News From Manchester: Manchester United have obvious hurdle to overcome to sign dream Erik ten Hag partnership – Liam Wood

Ten Hag boarded a plane to London seven days ago and, either side of his landing to watch the season finale with Crystal Palace, has been extensively tipped to cash in his airmiles on connecting flights for those men who put Ajax back on the European map during THAT memorable run to the Champions League semis in 2019.

Scratch that. Most of them were young bucks at the time.

Led by colossal then-teenage captain Matthijs de Ligt – and firm United target for this summer Frenkie de Jong – an Eredivisie and KNVB Cup double under Ten Hag was so nearly followed up by a ticket to the marquee showpiece. In the end that dream was cruelly ended by Lucas Moura's heroics.

Still, while De Ligt and De Jong were unable to emulate 1995 winners including Frank de Boer and Ajax's wonderful former playmaker, Clarence Seedorf, they ultimately showcased an elite standing within the game and so it proved when Juventus and Barcelona came calling.

Fast forward three years and, you guessed it, those two have been backed to reunite with Ten Hag at United while they have even, previously, dropped a major hint over that proposition themselves.

As per the current stance outlined by Barcelona, central midfielder De Jong appears to be a more realistic, marquee signing for Ten Hag during the upcoming window. De Ligt, too, is a former target for United – but the situation at his current club renders any revived pursuit problematic.

In an ideal world, there is no doubt Ten Hag would like to pair the two together again, despite their links with Jurrien Timber – the latest in a long line of Netherlands talents brought through by the United manager or at the Amsterdam giants in general.

However, going after De Ligt might be one for another day – and not merely down to complications brought about by a failure to obtain Champions League qualification for next season. Indeed, there are further issues that will stand in their way when it comes to him during this recruitment drive.

Juventus and United continue to share a smooth working relationship. A sensational return for five-time Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo last summer provided evidence of that, while a predicted second transfer to Turin for Paul Pogba – albeit on a free – follows a gentleman's agreement between the two clubs.

When it comes to De Ligt, a stance on his would-be switch has, simply, been governed by the loss of Italy stalwart, Giorgio Chiellini, who departs Juventus after 17 iconic years.

A winner of nine Scudettos during that near-two decade spell, his departure leaves the Italians with a mountainous hole to fill on and off-field. It means, for the time being at least, Juventus would appear unwilling to let another first-choice option go as they aim to reaffirm their Serie A credentials next season.

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