Manchester United’s four midfield options to partner Frenkie de Jong are all problematic – Casey Evans

Erik ten Hag has made Frenkie de Jong his priority signing for the midfielder this summer. And while a number of areas need to be addressed in the Manchester United squad, most fans would agree that the center of the park needs a significant upgrade if they are to compete with their rivals.

But if the club secures De Jong’s signature, who will pair him with the midfielder? Most United fans are hoping a second midfielder will follow the Dutchman through the gates of Old Trafford, but if that doesn’t happen then the club will have to look internally.

There are four main options to link up with De Jong at United. The front two, Donny van de Beek and James Garner, are more forward-thinking and while the latter could be suited to a sustaining role, he would likely be behind the more senior options at least initially. Fred would probably be the most functional fit, however, he’s much more useful in affecting the game further, so would be better as a rotation option for the Dutchman.

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That leaves Scott McTominay, who many United fans believe could be De Jong’s perfect partner, given his aerial ability and tenacious tackling. But the reality is that the academy graduate isn’t technically good enough to make this midfield pivot functional.

McTominay often plays in the opponent’s shadow. By this I mean his positioning in possession is often so poor that he stands out of play and denies the defense or fellow midfielder a passing option by standing too close to the opposition.

It looks like he does this to anticipate United losing possession and already be able to score an opposing player, but the irony is that by doing this he makes the team more likely to return the ball. Ten Hag will have to work on this part of his game as it will cause problems for De Jong as well.

If McTominay is never able to pass and De Jong wins the ball from the defence, it will be easier for opponents to put pressure on him and force him to make mistakes. It would be catastrophic if United’s marquee signing were canceled entirely due to the club’s inability to sign him a suitable partner.

All in all, United could take the risk and hope Ten Hag will work miracles in transforming a 25-year-old midfielder into something he never was, but the safest option would be to invest in the transfer market to ensure you get the most out of De Jong when you sign him.


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