25 on Thursday and should now be in the peak of his career but he could…
Get all your news in one place