New Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag is busy drawing up transfer plans and putting in place his ideas for pre-season at his new club with a major move set in motion
Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag has held discussions with Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong to persuade him to move to Old Trafford this summer.
Ten Hag coached the Dutch international during their time together and he outlined to the midfielder the exact role he would play under him at United. It comes as the Red Devils ramp up their attempts to land the 25-year-old.
Central midfield is an area in which United need to bolster their options ahead of several key departures this term. De Jong has been identified as the leading candidate for the club in the position and the Dutchman is at the top of United’s shortlist of summer transfer targets.
A report in Marca outlines how United have lodged an offer of £ 68million (€ 80m) for the midfielder of which £ 51million (€ 60m) will be an upfront payment. While Barca are likely to reject that approach and demand more for their star midfielder, the club’s precarious financial position ensures they will be open to negotiations.
De Jong is said to have been assured by the new United boss over a phone call that the entire team would revolve around him and that he would be the major reference point in midfield. He would be the ‘conductor of the orchestra’ and would be an undisputed starter under Ten Hag – a similar role which he enjoyed so much at Ajax.
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De Jong moved to Barca in the summer of 2019 for £ 63million (€ 75m). The Catalans are struggling financially and there were suggestions that they might welcome a hefty bid for some of their players, but the Dutchman is among those they would be more inclined to keep. De Jong faces competition from the likes of Gavi and Pedri – teenage midfield stars at Camp Nou.
Barca have a deal in place to sign midfielder Frank Kessie from Milan while Busquets still commands a starting spot in Xavi Hernandez’s side, while Nico Gonzalez has also broken through into the squad.
United are short on central midfielders with Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba both leaving this summer as free agents, with only Scott McTominay and Fred remaining as naturals in the position, alongside De Jong’s former Ajax teammate Donny van de Beek.
Andy Rowland / PRiME Media Images)
De Jong recently explained how his role for the Dutch national team suited him much better than the position he plays for Barca: “I play a lot differently here than I do at Barça. I think this suits me much better. ” De Jong added: “I like to be the first player to receive the ball from the defenders.”
The Dutch national side play a 3-5-2 formation rather than Barca’s 4-3-3, but it is De Jong’s role within this that is more significant as for the Netherlands, he operates at the base of the midfield and is the first point of reference for defender’s playing the ball forward – a role occupied by Busquets at Barca.