Erik ten Hag was told by Solskjaer that Manchester United might have a new Matthijs de Ligt – Richard Fay

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With the transfer window officially opening on Friday, it is understandable that Manchester United supporters have such a gluttonous appetite for rumors and updates on the long list of players linked to the club.

The end of a season brings with it a fresh start and a reason to dream about the possibilities that may lie ahead. So, there is an excuse to fantasise about the potential new arrivals at Old Trafford and the success they might bring to the club.

Throw into the mix the appointment of a popular new manager in the shape of Erik ten Hag and it’s clear exactly why fans are so eager for any information, no matter how vague, to further fuel their fires.

READ MORE: Paul Pogba’s parting comment to Manchester United proved Roy Keane was right all along

However, one of the reasons United appointed Ten Hag was his ability to develop players already at his disposal rather than simply buy them, and he will need a combination of both if he is to experience a successful debut season at Old Trafford.

United’s priority is to sign at least one new midfielder and one attacker this summer, though there is a desire to get two players in each position as a matter of urgency. It means that, despite wanting a new center-back and a full-back, at least one of these areas might need to be put on the backburner this summer, with a greater need to strengthen elsewhere taking precedent.

One such position is center-back. United are keen on adding a new defender this summer and have identified Jurrien Timber as their top target, but with so many defenders on their books already, it is a harder deal to justify.

Eric Bailly, Phil Jones and Axel Tuanzebe could all leave United in the summer, which would certainly increase the need for a replacement, but with Raphael Varane, Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof already at the club, it would be hard to keep everyone happy while signing another center-back who hopes to start regularly.

Instead, United might need to sign either a versatile player who can fill in centrally and at full-back, like Timber, or add another reserve option to the squad, someone who does not demand regular minutes but who can do a job whenever called upon.

It could be United hopeful Teden Mengi who is given a fresh lease of life under Ten Hag, with the 20-year-old a potential beneficiary of the summer squad overhaul.

Mengi has already made two senior appearances for United, both in Europe, and could be one of the many academy graduates rewarded with playing time in the Europa League next season.

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The youngster has regularly trained with the first-team and is well aware of the daily demands placed on senior players, and has also experienced life away from Old Trafford with loan spells at Derby and Birmingham City.

Injury cut short Mengi’s time with the Blues in the second half of this season, but he remains highly rated by United figures and still has plenty of time on his side, having only turned 20 in April.

Mengi is the same age as Ajax star Timber and a year older than Matthijs de Ligt was when he captained Ten Hag’s Ajax side to the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2019.



Anthony Elanga and Teden Mengi of Manchester United
Mengi, right, played against Young Boys in the Champions League last December

The new United manager is not afraid to give youngsters a chance if he thinks they are ready for it, while former boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer previously likened Mengi to De Ligt.

“Teden has definitely impressed me,” Solskjaer said in September 2020. “It’s different trusting defenders on the big stage, of course it is. You’ve got to make sure he’s ready for it, you see examples of Ajax, who play in a different league but Matthijs de Ligt, they made him captain when he was 18.

“You can see something special in them. Teden’s got something special in him. It’s about picking the right moment to give him a chance.”

An unfortunate injury record means Mengi has never had that chance to be properly unleashed at United, but with so many senior stars in line to leave this summer, he might not have too long to wait before it finally comes.

Under the guidance of Ten Hag, De Ligt was transformed from a youngster with massive potential into one of the leading defenders in world football. It might seem a bit of a stretch at the moment to suggest Mengi might reach those great heights, but he certainly has many of the raw attributes required.

In a summer where United are looking to sign a new defender, they must first look at those already at their disposal.

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