Ten Hag’s first test as United boss was to persuade his former Ajax playmaker that he can realise his full potential with the Reds – and he passed the challenge with flying colours
Frenkie de Jong has been convinced that his future lies with Manchester United after Erik ten Hag launched an irresistible charm offensive on the Dutch midfielder.
De Jong, 25, informed Barcelona that he had no intention of moving to Old Trafford when the Catalan club informed United they were willing to do business last month.
But Ten Hag’s first test as United boss was to persuade his former Ajax playmaker that he can realise his full potential with the Reds – and he passed the challenge with flying colours.
United’s initial bid of around £60million has been rejected by Nou Camp bosses.
And although they were told by Barca that they would have to match the club-record £89million investment they lavished on Paul Pogba in 2016, sources in Holland believe a fee of £68million plus a package of add-ons will seal the deal.
De Jong wanted to stay in Spain when Ten Hag first made his interest known – and cited United’s failure to qualify for the Champions League after a season in which they finished 35 points behind Manchester City.
He was also reluctant to leave Barcelona after three seasons in which he has won just a single Copa del Rey following his £65million arrival from Ajax.
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But Ten Hag explained to De Jong how he is planning to bring the glory years back to Old Trafford.
And he reminded him how together they won a Dutch league and cup double with Ajax in 2019, when the Amsterdam club came within a whisker of reaching the Champions League final.
Ten Hag wants De Jong to build a team around De Jong’s talent.
There is a feeling in Holland that his skill-set has not been utilised by Barcelona.
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Former Dutch national team coach Bert van Marwijk said: “If Frenkie plays in the role he should be playing then he won’t be the best midfielder in Europe – he will be the best in the world.”
De Jong is planning to go on holiday after Holland have met Wales in the Nations League in Rotterdam on Tuesday.
He has been advised not to speak publicly about his proposed move to Manchester until both United and Barcelona have agreed a fee.
With Benfica striker Darwin Nunez now expected to snub United to join Liverpool in an £85million deal, it’s vital for Ten Hag to make a statement signing.