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Manchester United’s hopes of signing Ajax defender Matthijs de Ligt may be decided by his agent, Mino Raiola, who could reportedly take a stand against the Red Devils for their treatment of Paul Pogba.
Raiola represents De Ligt and “could persuade his client to join another club,” reported The Sun’s Dave Fraser (h/t Joe Bray of the Manchester Evening News). Jose Mourinho’s falling out with Pogba has been one of the most widely covered angles of United’s downturn in form this season.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Romelu Lukaku—who is no longer in business with the Dutch agent—have all joined United in recent years with Raiola as their representative.
It was Raiola who helped oversee Pogba’s Old Trafford comeback in 2016 when he returned to the club after four years at Juventus, but the De Ligt pursuit could be held up if Raiola wants his client to go elsewhere.
Club legend Paul Scholes is no longer officially tied to United, but Raiola made a rare appearance on Twitter in August to lambast the ex-Red Devil for his criticism of Pogba:
Mino Raiola @MinoRaiola
Some people need to talk for fear of being forgotten. Paul Scholes wouldn’t recognize a leader if he was in front of Sir Winston Churchill. @paulpogba
Mino Raiola @MinoRaiola
Paul Scholes should become sports director and advise Woodward to sell Pogba. Would be sleepless nights to find Pogba a new club @paulpogba
Central defence has been an area of ongoing concern for United in recent years. Eric Bailly arrived in 2016 to many plaudits initially, but he’s since lost status under Mourinho, with Victor Lindelof, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones also exchanging minutes.
De Ligt is only 19 but already captains Ajax and has started in all nine of his senior appearances for the Netherlands. He seems to be a player genuinely on course for superstardom, and ex-Oranje midfielder Wesley Sneijder rates him as one to keep an eye on, per Dutch Football:
Dutch Football @FootballOranje_
Sneijder was asked who will replace him as Netherlands record cap holder in the future, “Matthijs de Ligt. He s someone I can see improving the record.” https://t.co/YZfm9OskhF
But one has to ask whether United appeals to a player with such major prospects at present. They could undoubtedly compete financially with any other club in the world, but Mourinho’s uncertain future and dwindling results mean Old Trafford hardly looks most appealing at present.
Liam Corless of the Manchester Evening News reported on United’s failure to land a raft of centre-back targets in the summer for a variety of reasons, transfers on which executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward would have had a big say.
Toby Alderweireld, 29, was turned down due to age and cost, Harry Maguire was deemed too costly at £75 million, Yerry Mina’s agent wanted too much money and Diego Godin used United’s interest to get a new Atletico Madrid contract.
De Ligt would go a long way to improve an ailing defence right now, as well as offering a potential mainstay at centre-back for a decade or more, and journalist Gavan Casey highlighted how badly they need it:
Gavan Casey @GavanCasey
Smalling and McTominay at centre-back despite spending £389 million over the last three years smacks of a tweet in the inevitable Manchester United banter era thread
Sport (h/t Sport Witness) reported Mourinho is keen to secure De Ligt as the leader of his backline and that United will “bid hard” for the player. However, the Catalan newspaper also reported Manchester City’s €60 million (£52.6 million) offer for his services is the highest Ajac have received.
Securing UEFA Champions League qualification could be crucial to United keeping contact in the De Ligt race, but Raiola could ultimately take the transfer saga out of their hands altogether.