In fact, they seem further away given the emergence of the wages Barcelona still owe the midfielder. Erik ten Hag is still pressing ahead with the chase, eager to land his top target.
Its clear he feels only De Jong can carry out the task he will set for his midfielders. Speaking to the media earlier this month, Ten Hag explained his transfer strategy.
“We are looking for a player who can play in the holding midfield position, but it has to be the right one, he said. I will not react on a certain player. We need the right player. We will strike the moment the player is available.”
So far, the club have only tried to strike for De Jong. With the likes of Declan Rice going nowhere and Kalvin Phillips joining Manchester City, he may feel there are few other options available.
In which case, he is right to press ahead with De Jong – after all, theres no point getting a cut-price alternative who cant give Ten Hag what he wants. But it may mean he will have to play the long game.
The Dutchmans mission of a rebuild at United has been likened to the one Jurgen Klopp undertook at Liverpool in 2015. A major part of the German tactician's success at Anfield has been Virgil van Dijk.
Klopp's chase of the defender wasnt an easy one. Southampton, as they were entitled to, played hard ball and Klopp had to wait until January to land his man – but he was willing to wait, and didnt rush to find a make-do alternative.
Ten Hag may also feel it is worth waiting to land De Jong later down the line, and there obviously is potential for that to unfold given that United have agreed a deal in principle with Barcelona for him, however insignificant that now may seem. Missing out on his top target would be a huge blow to Ten Hag, but signing a player who can't play the role and using money that could have been used to sign De Jong would be an even bigger one.
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