It has been six years since Louis van Gaal was sacked by Manchester United, but this summer his influence might well be felt at Old Trafford once again.
This time it is another Dutchman, Erik ten Hag, who is taking up the managerial hot seat, and he arrives with his own plans to bring a taste of the Netherlands to a club known for Totally Inept Football rather than Johan Cruyff’s famed tactical system.
Ten Hag is still hoping for compatriot Frenkie de Jong to join him at United and be the poster boy for his new era of success, though a move for Ajax defender Jurrien Timber looks less certain to be done.
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The Manchester Evening News reported earlier in the month that United earmarked Timber as their priority defensive target, with the 21-year-old identified as Ten Hag’s preferred choice in the summer window.
However, recent reports have revealed Timber has gone cold on the move over fears he won’t get regular playing time and will miss out on a place in the Netherlands squad for the World Cup in Qatar.
It shows how highly the youngster values representing his national side, which will go a long way to dictating his future career choices, but it raises the question of whether or not he is the right fit for United this summer.
Each individual player should be free to represent their chosen country whenever they wish, and a club should not be able to stand in their way, though it does perhaps indicate he is not suited to an Old Trafford move at this moment in time.
With Harry Maguire, Raphael Varane and Victor Lindelof all established at United, there is a realization that any new defensive recruit this summer will not be a guaranteed starter.
There is also a belief that Ten Hag could transform United’s defensive woes through tactical changes and greater protection in midfield, rather than through the means of heavy investment in a new center-back, meaning any new recruit this summer could well be third or fourth- choice.
Another tactical change could be to engage in winning possession back higher up the pitch and alleviate the overreliance on the backline by using forwards as the first line of defense.
Timber is right to be wary of his playing time should he move to Old Trafford this summer, but the fact he has doubts about his role under mentor Ten Hag also raises questions about his own suitability to the club.
United are eager to ensure they not only sign the right players, but also the right personalities going forward, and Timber’s hesitation might well be interpreted as a lack of self-belief by some critics.
The struggles of Donny van de Beek since moving to Manchester have served as a stark warning to the Ajax defender about the perils of completing such a transfer, though it by no means guarantees he’d have a similarly tough start to life in England.
With the Dutch youngster capable of playing in either central defense or at right-back, he should instead be filled with confidence about his possible playing time at United, particularly ahead of a gruelling campaign which will see them juggle Europa League commitments ahead of the World Cup starting in November.
Van Gaal is within his rights to warn Timber about the uncertainty of a massive move at such a young age, but ultimately the decision must lie with the player and his own confidence of being a success.
If he does not think he can get regular playing time in a United defense which has just experienced its worst record since 1979, then perhaps he is not the right fit anyway.
United fans might not be yelling ‘Timber’ just yet.