Ronaldo antics see Ten Hag accelerate plans for Man Utd deal to sign prolific World Cup star

Erik Ten Hag, Ajax boss during a press conference Credit: Alamy
Erik Ten Hag, Ajax boss during a press conference Credit: Alamy

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has a growing confidence that his side can land a 72-goal attacker when the January transfer window opens, TEAMtalk has been told.

The Red Devils manager lavished around £216m on six new players over the summer as phase one of his rebuild got underway. And while there have been signs of progress, Ten Hag knows much more is needed to close the gap at the top.

Indeed, a laboured United side finished sixth last season. This time around they sit in fifth with the season breaking for the World Cup.

However, hopes are high that United can enjoy a solid second half to the season.

That said, it looks like the club will have to plan forward without the services of Cristiano Ronaldo.

The unhappy Portuguese star has lashed out out at the club in an explosive interview with Piers Morgan. In it, he lambasted everything from the Glazers, the manager, to the way the club is being run. Even his former teammates Gary Neville and Wayne Rooney felt the player’s wrath.

As such, the club are reportedly locked in talks at terminating the player’s £500,000 a week contract.

And with the player set to become a free agent, Ronaldo is reportedly trying to secure a move back to a former club.

For United, though, that will leave a sizeable hole in their playing squad.

Man Utd ready to step up Cody Gakpo hunt

While the Portuguese veteran has not featured as regularly this season, he was still their 24-goal top scorer last term.

And prior to the release of the interview, Ten Hag very much saw him as having a leading role over the rest of the season.

However, Ten Hag has made it clear there can be no way back for Ronaldo, with a devastating two-word message to Joel Glazer.

As a result, United are being forced to change their transfer plans. And they are now looking to prioritise a new attacking signing in January.

And the player who figures very highly on their list is Cody Gakpo, whom they almost signed in the summer.

Ultimately, United decided to put their Gakpo interest on ice as they pursused a deal for Antony instead.

And while that almost cost them dear with Leeds coming close to his signing, Ten Hag is now very firmly back on his trail.

And TEAMtalk’s transfer expert Graeme Bailey has suggested the United manager is keen to get a deal done.

United ready to get deal done

“Cody Gakpo could be one of the stars of the World Cup and one of those moving in January. There won’t be lots of them,” Bailey said.

“We know Manchester United boss Erik Ten Hag is a huge admirer of the player, and they also share the same agents – clearly that doesn’t mean he definitely goes to United, but it certainly does not hurt either.

“Gakpo is a classic case of a player backing himself. Yes, he had Leeds and Southampton looking in the summer. But he always felt that his next move could be to one of Europe’s big clubs. And his form this season has been sensational.

“Ten Hag believes that Gakpo could be an ideal player to come in. In addition, that departure of Cristiano Ronaldo could set up a perfect situation for him to sign.”

United were previously expected to wait until the summer to sign Gakpo. However, Bailey has explained why a £40m deal could be on the agenda in January.

“PSV don’t have to sell, but I understand that they are very much open to the idea,” he added. “Their finances did take a bit of a hit this year when they surprisingly failed to make the group stages of the Champions League. That was something they had not planned for.”

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