Barcelona midfielder Frenkie De Jong is Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag’s main target. Everyone knows this.
The debate lies in whether or not he’s worth it and what the Dutch manager’s reasons are for chasing him. That’s where the fun lies.
From the outside looking in, it looks as though Ten Hag is trying to recreate his midfield from his Ajax days and why not?
He already has Donny van de Beek and signing De Jong would be crucial to the masterpiece he’s apparently planning.
The Barcelona star has been talking of late about how he prefers to dictate play or pick up the ball from deep, suggesting Ten Hag will use him as a defensive midfielder.
Some fans have taken that to be end of the world stuff, particularly as CDMs tend to sit but that’s not always true.
De Jong will simply run the midfield from deeper but he will need Van de Beek to work hard (as he did at Ajax) and either Fred or Scott McTominay or a hypothetical third midfielder to sit back and provide more cover.
Essentially it seems as though Ten Hag will want Van de Beek as his runner, De Jong as his playmaker, and a third who will solidify the midfield.
Whether or not he sees Fred or McTominay as capable in that role remains to be seen but it’s one fans will strongly be against.
Both players have shown they much prefer to be box to box players, with the Brazilian excelling under Ralf Rangnick when he was allowed to get further upfield.
In theory, Ten Hag’s plans seem solid and it’s easy to see why he would want to implement this style in a 4-3-3 but there are question marks.
For one, do United even have enough midfield depth to play a 4-3-3? They’ve lost Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic, and there are no guarantees the likes of Hannibal Mejbri and James Garner are ready, unless he deems them to be.
Nonetheless, this moves the debate on to whether or not De Jong is worth the chase.
How much is too much?
First things first, it seems De Jong’s transfer will dictate the remainder of United’s summer plans and that’s probably why there’s been such a lack of known activity otherwise.
If the former Ajax man is going to cost £60m+ then it’s likely he’ll eat up a sizeable chunk of the budget and Ten Hag will have to be selective over which positions and who he invests in next.
There’s no doubt the manager will know this, so why gamble big on De Jong?
Well, it could be argued that the young Dutchman is a rather unique player in today’s world. He’s a deep-lying playmaker who’s good at driving the ball forward, can do a decent job defensively, and can evade being pressed.
When it comes to breaking out of your own defensive third (something United desperately struggle to do despite having ball-playing defenders), De Jong is gold.
That’s not to suggest there’s absolutely no one else the Red Devils could sign who can do a similar task, but it could be argued De Jong is one of the best, so why not chase him?
What’s the holdup?
Ten Hag will be well aware that the chase won’t last all summer long since Barcelona will likely have a handle on their finances soon.
There are a lot of things in the air at the minute and there’s no doubt it will eventually drop.
When it does, there should be enough time to still do some transfer business, and you could probably bet United will move fast then.
There have been whispers of the club talking or enquiring about other players during this whole saga. It wouldn’t be a surprise if when the penny drops, the Red Devils knock out all their potential deals quickly and swiftly.
Barcelona are waiting for certain things to resolve their finances and get a true handle of their budget. United will definitely need to do the same, especially with all their outgoings and wage budget issues.
Are we doing too much chasing?
Now the last and tiniest bit of the debate is whether or not the Red Devils should be chasing players excessively or not.
Well, that’s all dependent on perspective and insider information. There’s no real indication Ten Hag is begging and pleading for De Jong. It just appears that way.
These types of transfers tend to take time and the longer it goes on the longer it seems as though the begging is getting greater but there are no facts to confirm it.
Ten Hag doesn’t seem to be the type of manager to bring a player in who isn’t keen so fans will just have to trust he’s not overdoing it.
Anyways, the transfer window unfortunately can’t be judged until it’s over with. For the time being, everyone will just have to keep on sweating in their seats and pray United know what they’re doing.