During his time in Amsterdam, Erik ten Hag led Ajax all the way to the semifinals of the Champions League, claiming the scalps of Real Madrid and Juventus along the way. Only a dramatic last-minute goal from Tottenham’s Lucas Moura in the second leg could deny them a place in the showpiece.
When Ten Hag arrived at Manchester United last year, he reunited with one of the components of that side in Donny van de Beek, signed by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in 2020, but things haven’t worked out for the midfielder at Old Trafford, and he’s now joined Eintracht Frankfurt on loan. Andre Onana, the goalkeeper from that Ajax team, will hope to have better luck in the Premier League after Ten Hag brought him to Manchester last summer.
Now it seems that the United boss is eyeing another of his former stars, this time at the back, with a lack of playing time presenting an opportunity.
De Ligt frustration could present United chance
According to Sky Sport Germany, Ten Hag is “very interested” in signing Matthijs de Ligt from Bayern Munich. Any move will depend on the former staying in the job – United are currently struggling in seventh place – but De Ligt could become “one of the top transfer targets” in the summer if he can survive.
Bayern have recently signed Eric Dier from Tottenham and they want another centre-back too, with PSG’s Nordi Mukiele and Barcelona’s Ronald Araujo both mentioned. De Ligt is concerned that he could become the fourth-choice in his position if one of those player arrives, and that means a transfer “is not out of the question”.
De Ligt used to idolise Ronaldo
De Ligt left Ajax at the end of the aforementioned season to join Juventus in a €86m deal, and then spent three years in Turin before Bayern acquired him for €67m. Bundesliga commentator Kevin Hatchard talked it up as a “monster” signing, having seen De Ligt make the World XI and UEFA Team of the Year on the back of his success in the Netherlands.
He justified that initial hype by earning a spot in the Bundesliga Team of the Season in his first year, but this year he’s undeniably fell down the pecking order. While he’s missed six league matches through injury, he’s only started four of the 10 for which he has been available.
A move to United is likely to appeal, firstly on the basis that he’s had success with Ten Hag before. Speaking in 2022, De Ligt described his former boss as “a really good trainer” who “has a lot of qualities”.
But beyond that, there may be a sentimental draw too for a player who idolised Cristiano Ronaldo as a child, “especially in his time when he played at Manchester United”. De Ligt says his first football shirt was a Red Devils top with the Portuguese’s name on the back, and he may have the chance to wear the strip himself before long, albeit at the other end of the pitch.