Frenkie de Jong: Why Man Utd’s No.1 target is only half the solution

Manchester United’s transfer links with Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong have really warmed up in recent days.

Owing to their financial constraints, the Catalans are reportedly fine with seeing the player leave as long as the fee is right.

Meanwhile, the Premier League club desperately need to fill the void left in midfield following the departure of Nejamna Matic, Paul Pogba, and to a lesser extent, Juan Mata.

Though Man Utd have had an opening bid for De Jong of €60million plus a potential €10m in add-ins rejected by Barcelona, there is a sense they will come back in again for the star.

The Catalan value De Jong at some €85m, according to The Guardian and may be willing to sell because they are pushing for Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva and need to free up space for that to happen.

Man Utd and marquee signings haven’t traditionally gone hand-in-hand in recent years. But with De Jong – the blue-eyed, graceful Barcelona midfielder – you get the sense that it’s a move that makes pragmatic as well as commercial sense.

A product of Jong Ajax, the 25-year-old draws clear parallels to new boss Erik ten Hag and his tactical blueprint for the club. But what precisely does De Jong bring to the table?

Man Utd’s yearning for a holding midfielder is one of football’s worst-kept secrets. But De Jong is not the dogged individual they need to force turnovers in the middle of the pitch or to be outmuscling opposition and winning those aerial battles. He needs someone alongside him, to then act as a pivot, holding the line while he can carry the ball up the pitch.

The Dutchman star made 7.08 progressive carries per-90 last season, according to FBRef. He also made 1.49 key passes, and 5.67 passes into the final third.

As a possession-based playmaker, De Jong hits all the right notes. But, indeed, this is not a player who will be in for a scrap. He made a measly 1.09 interceptions per-90 and won 0.96 tackles by a similar metric.

Essentially, in De Jong, Man Utd will be paying for one-half of a complete midfield. The Netherlands star, though exquisitely talented, will not be enough to fill in their midfield going forward as a complete package.