Manchester United are hoping to gazump Barcelona to the signing of Matthijs de Ligt, according to Sport.
The Dutch prodigy is set to depart Ajax this summer after leading the club to the Champions League semi-finals and Eredivisie title.
Still just 19 years old, he became the first defender to win the Golden Boy award in 2018 and has captained Ajax since 2017.
United face a mammoth summer that could very realistically determine the course of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign. Thus far the club has been linked to a wealth of unspectacular names including Daniel James and Sean Longstaff.
The biggest factor of Solskjaer’s early reign was the aura of ebullience he brought and his close connection with supporters. However, as results wavered the Norwegian manager struggled to create the same atmosphere of positivity.
The signing of De Ligt could completely change this and revitalise the support behind Solskjaer. Arguably the most exciting young player in Europe and seemingly destined for Barcelona, De Ligt’s signature would represent a mammoth coup and show Solsjkaer’s pulling power.
Without any proven managerial track record and linked to a bevy of uninspiring targets, many have questioned Solskjaer’s ability to attract the world’s best players. The signing of De Ligt would answer those questions emphatically.
De Ligt is also the kind of player that Solskjaer can build his team around on an emotional level. Jose Mourinho had John Terry at Chelsea, Pep Guardiola had Carles Puyol at Barcelona and Jurgen Klopp has Virgil van Dijk at Liverpool.
Each of those centre-backs not only acted as a focal point of their team’s on-pitch efforts but also took on the role of leader, creating links with fans as well as the players on the pitch.
At Ajax, De Ligt proved his ability to embrace this role as he cultivated a special relationship with supporters that helped cement his status as the undeniable leader of the Dutch champions.
Solskjaer’s reign is already threatening to unravel as supporter unrest grows amid poor results and dubious transfer targets. The arrival of De Ligt would help restore confidence in Solskjaer’s ability to bring glory back to Old Trafford and unite the fan-base behind their inexperienced manager.