Erik Ten Hag's plans for Manchester United could crumble if the club fails to sign midfield targets Frenkie de Jong and Christian Eriksen this summer.
The new United boss has told the higher-ups at Old Trafford that the midfield duo will be the focal point of the team as they look to return to the top four next season. After Jurrien Timber told his ex-boss he doesn't want to join him in Manchester before the World Cup and Liverpool beat the Red Devils to the signature of highly-rated Uruguayan forward Darwin Nunez it's becoming clear that the Dutch manager's plans aren't exactly coming together.
If the Manchester side ended up missing out on either midfielder it would prove to be a significant setback for Ten Hag just a matter of weeks into his tenure at Old Trafford. As revealed by Sunday Mirror Sport last week, Barcelona are demanding in excess of £80million for De Jong after knocking back United’s initial £60million offer.
But while Old Trafford bosses feel they are being held to ransom by the cash-strapped Catalans, the Mirror report Ten Hag believes the 25-year-old would be worth every penny. He also wants to bring in Eriksen after identifying United’s midfield as the one where the team lacks genuine world-class quality.
Ten Hag’s stance is that United may be paying a premium for De Jong, but that the club can sign two stellar performers for the price of one because Eriksen is a free agent. Ten Hag has been stunned by Jurrien Timber’s reluctance to follow him to Old Trafford.
But Holland boss Louis van Gaal’s warning that he will only select players for Qatar who are in form and being selected regularly for their club’s has spooked a player who has won just eight caps. Ten Hag also wanted Nunez, but accepts that using the bulk of his transfer budget to compete with Liverpool for the £85million forward would be unwise when he has other priorities.
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Ten Hag has alternative transfer targets for both attack and defence. But views De Jong as paramount to his plans because he wants the 25-year-old to build the play for his team.
De Jong is reluctant to talk about United's interest while the club's were so far apart on their valuations. But that fact that both the player and his agent Ali Dursun have not discouraged United from bidding speaks volumes.
De Jong accepts that his time at the Nou Camp appears over after Barca coach Xavi admitted he could be sold for "economic reasons." Both De Jong and Eriksen are steeped in the Ajax philosophy that Ten Han immersed himself in during four-and-a-half successful years with the Amsterdam club.
United’s new boss is currently on holiday but remains in constant contact with the club. He is mindful of the need to be patient while the transfer market develops this summer.
But he feels a marquee signing like De Jong – followed by Eriksen – would be a huge statement of intent for him to make. A one-year contract offer for Eriksen has been tabled, with the option of a further 12 months.
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