Manchester United Twitter was overcome with a mix of emotions over the heavy, and seemingly credible, links to Ajax’s prodigal centre back Matthijs De Ligt. United and Barcelona were named as the two contenders for the young defender’s services, but with United having an edge over the Catalans in terms of wages. De Ligt addressed the rumours himself to reporters during his training with the Netherlands, who are preparing for a showdown with England in the UEFA Nations League Semi-final.
“Everyone has been talking about my future for a year now,” De Ligt said to Fox Sports. “One day I will go there, and the next day I will go somewhere else... My focus is on the Nations League and after that I will see what will happen.”
A typical non-committal response from De Ligt, who is no doubt in a difficult position as he tries to decide what’s best for his future, but by no means a dismissal of United. It was perhaps a bit naive to buy into the stories that the deal would be done this week, but it does seem like this move is an actual possibility for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Rebuilding the backline has been a pressing need since Moyes forced out Ferguson’s veteran corps, but attempts to solve it have been largely unsuccessful.
Matthijs de Ligt is only 19 years old and he gave this inspiring speech to over 100,000 Ajax fans at their trophy parade.— BenchWarmers (@BeWarmers) May 18, 2019
Whoever signs him are getting something really special...
( : @btsportfootball)pic.twitter.com/zCy9c6lnhx
If De Ligt has genuine interest in United, Woodward needs to pursue. He can’t back down, like he was alleged to have done last summer, over the cost of demands. De Ligt is a club captain at 19 years old for a reason, and we saw it this season. Eredivisie Champions for the first time in 5 years, League and Cup double winners for the first time in 21 years, and Champions League semi-finalists for the first time in 23 years. It was an historic season for Ajax, and De Ligt’s quality of play and role as a leader (in a team that features several veterans) shows just how important he is to his side. He is the kind of player that Manchester United are in desperate need of.
In 2002, Sir Alex Ferguson convinced the club to shell out a record breaking £30m for Rio Ferdinand, a young defender who had been named club captain at Leeds. Rio not only made an instant impact, but he went on to become arguably the best centre back in Manchester United history, a leader in the back-line for over a decade. De Ligt certainly isn’t at the level of Ferdinand yet, but the comparison is there. A physical leader from the back, who is already a confident and vocal member of his team at such a young age.
Investing in De Ligt is one of those moves that could change a team’s fortunes, and Woodward cannot let this opportunity pass. United have one solid starter in Victor Lindelöf — who could be an ideal partner to De Ligt — and then a lot of average squad players behind him. It’s time to up the game in the transfer market and make moves that give Solskjaer a competitive squad for the long haul.