New Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag is well aware of the defensive frailties he has inherited with his new club. United finished outside the Champions League spots and also conceded the most goals since the Premier League was established. The Dutchman will be aware of the need to bring in quality defensive recruits considering the number of possible outgoings and the poor form of the available players.
Skipper Harry Maguire, French World Cup winner Raphael Varane and Victor Lindelof are all expected to remain at Old Trafford. But all three had poor seasons and will need to prove their mettle under the new manager if United are to get back to the top.
The former Ajax boss has a clear mindset in terms of how he wants his team to play. In order to facilitate a quicker adaptation to his preferred style, he is targeting players he has worked with before, as evidenced by the fact that the club is set to sign Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong.
Matthijs de Ligt in, Timo Werner out?
Chelsea are looking to do a swap deal with Juventus #CFC https://t.co/akxWhl6jvP
— talkSPORT (@talkSPORT) June 26, 2022
Among defensive targets, the English giants have already shown concrete interest towards Ajax players Jurrien Timber and Lisandro Martinez. A new addition to that list is another of Ten Hag’s former players Matthijs De Ligt, who currently represents Juventus.
The Old Lady are open to selling the 22-year-old whose contract is until 2024 and has a reported release clause of a whopping €120 million. However, it would take an offer nearing €100 million for the side from Turin to begin negotiations.
Chelsea in pole position, United monitoring
The former Ajax captain is open to making a move to the Premier League with Manchester City also interested. But as of now, it seems like Chelsea are the club most likely to land the highly-rated Dutch international.
They are in talks with the player’s representatives and a swap deal with forward Timo Werner going the other way has been mooted.
Chelsea are genuinely interested in Matthijs de Ligt, confirmed. Juve will ask for a big fee as they’re discussing to extend Matthijs’ contract, but still no full agreement. 🔵🇳🇱 #CFC
De Ligt is appreciated by Thomas Tuchel – part of the list with Koundé and Nathan Aké @SkySport
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) June 24, 2022
The Serie A giants are interested in Werner and believe that the German will shine in Italy. The Blues, under new ownership, are desperate for defensive signings after the departure of Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen.
Juventus are also in talks with De Ligt in order to get him to sign a new long-term contract which will reduce his release clause, something that might help potential suitors.
The Red Devils had shown interest in the young centre-back when he was part of Ten Hag’s youthful Ajax side. When he decided to leave the Dutch champions, the Reds were among a handful of clubs trying to land the defender. He chose to head to Italy.
Even now the club has looked at the former Dutch Footballer of the Year and multiple reports have linked him with a reunion with his former boss.
Ten Hag has maintained that solving the midfield conundrum takes precedence ahead of any other deal being sanctioned. One or more defenders are expected to arrive in Manchester with a deal for Tyrell Malacia already in place.
Moves for Timber and Martinez make sense considering their versatility. However, if an out-and-out strong centre-back is what Ten Hag wants, De Ligt remains the undisputed numero uno choice.