Manchester United’s summer-long – and ultimately unsuccessful – chase for Frenkie de Jong has led Red Devils director of football John Murtough to come to a big realisation over the pursuit.
With Erik ten Hag brought in as a new manager, he earmarked his central midfield as an area of weakness and urgent need of fixing. For too many games last season, United had lost control in the centre of the park. Indeed, it was the main recommendation Ralf Rangnick made to Ten Hag upon the pair’s brief time working alongside each other.
Ten Hag quickly identified his former Ajax protege De Jong as his No 1 target. But getting a deal over the line proved extremely difficult. Ultimately, it was a pursuit that failed.
United spent weeks negotiating a fee with Barcelona for the player. When that was eventually struck, United were forced to dig deep, striking a fee in the region of £63m, plus add-ons.
However, persuading De Jong to quit the Nou Camp proved an entirely more complex affair. Indeed, a report named 10 reasons why De Jong was opposed to ditching Barcelona for Manchester United.
And try as they might, convincing De Jong to make the move ultimately evaded United. In what was the most long-drawn out saga of the summer, United spent several weeks trying to get the deal over the line.
A fork in the road should perhaps have been reached when Murtough, technical director Darren Fletcher and chief executive Richard Arnold flew to Barcelona for further talks with the player.
And even a personal call from Ten Hag to De Jong failed to turn the tide.
Man Utd should have abandoned Frenkie de Jong pursuit weeks earlier
Despite this, United pushed the deal right until the end of the window. And even after Casemiro had signed, reports late on suggested United may still resurrect a deal for De Jong.
However, nothing materialised late on, leaving United to lick their wounds over an entirely embarrassing saga.
The very fact that Murtough was able to identify Casemiro as an alternative, wrapping the deal up in days, only served to underline the futility of the chase.
Indeed, the £60m signing of the experienced Brazilian was done in days, with the player clearly happy to make the move.
He was seen as an alternative choice put forward by the club’s recruitment team and quickly agreed on by Ten Hag.
Now a report claims that key difference has now seen the penny drop with Murtough. As per ESPN’s Rob Dawson, Murtough privately admits United should have walked away from the deal weeks ago.
He claims Murtough ‘accepts’ he handled the Frenkie de Jong saga in the wrong way.
He could have saved himself and the club crucial weeks in the transfer market. Furthermire, he could also have saved face over a thoroughly-humiliating saga.
United proved signings were ultimately easy enough
United managed to sign six players all in, spending a total of £214.2m, as per Transfermarkt.
And while United experienced similar negotiating hell with both Lisandro Martinez and Antony, those deals were ultimately far more simple.
United, of course, were forced to dig deep to sign the two Ajax men. But the basis for those pursuits was always the fact that the pair both wanted to make the move. That could never be said of De Jong.
As well as Martinez, Antony and Casemiro, United also signed Martin Dubravka, Christian Eriksen and Tyrell Malacia.
After a slow start, Ten Hag’s new-look side have won their last three games. And they currently sit fifth ahead of the weekend’s round of fixtures.
Their new-found confidence, however, faces a test on Sunday when 100% Arsenal visit Old Trafford for a big clash.