Man United step up talks with Barcelona for Frenkie de Jong as Erik Ten Hag takes reins

Dutch midfielder is top of new manager's wish list as club also make offer to tempt Christian Eriksen away from Brentford

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Manchester United returned to pre-season training on Monday with new manager Erik Ten Hag in charge after his move from Ajax.

The Dutchman has a huge job on his hands to turn United around, but he made clear which players he was interested in bringing to Old Trafford from his first meetings in Amsterdam with the club’s football director John Murtough.

Ten Hag’s number one target is Frenkie de Jong and negotiations have stepped up, with United and Barcelona getting close to a deal which will see Dutch international midfielder move from Camp Nou to Old Trafford.

Representatives of both clubs have met several times, first when Matt Judge, the outgoing United negotiator, and Murtough met Mateu Alemany and Jordi Cruyff from Barcelona months back.

Murtough has been leading all United’s transfer activity, the man responsible for getting what’s best for the club and the team after years of profligacy in the market.

Not every United fan is patient, but Murtough has been determined not to rush into paying outrageous demands and agents’ fees to those who think United are desperate.

Judge is working through the final stages of his notice before Tom Keane, brother of former United footballers Will and Michael, joins as a consultant until the end of the transfer window.

With De Jong, talks have intensified in recent weeks with United firmly understanding that Barcelona are willing to sell the player. United put an initial offer in for the 25-year-old at the start of last week and a second one at the end of last week.

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De Jong has been happy living in Barcelona and playing for Barcelona, who he joined for a €75 million fee in 2019, but Barca will let the former Ajax man go.

Their willingness is not a judgment against him and his coach Xavi likes him as a player and a person. But Barcelona want money in the bank. They have considerable debts, their own summer transfer plans and a surfeit of talented midfielders. It would be far more acceptable to their fans to sell De Jong for top money rather than youngsters Pedri or Gavi.

United’s latest offer is believed to be €63m, with achievable bonuses which could take the total deal to €80m. Barcelona were initially keen to recoup the full fee they paid for the player who was man of the match in their 4-0 win against Real Madrid in the Bernabeu in March.

Barcelona also asked about the availability of central defender Harry Maguire, but Ten Hag wants to work with the England international and United have no interest in selling him.

Barcelona’s central defence has been an issue for the club, with top-earner Gerard Pique now 35, while Samuel Umtiti and Clement Lenglet are expected to leave having been unable to establish themselves in the side.

Oscar Mingueza has not been consistent enough, the Catalan Eric Garcia was signed from Manchester City and is highly rated, but he is only 21 and was often criticised last season. The Uruguayan central defender Ronald Araujo, 23, was one of Barcelona’s best performers last season.

United have also made an offer to 115-cap Danish international Christian Eriksen, 30. Another Ajax graduate, he played with Spurs and Inter Milan before resuming his career with Brentford in 2022 after suffering a cardiac arrest while playing for Denmark in Euro 2020. Eriksen is considering United’s offer.

United have also received an approach from Fulham for midfielder Andreas Pereira. The Belgian-born Brazilian midfielder, who has been a success on loan at Flamengo in Rio de Janeiro, is expected to attract a fee of £10m. He is interested in the move back to the Premier League.

United have another Brazilian on their radar, the Ajax winger Antony, 22, but the high price remains an issue. Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic, Juan Mata, Lee Grant, Edinson Cavani and Jesse Lingard have all departed, while goalkeeper Dean Henderson has agreed to go on loan to Nottingham Forest.

Updated: June 28, 2022, 3:44 AM