Manchester United has met with midfielder Nigel de Jong’s representatives and is considering an £8 million bid ($13.5 million U.S.) to bring the Dutch international back to the Premier League, according to a report by Goal.com.
United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward reportedly met with De Jong’s representatives in London on Tuesday to discuss the potential transfer. De Jong is reportedly very interested in a move to Old Trafford that would see him reunited with fellow Dutchman Louis van Gaal, who coached the player at this past summer’s World Cup in Brazil.
Van Gaal is thought to hold the 29-year-old AC Milan player in high regard and singled him out for praise after the Netherlands defeated Australia 3-2 at the World Cup.
“I don’t like singling out players, but Nigel de Jong was inspirational,” Louis van Gaal told reporters following the tightly contest Group B match.
That’s high praise from a man who is tough to please.
Nigel de Jong currently sits on the books at Italian giants AC Milan, whom he signed for in 2012 after helping Manchester City win their first Premier League title. This past season, De Jong appeared 44 times for the Rossoneri and contributed 2 goals.
United’s rumored interest in De Jong comes just days after Chilean national team boss Jorge Sampaoli confirmed the English club’s interest in Arturo Vidal and cast doubts over his player’s potential transfer to the red side of Manchester.
“I know that the main problem in Vidal’s $80m (£47m) transfer from Juventus to Manchester United is Louis van Gaal’s doubt over the improvement of Arturo’s knee,” Sampaoli told Chilean newspaper El Mercurio.
Vidal, 27, underwent surgery in early May to repair the meniscus in his right knee. The Chilean midfielder made a full recovery and played 60 minutes in his country’s first World Cup match against Australia on June 13th, remarkably just over a month after going under the knife.
Arturo Vidal was able to feature in 3 of Chile’s 4 World Cup matches, but he failed to play the full 90 in each match and Sampaoli admitted that his team’s most important player was only at about “30 or 40 per cent,” for the duration of the tournament.
Nigel de Jong may not be as sexy of an acquisition as Arturo Vidal, but he represents less of a risk to Van Gaal and is a perfect fit for the new system that the Dutch coach has installed at United.
De Jong, or der Rasenmäher (“the Lawnmower”) as he is known in Germany, is a defensive-minded central midfielder known for his robust tackling. He is tireless when tracking back, relentless in pursuing attackers and blocking shots, and never shies away from a big challenge. While the Dutch destroyer has often been cited as a dirty player (specifically for stamping Xabi Alonso in the chest at the 2010 World Cup final and breaking Stuart Holden’s leg with a heavy tackle), De Jong actually possesses a decent disciplinary record and has only received a red card once in his professional career.
He may not be as complete of a player as Vidal and doesn’t possess the same venom going forward as the Chilean, but one lesser known attribute of Nigel de Jong’s game is his cultured passing. De Jong completed a whopping 91% of his passes in Serie A last season, a figure that is generally only associated with Spanish maestros.
With his bulldog-like approach and impressive pass completion percentage, Nigel de Jong would be the perfect foil for Ander Herrera and Juan Mata in United’s new-look midfield. On top of it all, De Jong is already well-versed in Van Gaal’s 3-4-1-2 formation and would be able to jump right into the starting lineup.
Yes, Arturo Vidal would signal Manchester United’s intentions to take back the Premier League title and return to the Champions League, but the risk doesn’t seem to match the reward. Moving heaven and Earth to land a player with a questionable knee whose entire game is underpinned by his ability to run from box to box doesn’t represent good business. The thought of Vidal coming to Old Trafford only to be plagued by injury and become the next Owen Hargreaves is one that van Gaal has and most likely will continue to consider as he weighs up his options before the 2014-2015 season.
At $13.5 million, Nigel de Jong looks like a bargain and could be readily available as AC Milan look to retool a side that finished 8th in Serie A last season. At worst, De Jong would be a solid stop-gap until Kevin Strootman returns from injury and Roma can be persuaded to part with him.