FSG put plans in place to stop Man Utd nightmare at Liverpool after 'worst signing in history'

Liverpool might have struggled to beat Manchester United this season, wasting chances galore in two Premier League draws and an FA Cup exit, but few others can say the same.

The Red Devils fell to a pathetic 4-0 defeat away at Crystal Palace on Monday night, with the loss leaving them eighth in the table and at risk of missing out on European football next season altogether. Should they not gain any places in the final three games of the season, it will be their worst finish since coming 13th in 1989/90.

Losing 13 Premier League matches to date 35 outings, such a total is already their highest in Premier League history and the most since 1989/90. Meanwhile, currently on 54 points, they need five more to overtake their lowest points return (58 in 2021/22) in Premier League history and again since 1989/90.

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Their goal difference embarrassingly stands at minus three, with the 81 goals they have conceded this season across all competitions their most since 1976/77.

And shipping 55 in the Premier League, they are on course to concede more than the 57 they conceded in the English top-flight in 2021/22, which currently stands as the most league goals they’ve conceded in a campaign since 1978/79.

Winning just once in 90 minutes from their last nine matches, with such a run including two meetings with Liverpool, it really does beg the question how on earth did Jurgen Klopp's men not emerge victorious against Erik ten Hag’s struggling side at least once this season. Admittedly, the German has conceded more than once how such a quandary has contributed to derailing the Reds’ title-challenge in recent weeks.

Ten Hag’s future at Old Trafford has been the subject of scrutiny ever since Sir Jim Ratcliffe purchased a 25% stake in the club last year, with INEOS Sport assuming control over football operations from the Glazer Family. Only time will tell if United’s latest heavy defeat could prove to be one of the final nails in the Dutchman’s coffin.

Prior to this season, the 2021/22 campaign had been United’s low-point. Yet Ten Hag, whose appointment was confirmed in April 2022, was brought in from Ajax to reverse the rut. And he quickly took control of re-shaping his squad, after previous interim manager Ralf Ragnick’s insistence that United needed an overhaul.

Former CEO Richard Arnold, who left the club following Ratcliffe’s investment, controversially made headlines in the summer of 2022 when he was secretly filmed by supporters at a pub and quizzed about the club’s transfer strategy, admitting the club had 'burned through money' in the years prior.

Yet two years on and the same accusations can still be thrown at Ten Hag’s United, despite the fact he has endured difficult transfer windows after being left unable to land first-choice targets Frenkie De Jong from Barcelona and Harry Kane from Tottenham Hotspur in the last two summers.

The Dutchman has still overseen a whopping £412m outlay on new signings during his two years in charge, with United seemingly still in the exact same hole they were in when Ten Hag took charge in the first place.

From such a total, £191m was spent reuniting with former Ajax trio Lisandro Martinez, Antony, and Andre Onana alone. For the record, loan signing Sofyan Amrabat played for Ten Hag at Utrecht.

The former Ajax trio make up three of the six players to have ever made over 150 appearances under Ten Hag, so are clearly players he knows better than most. But are they even up to the standards required?

Sure, Martinez enjoyed a successful start to life at Old Trafford before injury intervened, but Antony, who is the second-most expensive player in the club’s history, has proved to be nothing more than an ineffective, big-money flop.

He might have made a decisive impact against Liverpool in the FA Cup, coming off the bench to score in their 4-3 victory in March, but 11 goals and five assists from 81 appearances is a dreadful return.

Following their latest thrashing by Crystal Palace, the Brazilian, who was withdrawn on the hour-mark at 3-0 down was so poor that the Manchester Evening News would label him as, ‘undoubtedly the worst signing in Manchester United's history.’

Meanwhile, Onana has endured an error-strewn miserable first season at Old Trafford as he struggles to replace David de Gea. As for Amrabat, he appears to be a deadline day panic buy on loan from Fiorentina who hasn’t looked up to the pace of English football.

The majority of his other high-profile signings have struggled to make the decisive impact also.

After missing out on De Jong, Ten Hag brought in Casemiro from Real Madrid in a deal worth up to £70m. But while the 32-year-old impressed in his first season in Manchester, he has struggled horrendously in the current campaign.

After defeat to Palace, the MEN would bemoan his ‘bad practice’ big-money, lengthy contract and insist his United career must end this summer. On a rapid descent, ‘earning around £350,000-a-week with two years left on his contract’ is a ‘nightmare scenario for Ineos’ they wrote.

Elsewhere, Tyrell Malacia hasn’t made a single appearance during the current season, while injury has limited Mason Mount to an ineffective 14 Premier League outings, of which only five have been starts, since his £60m move from Chelsea.

And while Rasmus Hojlund has perhaps done admirably since ending his 14-game Premier League goalscoring drought at the start of his Old Trafford, netting 14 goals since his £72m signing from Atalanta, the 21-year-old is no Harry Kane.

Whether first-choice signings or not, United’s recruitment has continued to be dismal with Ten Hag’s preference to reunite with Antony in particular backfiring spectacularly. On this evidence, the Red Devils have not learnt from their previous mistakes, despite Arnold’s pub-based admissions two years ago.

With Arne Slot set to replace Klopp as Liverpool manager this summer, there have been suggestions in some circles that the Reds are making the same fatal mistake as United by turning to the Eredvisie for a successor.

Likewise, others have suggested that Liverpool are set to embark on a similar post-Sir Alex Ferguson decline as their bitter-rivals when Klopp officially departs.

Yet the Reds find themselves in a rather different scenario, despite such accusations. The United squad Ferguson left behind was ageing for one, while Slot will inherit a young squad from Klopp who will only get better, have already won one trophy and are hungry for more.

Meanwhile, Liverpool have already ensured they won’t fall into the same trap as United, with Slot set to be appointed with a new structure already in place to support him.

While Klopp might have informed owners Fenway Sports Group of his intention to step down back in November, with it later made public in January, FSG have prioritised re-shaping the Reds’ footballing operations team behind the scenes prior to appointing a new manager.

Consequently, Michael Edwards was brought back to the club as FSG’s CEO of Football, inheriting the day-to-day running responsibilities from Mike Gordon, with Richard Hughes then appointed as Liverpool’s new sporting director. Chief scout Mark Burchill and scout Craig McKee are set to join the Scot in making the move from Bournemouth to Anfield.

Elsewhere, David Woodfine is also returning to the club as assistant sporting director to Hughes, while the likes of head of recruitment Dave Fallows, chief scout Barry Hunter, and director of research Will Spearman all remain in place behind the scenes. With Slot not set to boast the same amount of power at Anfield as the departing Klopp, it is these aforementioned names who will lead up the club’s recruitment.

Slot will likely have some level of input of course, but his recommendation alone would not be enough to inspire a record fee spent on a familiar face. And in truth, the Dutchman has already seemingly suggested it is not a practice he would favour anyway, having been advised to be wary of signing his compatriots both by Netherlands legend Wesley Sneijder and former Everton director of football Marcel Brands.

"Don't focus blindly on attracting five Dutch players," Brands said during an appearance on Dutch television. "He has to look very carefully at what he needs with his style of football. Only settle for top players.

"Slot will be working at one of the biggest clubs in England. You have to realise that. Liverpool has supporters from all over the world, and the pressure is always there.”

Responding to such remarks, Slot said: "That’s good advice from people who have worked in the Premier League and have made their mark in football. But I don’t think you should always judge based on moments from the past.

"I also read everywhere about the success rate of Dutch coaches in England. There are so many variables,” he said when speaking to Voetbal Zone. “If a player is good, it shouldn’t matter what level he comes from."

If a player is good enough, Liverpool will surely look at them with the Reds data-based model proving to be a highly successful judgement model in recent years.

In truth, it is lazy to compare Slot with Ten Hag. Set to be one cog in an already successful machine, Liverpool’s new head coach is walking into a different animal entirely compared to the one that continues to tear Manchester United apart in the post-Ferguson era, season after season and manager after manager.