Manchester United's resurgence under Erik Ten Hag continued on Friday night, as they ground out a 3-1 win in the FA Cup third round against Everton.
Ten Hag has impressed punters in recent weeks with the turnaround he has overseen at Old Trafford. After a slow start to the season, which took in heavy losses to Brentford and Manchester City, United now sit firmly in the top four race, and are through to the later rounds of the League Cup and Europa League.
The summer signings at the club have been crucial to their success, with Casemiro, Lisandro Martinez, and Christian Eriksen in particular winning the favour of Manchester United fans.
They have, however, bucked a recent trend at the club.
Ever since the departure of Alex Ferguson as manager in 2013, United's muddled transfer business has been a crucial element of their struggle to return to the top. Mediocre big-money signings such as Marouane Fellaini and Morgan Schneiderlin epitomise the ineptitude of the club's transfer dealings.
In the summer of 2019, Aaron Wan-Bissaka was chosen ahead of Joao Cancelo as their preferred right-back signing, while the club also reportedly missed out on signing Sadio Mane while he was still at Southampton. Cancelo and Mane would go on to achieve great things at rivals Manchester City and Liverpool.
These are but a few of the examples of the poor signings United have made over the years and, after Friday's win over Everton, Ten Hag questioned the club's transfer dealings over the past decade.
Erik Ten Hag bemoans "average" Manchester United signings
The squad Erik Ten Hag inherited at Old Trafford was filled with players who underperformed during the catastrophic 2021-22 season. Players such as Harry Maguire have seen little game time this season, and it was hard not to feel that Ten Hag had called out some similar signings with his post-match remarks on Friday.
Speaking to the media after United progressed to the fourth round of the FA Cup, Ten Hag slammed the policy of the club in buying "average" players in recent years, and stressed the calibre of player that he saw as necessary in Manchester:
The club has bought an unimaginable number of players in recent years who have not been good enough. Most purchases have been average - and at Manchester United average is not good enough.
United's shirt weighs heavily. Only real personalities, who can perform under great pressure, can play here.
Strong comments indeed from Erik Ten Hag, as he appears to slam those in charge of United's transfer business, and his predecessors in the manager's hotseat, for their recent acquisitions.
Ten Hag has been ruthless thus far in dealing with his players. The departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, and the quiet disciplinary dealings with Marcus Rashford and Alejandro Garnacho have shown his strength in dealing with his squad.
He has also reinforced that squad with similarly strong characters, adding to the experience of Raphael Varane at centre back. On Friday night, he went on to stress the importance of showing personality at the club:
We needed personalities. That's why the acquisition of Casemiro was so important. Along with Raphael Varane, we now have a second player who has experience of winning titles.
Malacia, Martinez, Casemiro, Antony are all fighters, while Christian Eriksen is a technical winner and a great personality. We want the best of the best. Any players we bring to Manchester United must meet the highest standard.
Erik Ten Hag has certainly made a lot of progress at Manchester United, and the early signs of an impressive team are beginning to show. He will face sterner tests in the coming weeks, with games against league leaders Arsenal and Manchester City, and a European assignment against Barcelona to come.
With the quality of signings seemingly improving at the club, however, United fans will hope this is only the beginning.