Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand has backed the club to sign Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong after incoming Erik ten Hag discussed him as a target, and believes the ‘outstanding’ star would be a sign of things to come.
De Jong has been linked with an exit from the Nou Camp, with Barcelona needing to cash in on a handful of stars to free up space in their wage bill. The Dutchman is on United’s shortlist this summer, as reported by Sportsmail this week, but officials concede a deal will be difficult to pull off – with De Jong rated at £70million.
Ferdinand spoke about the possible transfer and believes he would be an ‘outstanding’ signing who could help United ‘dictate and control’ games, saying he can be a ‘big part of the rebuild’ under Ten Hag and show the club is headed in the right direction.
De Jong played under Ten Hag at Ajax and was one of his most prominent players to help the club reach the Champions League semi-finals in 2019.
‘I’ve always thought he was a top player,’ he said on his Vibe With Five YouTube show.
‘I’ve watched him closely in the Champions League semi-final year, I got to see a lot of him as part of the BT team. They’re saying Frenkie de Jong could be the first player to come in under Erik ten Hag and I would be saying “yes, great signing”.
‘He’s not huge in terms of frame but he is quick with the ball, really good dribbler, can get out of tight situations, makes good decisions, good passer, his balance and dribbling ability are really good.
‘[Man United] are a team who are looking for players who can control the ball and control the game and get the team functioning in terms of balance and possession, I think he would be a good addition.
‘He’s not a player who scores loads of goals like Bruno Fernandes, but he’s more about dictating the game. He gives you much more other elements in the game that United need.’
On Thursday Sportsmail reported that Ten Hag had held a stategy meeting in Amsterdam, with United’s director of football John Murtough and possible new assistant boss Steve McClaren present.
Midfield is an area that United want to strengthen and De Jong was one of the names discussed at the summit.
United are set for a summer revamp – especially in midfield – with Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic and Juan Mata all leaving on free transfers, and Ferdinand feels De Jong would bring fresh impetus to a deflated team.
He also says his close relationship with Ten Hag would hugely benefit the team after he flourished in his talented Ajax side in 2018-19.
‘This season United are definitely losing Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic, Juan Mata – so United do need reinforcements and I think he would be a fantastic signing if this deal goes ahead.
‘His relationship with Ten Hag – he thrived under his management while he was at Ajax. For me he was the outstanding player in that team. He was integral in what they did. He’s been to a big club in Barcelona and done okay there.
‘It’s hard to play under big expectations where you’ve got to win. He won’t have that pressure at Man United right now but he could be part of the rebuild under Ten Hag. It would be smart to bring in someone he knows and trusts and believes he can go on and do big things in a team he believes in.’
Ferdinand – who played 455 times for United – can also see De Jong as a ‘personality’ that United lack and feels he will act as an ‘engine’ to complement Bruno Fernandes – giving him licence to roam forwards in the attacking midfield role.
He added that he can see United add more names in midfield to add to their strength in depth, saying the club may ‘go again’ in that position.
‘Hopefully he’ll bring personality, character, the right type you want. Can he be a leader? He hasn’t shown that in previous seasons but he’s a pure personality who wants to do well.
‘The excitement of new midfielders when they come to Man United, everyone gets behind them. it’s the engine room and he has that engine and you can add that to someone like Bruno. They may go again in that area.