After Frenkie de Jong officially rejected Man United last summer, the team has subsequently added five new players to strengthen their midfield.
For Manchester United, Frenkie de Jong was designed to be a one-stop shop in the back office.
But after their extravagantly public pursuit of the Barcelona playmaker last summer fell through, United have acquired five midfielders, including late addition Sofyan Amrabat. Is Erik ten Hag now in possession of what he originally desired from his former Ajax protégé?
Ten Hag and De Jong did, by chance, get to catch up last season. That was from the opposing side, though, as United split the two legs of their Europa League match against Barcelona.
The two failed bids to sign the dynamic 26-year-old Dutch midfielder for Old Trafford last summer naturally grabbed center stage at press conferences. One such time, Ten Hag showered De Jong as if to show United what they had been missing.
Without holding back, Ten Hag declared, “Frenkie is a fantastic player and, every team in the world, he will enrich the squad since he has a unique quality. “Your team will be stronger if you can get him on the team. He improved [more] in Spain than he had while they were both at Ajax.
“He plays out from the back, and he’s a tremendous player. It was a pleasure working with him because he always has time.
De Jong did (again) show himself to Xavi last season as they were on their path to capturing yet another La Liga championship, despite initially appearing to have no role to play. However, after the great Sergio Busquets left and faded away to the MLS with Lionel Messi at Inter Miami, his significance at Camp Nou has been highlighted even more.
In the four-man midfield box style that Xavi prefers in Catalonia, De Jong has replaced Busquets in that position. The Dutchman is the only player in the division to have completed more than 400 passes (451) after four games this season. His astounding completion rate of 93.79 percent further cements his position as Spain’s best player.
Additionally, he has the most forward-moving carries (94) and ball recoveries (36). You see what I mean.
These numbers highlight why Ten Hag and United fought so hard to sign him, but the most important truth is that De Jong wouldn’t bend at that specific moment, necessitating the development of a backup strategy. After five acquisitions totaling more than £120 million, United may finally be able to give Ten Hag what he wanted from De Jong.
In this modern Barcelona team, De Jong appears to have been able to grasp some measures on his own. Casemiro, Amrabat, and Bruno Fernandes are experts in these specific measurements. However, as Ten Hag begins to form a midfield triangle that will temporarily make him forget about De Jong, United will divide up their responsibilities.