Manchester United’s bid for Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong could be hijacked by their Premier League rivals Chelsea.
The Red Devils are in advanced negotiations with the Dutch international but they have yet to agree on a fee for his services.
Chelsea are on standby to swoop in for the midfielder if United fail to push a deal over the line.
De Jong would be a valuable addition to either squad, having played 140 times for Barcelona since joining from Ajax, scoring 13 times in his three seasons.
However, the 25-year-old playmaker has made it clear his preferred destination this summer would be Old Trafford. But that hasn’t stopped Chelsea from holding out hope.
TIMES Sportsmail takes a look at both clubs and comparing which side would be better suited to the former Ajax star.
Manchester United’s bid for Barca midfielder Frenkie de Jong could be hijacked by Chelsea
De Jong would become the cornerstone of Ten Hag’s midfield if he decided to commit his future to the Red Devils this summer.
The 25-year-old has established himself as a highly sought after midfielder and could continue to thrive in Manchester under his former boss Erik ten Hag.
Ten Hag wants to reunite with De Jong and build his newly-acquired Manchester United squad around the midfielder following their encouraging partnership at Ajax.
De Jong (right) played under United manager Erik ten Hag (left) during their time at Ajax
During his time at the club, De Jong played as a double pivot alongside Donny van de Beek (R)
Fred and Scott McTominay have been the main pair in United’s midfield in recent seasons, playing alongside each other in a double pivot.
However, the ‘McFred’ partnership came under fire during United’s disappointing 2021-2022 campaign.
Ten Hag could instead resort back to his Ajax formation by resurrecting the United career of Donny van de Beek and partner him with De Jong in the engine room.
During their time at Ajax, Ten Hag moved away from their usual 4-3-3 formation to allow for a double pivot.
The Dutch manager then pushed Lasse Schone into a more advanced role to give Van de Beek and De Jong room to flourish.
Ten Hag discussed his thought process regarding his selection during a lengthy interview in the 2019-2020 campaign.
Fred and Scott McTominay have been fronting up United’s midfield over the last few years
Speaking about how he planned to utilize De Jong at Ajax, Ten Hag told Dutch Soccer Site: ‘We have really been looking to find ways to use [De Jong’s] skills in the best manner.
‘Where can he play best, for the team and to showcase his talent. Everyone was screaming: Frenkie is the biggest talent, etc etc. Well yes. But, where? In midfield? Ok, but which role?
‘His quality is that he makes the forwards perform better. He is a wanderer, an adventurer, he’s always on the move, like a shark. With the ball, often, but also without the ball. So if you put him on 6 [defensive midfield], he’s away too often. But you need to give him freedom, otherwise you can’t get the best out of him.
The arrival of De Jong at Manchester United could provide more cover for Bruno Fernandes
It wasn’t an easy puzzle, so I decided to play with two number 6s and only one attacking the middle. And in this way, we can also dominate the half space, and force opponents to choose.’
De Jong has previously explained how he likes to be at the center of the action, claiming he enjoys playing for Holland more than Barcelona because Louis van Gaal’s tactics allow him to pick up the ball straight from the defenders.
During Holland’s Nations League fixtures in June, De Jong said: ‘Here in the national team, I have a position that suits me better.
I like to be the first player to receive the ball from defenders. I play in a different way in the national team compared to Barca.’
United are currently lacking in midfield options as Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic, Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata have all left the club. Therefore, De Jong could have the opportunity to front-up Ten Hag’s midfield in the way that he wishes.
His arrival will also allow both Fernandes and Christian Erisken to play higher up the pitch
Should De Jong play as a double pivot with Van de Beek, Ten Hag could deploy McTominay and Christian Erisken as forward-thinking midfielders playing in a higher role. This would also provide more cover for United’s star midfielder Bruno Fernandes.
De Jong will also fit well into a 3-4-3 formation if the Dutch manager deems that necessary.
De Jong can operate well in a two-man midfield due to his ability to hold onto the ball and distribute well in high pressure situations.
Across the top five European leagues, the 25-year-old ranks in the top eight per cent for making passes while under pressure from an opponent.
‘He is always calm and always has the solution,’ Ten Hag said of the midfielder in 2019. ‘He scans so well that he always knows how to go forward. You can hardly put him under pressure – that is such a great gift.’
Chelsea are reportedly looking to thwart United’s move for De Jong this summer after Thomas Tuchel identified him as a potential transfer target.
The German manager has been a long-term admirer of De Jong and reportedly cried when he failed to sign him during his time in charge of Paris Saint-Germain.
De Jong completed a transfer worth £65 million to the Nou Camp rather than joining Tuchel at the Parc de Princes.
Tuchel was devastated about missing out on the midfielder, with De Jong’s agent Ali Dursun claiming the PGS boss was ‘literally in tears’.
Thomas Tuchel has been a long-term admirer of De Jong and reportedly cried when he failed to sign him during his time at Paris Saint-Germain
Tuchel thinks De Jong will provide adequate cover for his current crop of midfielders, including N’Golo Kante.
Tuchel also believes the arrival of De Jong will release his more attacking-minded players such as Mason Mount further up the pitch.
Kante has been a standout performer for Chelsea over the years but he has struggled to maintain his fitness after picking up a series of injuries along the way.
The 31-year-old was forced to withdraw from the France squad after the first round of Nations League games because he picked up a niggle and has only just returned to training.
Chelsea boss Tuchel is interested in signing the 25-year-old midfielder this summer
De Jong’s arrival would provide cover for Tuchel’s older players such as N’Golo Kante
With Kante getting older, it’s reasonable to suggest his body will continue to struggle. As a result, Tuchel must look to secure a back-up for the French international.
Jorginho is also on the wrong side of 30 heading into the 2022-2023 campaign and has just one year remaining on his contract at Stamford Bridge.
It is easy to see why the German manager would like to add De Jong to his ranks ahead of the upcoming season.
Not only would De Jong help provide cover for Chelsea’s current midfielders, he will also help Tuchel’s back line when it comes to distributing the ball.
Mason Mount would be able to play higher up the pitch if De Jong joins their squad next term
He will also help the Chelsea defense distribute the ball out of the back after the likes of Antonio Rudiger (above) and Andreas Christensen left Stamford Bridge on free transfers
Chelsea have lost a wealth of experience in defense after Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen left Stamford Bridge on free transfers for Real Madrid and Barcelona, respectively, this summer.
Therefore, De Jong – who likes to pick up the ball from the defenders and play forwards – would help the Blues with their distribution next term.
De Jong’s desire to hold that role would also free up Mount to play in his preferred attacking position in the 2022-2023 campaign.
As a result, the England international would surely be able to build on the 11 goals and 10 assists he registered last season.