Manchester United‘s long-running pursuit of Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong could well be coming to an end, with the Dutchman “unlikely” to make the move to Old Trafford before the transfer window closes.
That’s according to journalist Sam Pilger, who stated on Twitter: “#MUFC remain great admirers of Frenkie de Jong but now accept it is highly unlikely he will join the club in this transfer window.”
Concrete reports of the Red Devils’ interest in the 25-year-old first emerged in May, although there has been little movement since then with regards to bringing the playmaker to England, despite agreeing an €85m (£72m) fee with the La Liga giants last month.
Issues over deferred payments had reportedly been holding up the deal, although the 44-cap gem’s apparent reluctance to join the Premier League outfit has also seemingly proven crucial, despite his current club’s desire to sell.
First and foremost, the inability to tempt the midfield maestro into making the move represents something of an embarrassment for those at United, with the club’s hierarchy having allowed the saga to drag on throughout the past few months.
As pundit Alan Smith recently suggested, the situation has become somewhat “humiliating” for the likes of technical director John Murtough and manager Erik ten Hag, having continually pursued a player who appears set against making the move.
The Red Devils’ head coach has repeatedly professed a commendable desire to get the “right” players through the door, hence the decision to wait on De Jong, although there could well be a feeling that this ultimately doomed pursuit has potentially impacted the club’s other transfer dealings.
Equally, it is also a notable setback that Ten Hag won’t be able to get a player through the door who had previously been pivotal to his impressive Ajax side during that remarkable Champions League run in the 2018/19 season.
The 5 ft 11 ace scored three goals and provided four assists in 52 games in all competitions in that campaign, with his manager notably lauding him for his standout displays, saying: “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.”
The addition of the £54m-rated sensation would likely have helped to ease the transition to life in England for the 52-year-old, with having a familiar face in tow likely to have made his task of implementing a new playing style far easier.
Although the club have acted to secure the signing of Casemiro from Real Madrid in a £70m deal, the defensive-minded Brazilian is a different profile of player to De Jong, with both potentially needed to help spark a United revival.
The latter is arguably one of the foremost players in his position in Europe, notably ranking in the top 7% for progressive passes (as per FBRef) to illustrate his exceptional forward-thinking approach, with the much-maligned pairing of Scott McTominay and Fred ranking in just the top 60% and top 32% respectively for the same metric.
Alas, it would appear that any lingering hopes of agreeing a deal are now at an end, with that potentially set to prove a real setback as Ten Hag attempts to reshape an underperforming squad in his image.