Erik ten Hag has explained why Manchester United took so long to sign Antony and named Casemiro as the major signing to help transform the culture at the club.
United moved early to sign players at the start of the summer, securing deals for Eriksen and Tyrell Malacia at the start of the window, but supporters grew frustrated when a number of transfer pursuits seemed to hit roadblocks.
But now Ten Hag has revealed that an £81.3m move for Antony, which was not done until September 1 – was always in the pipeline but the Red Devils were waiting for clarity over Greenwood’s situation.
‘In January he had already indicated to Ajax that he would be gone in the summer and Ajax were already busy looking at another Brazilian and trying to sign Steven Bergwijn,’ Ten Hag told Voetbal International.
‘The fact that we did not immediately focus on the arrival of Antony with United had to do with the uncertainty surrounding Mason Greenwood and also the return of Antony after an injury.’
Ten Hag inherited a team that underperformed last campaign, only managing to finish sixth, but they have delivered some very superb displays in the current season and occupy fifth position – four points behind third-placed Newcastle with a game in hand.
The former Ajax manager says United’s team were in disarray when he took over and lacked the mettle and spirit to compete for silverware, which is why he felt Casemiro was such a key signing to make.
He added: ‘Manchester United’s interest started in the spring. The club worked very meticulously and indicated they had three candidates.
‘I had a conversation with sporting director John Murtough and technical director Darren Fletcher about the football technical part, but that was by no means everything. I also had a conversation with the CEO and then the owners and an external agency was even deployed.
‘[I told them] there was no spirit in the team, I didn’t see any team dynamics in the squad.
‘The mental toughness was very low. The fighting spirit, fighting for each other, putting the team first – that didn’t really exist in the squad. Changing the culture was the most important thing for me when I took over.
‘To get that in the dressing room you need to have personalities, that’s why the signing of Casemiro was so important. He can speed up the process because he knows what you have to do to win titles.’