Chelsea have committed around £600 million for 16 new signings since Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital bought the club a year ago but the 2021 Champions League winners visit Old Trafford on Thursday certain to finish in the bottom half of the table.
Ten Hag has spent around £200m in his reign but United, who came sixth last season, will be guaranteed a top-four finish if they avoid defeat in either of their last two games of the season.
But their future is shrouded in uncertainty with the owners, the Glazer family, putting the club up for sale. The Ineos businessman Sir Jim Ratcliffe and the Qatari billionaire Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al Thani have both submitted three bids so far.
Asked about comparisons with Chelsea, Ten Hag argued ambition and funds are not enough without a proper plan.
“When there is no strategy behind, or (not) the right strategy, money doesn’t work,” he said. “In this moment there is a centralisation of good players, of the best managers, also of the money, it is all here in the UK. And that makes a great competition, but also a tough and a hard competition.
“And you have to do the right things and you can have money but you have to do it and spend it in a smart way and also you need a strategy behind it, because, otherwise, the money doesn’t work.”