News From Manchester: Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong decision might have boosted Manchester United’s transfer chances – Daniel Murphy

United have had a deal agreed with Barcelona for the transfer for quite some time. The cash-strapped Catalonians are desperate for the sale to go through or for De Jong to take a drastic pay cut. The player, who has watched his club spend millions on new players while they still owe him millions in deferred wages, does not want to leave and does not want to reduce his wages. Why should he?

The fact that United are continuing to push for De Jong just shows how important Erik ten Hag believes he is in making his new team tick. But it's looking like an increasingly difficult deal to pull off.

However, there may be hope yet. A new wrinkle was added to the story last week on Barcelona's pre-season tour of the United States. Barca have been playing elite competition in fierce rivals Real Madrid and Italian giants Juventus and, as a result, manager Xavi has been naming what is close to his strongest XI for each match. Despite this, De Jong hasn't started either of them.

The Dutchman has come on at half-time in both encounters but, instead of playing in his favoured midfield role, he has been deployed as a centre-back. It's not a completely unnatural position for De Jong, who played 19 times in the position after breaking into the Ajax first team under Ten Hag's tutelage but he hadn't played there for several years and it certainly isn't the position he envisaged himself playing at Barcelona.

Barca have been doing everything in their power to strong arm and guilt trip De Jong out of the club over the summer but he has continued to resist. However, if it begins to impact things on the pitch – which being moved out of your favourite position and not starting at all can certainly be construed as – it might just be the final straw. Enough to finally push him into United's welcoming arms.

Xavi's experimentation with De Jong has certainly been interpreted by some as the manager sending a message but the coach has denied that accusation and explained why he sees him in defence. “I'm not sending messages to anyone. I like him a lot as a player.

“Playing as a centre-back, he [De Jong] can give us a lot, he can adapt to that position. We want it that the centre-back distributes the ball and he does that very well. We've had private conversations that are very important and that I will not reveal here. He's a key player, but then there's the economic situation and Financial Fair Play.”

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