Erik ten Hag speaks out on Frenkie de Jong amid ongoing Manchester United interest

Frenkie de Jong will face Man United for the first time with Barcelona less than a year after the clubs agreed a fee for the midfielder.

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag lauded Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong as a talent who would strengthen any squad in the world.

United agreed an €85million fee with Barcelona to sign De Jong but the midfielder publicly expressed his preference to stay in Catalonia and his wage deferral proved to be an insurmountable stumbling block.


After the 4-0 drubbing by Brentford on August 13, United ended their pursuit of De Jong and used the funds set aside for the Dutchman to sign Casemiro from Real Madrid for £60m rising to £70m.

Ten Hag coached De Jong for 18 months at Ajax, who ended their five-year championship drought and were seconds away from reaching the Champions League final in 2019. Barcelona signed De Jong less than two months later in an €85m deal.

Ahead of United’s Europa League play-off with Barcelona, De Jong was mentioned in two questions at Ten Hag’s press conference.

“So I think we have a class in 2019 that was a team with a lot of fascination and he brings a lot of that fascination,” Ten Hag said, “and I think he develops in the years after and here and in Spain he became even better.

“He’s a fantastic player, plays out from the back, he always has time and it was a pleasure to work with him.”

When Ten Hag was asked why United did not sign De Jong, he laughed and replied: “I don’t know if we wanted him. Frenkie is an incredible player and for every club in the whole world he will strengthen the squad because he has a unique quality. If you can get him in the squad your team will be stronger.”

Earlier in the day, Xavi said: “I think he was really clear to me – he wanted to stay with us, so there was not a doubt.

“Now he is our player and I am really happy with his performance, with his leadership. He is enjoying himself on the pitch and that is the most important thing.”

Ten Hag has not closed the door on a potential second pursuit of De Jong, whom he coached for 18 months at Ajax. United sources indicated that De Jong privately told Ten Hag he was prepared to join the club last year.

Ten Hag wants to sign a younger midfielder ahead of next season and he regards De Jong as a world-class talent with the requisite character to slot into the United team and provide balance.

Although Ten Hag has settled on an effective midfield axis of summer signings Christian Eriksen and Casemiro, Eriksen turned 32 on Valentine’s Day and Casemiro celebrates his 31st birthday next week.

Eriksen is sidelined until late April with an ankle injury and Casemiro is currently suspended from Premier League duty after he was sent off against Crystal Palace.

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