One of the few constant grumbles that the Dutchman has with his side is that they are simply not finding the back of the net often enough. Even after the 3-0 win against Nottingham Forest, Ten Hag bemoaned the missed chances and called for his side to be more ruthless in front of goal.
And he has a point – squandered chances will eventually catch United out. The Premier League is so competitive that the fine margins can make all the difference between success and failure and a missed opportunity during a 3-0 win may be forgivable now, but that will certainly not always be the case.
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More specifically, Ten Hag is concerned about the lack of goals coming from midfield this season.
“I think we have in our squad players who can score that number of goals, but you can also divide it because we have many goalscorers across the offensive department,” he said. “But I think we also need something from midfield and the defensive department.”
Since that statement in October, United have scored seven goals through midfield across all competitions. But in the Premier League, the numbers do not make for great reading.
After the Forest game, Bruno Fernandes and Fred led the way for United with two goals each, while Casemiro and Christian Eriksen each had a solitary strike to their name. When compared to the likes of Newcastle&aposs Miguel Almiron, Leicester&aposs James Maddison, or Arsenal&aposs Martin Odegaard – the difference is clear to see.
All three of those sides have managed to score more goals than United this season and it is obvious that Ten Hag needs someone to help share the burden with his attackers. The January transfer window may provide the perfect opportunity to do just that.
Youri Tielemans has been heavily linked for a while now with a move to Old Trafford. The 25-year-old is out of contract with Leicester in the summer and can therefore be signed on a free at the end of the season.
The Foxes however will be concerned about losing the Belgian international for nothing and would surely be tempted by a January offer, even if it is less than they had hoped for. This ties in with United&aposs situation perfectly, as Ten Hag has been warned against a repetition of the summer spending that saw 225million shelled out on six new arrivals.
Although Eriksen and Casemiro were both brought in during that window to bolster United&aposs midfield, they are in their thirties and not getting any younger. That is not to say they are not good enough – the pair have been two of the best players under Ten Hag this season – yet a longer-term solution is clearly needed in the middle of the pitch.
Tielemans is five years younger than the duo but is not so inexperienced that walking into the first-team of a Premier League side can be seen as a risk.
Furthermore, the midfielder has a reputation for scoring goals, more often than not they are sensational strikes coming from outside the box, something that adds a new depth to United&aposs attacking options.