If all goes to plan this summer, Erik ten Hag will be reunited with Frenkie de Jong at Manchester United. The duo previously had a close relationsh
If all goes to plan this summer, Erik ten Hag will be reunited with Frenkie de Jong at Manchester United. The duo previously had a close relationship with Ajax, achieving success together during their spell in Amsterdam. And the Netherlands international, along with James Garner, could both be the 52-year-old’s modern-day versions of Michael Carrick if they end up sharing a dressing room together.
Manchester United are pushing and pushing to land De Jong this summer.
The Barcelona star is Ten Hag’s top transfer target and the La Liga giants are willing to sell as they look to balance their finances.
United have been pursuing a deal all summer long and, though the 25-year-old is yet to arrive, there’s still an expectancy they’ll be able to get this deal over the line.
And, should that happen, then the Red Devils may finally have their Carrick replacement.
Not since the England international retired in 2017 have the club had a midfield conductor, a general, somebody of making things tick in the middle of the park.
That was never going to be Paul Pogba, with the France international more of a box-to-box player instead.
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Likewise Marouane Fellaini, while nobody still knows where Donny van de Beek fits into the current side.
Fred appears to be better going forward than sitting back, something that became apparent during Ralf Rangnick’s time in the dugout, while Scott McTominay is another all-rounder rather than a specialist.
De Jong, however, oozes quality and class.
The Netherlands international never shies away from the ball. He wants it, to feet, so he can carry it forward and make things happen.
He’s a leader, too, as demonstrated with his excellent performances for the national team.
While his time at Barcelona is yet to work out, there’s a sense the Catalan giants have been using the 25-year-old all wrong during their time with each other.
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De Jong hasn’t been allowed to be a conductor, with that role usually being given to veteran Sergio Busquets.
But, at United, Ten Hag has a plan.
He knows exactly how to coax the best from the midfielder, who flourished under the 52-year-old as Ajax reached the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2019.
Ten Hag intends to have everything go through De Jong when he takes over at the club, allowing his compatriot to be the main man.
And that’s exactly what Sir Alex Ferguson did with Carrick during their spell at Old Trafford with each other.
Many raised eyebrows when United spent £17million on landing the England international back in the summer transfer window of 2006.
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But Carrick, like Paul Scholes, was allowed to run the show.
And that decision paid off, with Carrick playing a key role as the club won five Premier League titles and the Champions League.
Then, there’s Garner.
The 21-year-old was compared to Carrick by Solskjaer back in 2019, shortly after the youngster made his debut in a victory over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.
“I believe he’s got the chance to have a great future,” Solskjaer said. “He knows we believe in him, we’ve got great faith in him as the next Michael Carrick.
“I know he’s young and I know it’s not fair on kids to compare to great players like Michael was, but he’s the same mould, he plays simple passes, plays through the lines.”
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And Solskjaer added: “You’re at Man United. Michael had the pressure of coming in after Roy Keane, that’s just the way it is at Man United.”
And Garner has done himself no harm when it comes to being in the United squad under Ten Hag next season.
With four goals and eight assists for Nottingham Forest in the Championship last term, he’s still got a bright future ahead of him.
Ten Hag is set to make a final decision on Garner during pre-season, when the club tour Thailand, Australia and Norway.
And it’s feasible the England youngster will be given a chance to show what he’s all about next term.
Both Garner and De Jong can act as Carrick replacements – and they’d certainly be a slick midfield pairing if they’re allowed to be.