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Erik ten Hag knows Frenkie de Jong success would rely on another Manchester United signing

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Erik ten Hag knows Frenkie de Jong success would rely on another Manchester United signing
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Erik ten Hag’s arrival at Manchester United has prompted great excitement and also great expectations about the way in which he might be able to awaken a fallen giant.

Erik ten Hag knows Frenkie de Jong success would rely on another Manchester United signing

Frenkie de Jong score for ajax

Ajax had not won the league in five years before he guided them back to the top in 2019. Five years after his arrival, he left the Dutch capital having delivered three Eredivisie titles – and might well have added another had the 2019/20 campaign not been curtailed.

Ten Hag achieved it by instilling confidence into a squad down on their luck, and he rejuvenated the side by re-inventing their famed 4-3-3 formation with subtle tweaks and differences.

The 52-year-old faces a similar task at United this summer, albeit a much higher profile one, and in order to get off to a good start, he is eager to get the old band back together with a move for his former Ajax ace.

United fans have been sent into overdrive by the thought of De Jong turning out at Old Trafford next season, a move which seemed incomprehensible when they finished sixth in the Premier League.

United are in talks with Barcelona to try and seal a move for the 25-year-old, but at the moment, the two clubs are some way apart in their valuation of the Dutch midfielder.

United sources have warned the club will not overspend to get a deal done and Ten Hag’s side are continuing to keep communication open with other midfield targets should a move not materialise.

It is understandable why United fans are so keen on a move for De Jong this summer, but signing a world-class player does not guarantee world-class results for the buying club.

“He is a wanderer, an adventurer, he’s always on the move, like a shark,” Ten Hag said of De Jong three years ago. “With the ball, often, but also without the ball. So if you put him on 6, he’s away too often. But you need to give him freedom, otherwise you can’t get the best out of him.”

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There is no doubting the obvious qualities De Jong would bring to United, particularly to offset Paul Pogba’s exit, but in order for him to be a success next season, Ten Hag would also need to sign a player capable of doing the dirty work.

When you think about the two Ajax sides Ten Hag assembled, it is easy to get distracted by the exciting attacking talents who often stole the spotlight, but just as important to their success was the selfless work of defensive midfielders.

Three years ago, it was versatile veteran Lasse Schone who provided the backbone to a midfield trio which allowed De Jong and Donny van de Beek to shine ahead of him, while this season the duty fell to Edson Alvarez to act as the anchor for their attacking talent.

At United, there is no standout candidate to undertake such a task, with Scott McTominay yet to prove he is capable of playing in the role long-term, while Fred has played his best football in a more advanced position.

With Nemanja Matic leaving the club for free, there is no replacement at the club available for Ten Hag to use unless he attempts to redeploy a player into a new position. It has already been suggested Andreas Pereira could get a chance there this summer, while Victor Lindelof has previously been touted as a potential defensive midfield option, though that seems unlikely.

No matter who Ten Hag opts for, the important thing is that he manages to reinforce the real weakness in United’s side and is not distracted by the lure of a possible reunion with De Jong.

Signing the Barcelona star this summer would be a huge coup for United, but actually getting him to function would be an even greater one for Ten Hag.

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