De Jong quizzed on Man Utd transfer links
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Manchester United want to sign Frenkie de Jong. But the Barcelona star, it seems, would prefer to stay at the Nou Camp regardless of where Xavi plays him. So, with a deal for the 25-year-old looking increasingly unlikely, it seems the Red Devils are being inadvertently forced to look at the likes of Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Ruben Neves instead.
Manchester United have spent over 70 days chasing De Jong, who was quickly identified as Erik ten Hag’s top transfer target.
But, in recent days, a move for the Netherlands international has started to look increasingly unlikely.
Barcelona want De Jong to go but they’re also open to keeping the midfielder providing he takes a pay cut of around 50 per cent.
Murmurings from Spain have suggested the former Ajax star is also open to doing that, which spells trouble for United and their plans to bring De Jong to the Premier League.
So, inadvertently, it appears the Red Devils are being triggered into pursuing the likes of Milinkovic-Savic and Neves instead.
Another name that has been put forward is Youri Tielemans but the Belgium international would prefer to join Arsenal.
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And that means that, when it comes to alternatives to De Jong, there are two strong names in the frame that could arrive instead.
Milinkovic-Savic has long been consistent for Lazio and, last term, impressed as the Serie A giants finished fifth in the table.
Only new champions AC Milan, as well as Inter Milan, Napoli and Juventus, finished higher than Maurizio Sarri’s side.
Milinkovic-Savic clocked up 11 goals from 37 league appearances last term, while also managing 11 assists along the way.
That’s three goals and two assists more than the 27-year-old had managed for Lazio the previous campaign, showing he’s on an upwards trajectory.
And United know all about the Serbia international having long had him under consideration.
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Jose Mourinho actually wanted the Red Devils to replace Paul Pogba with Milinkovic-Savic back in the summer transfer window of 2018.
Pogba had fallen out of favour at the time, despite starring as France won the World Cup in Russia.
Yet Mourinho’s request was ultimately denied and it would be he, rather than his midfielder, who would be shown the door just mere months later.
Italian media have claimed United have earmarked the midfielder as an alternative to De Jong now, however.
And with the Barcelona star being reluctant to move, it’s possible they’ll try and land the Serb instead.
With their pursuit of De Jong hanging in the balance, it’s also feasible United will go for Neves as well.
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They pondered a move for the Portugal international back in January, during Ralf Rangnick’s turbulent stint in the dugout.
But though United didn’t bid for the Wolves star, the board did think he’d have no trouble adjusting due to the presence of Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes and Diogo Dalot.
Wolves have said they’d want around £100million in order to let Neves go.
But if United please his agent Jorge Mendes by allowing Ronaldo to go, that would potentially pave the way for a cheaper deal.
United continue to put all their eggs in the De Jong basket as they look to close the operation.
Yet the midfielder joining the Red Devils is looking increasingly unlikely, meaning Ten Hag’s team will likely be forced to look elsewhere.
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While United have faced criticism for their lengthy pursuit of De Jong, meanwhile, Lee Sharpe thinks the Red Devils have acted in the right way.
“I think the manager will have a really good relationship with him,” he said. “It’s a little bit of paperwork and Manchester United are going about it pretty professionally.
“It’s a shame that it’s taking so long. But I think if the manager really wants him, and that’s his No 1 target, they have to be patient and try to get it across the line as soon as they can.”
He then added: “What a player. A marquee player.
“I think he’s Erik ten Hag’s No 1, on his list.
“If they can get him across the line, fingers crossed they can, I think he would be an amazing signing.”
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