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Matthijs de Ligt’s Manchester United destiny: Three reasons why it will work



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In 2019, Manchester United fans were obsessed with the idea of signing teenage sensation Matthijs de Ligt, envisioned to be the foundation of their defence for years to come.

Aged only 19, the Dutchman had just captained his boyhood Ajax side – led by Erik ten Hag – to a league and cup double, and they had taken Europe by storm, reaching the semi-final of the Champions League, knocking out Real Madrid and Juventus on the way.

This was a player who looked certain to be the best player in his position in the world at some point. The problem was that United had just come off a horrible season. Europa League football was not enough to attract him over the prospect of an exciting Cristiano Ronaldo-led Juventus. But the ship is not always sailed; sometimes, it simply wants to meet at a different point.

Read More: Manchester United prove fan concern wrong with brilliant Matthijs de Ligt move

Fast-forward to 2024, and while the Dutchman remains a top defender, he has not quite hit the heights expected of him, and Manchester United has again come off a poor season. But the future looks brighter at Old Trafford this time, and the club is seemingly keen for De Ligt to be a part of that future. De Ligt himself seems more eager than in 2019.

Fans are not as on board with this idea as they were five years ago, and there are valid reasons for that. His reported wages are quite high in Munich, and he would realistically need to agree to a pay cut. He is also an imperfect, even if workable, fit next to Lisandro Martínez and can be rash at times when defending. Like Maguire, he can be awkward on the turn, although not to the same extent.

But the positives far outweigh the negatives for me in this deal. Whilst defending large spaces can be a weakness, De Ligt’s comfort starting high up the field helps United press more effectively and compact the space, meaning the centre-backs are less exposed to larger spaces.

He understands Erik ten Hag’s demands, having previously captained his Ajax side, and his physical and mental qualities, such as aggression and reading of play, allow him to dominate opposition attackers.

He also brings elite leadership, character, and organisational skills. With Varane departed, there is a void to fill in this area, and De Ligt is one of the only defenders who can fill that void himself. Whilst initially not favoured by Thomas Tuchel last season, he made himself a key player for him in part due to these qualities. United need good characters and leaders, De Ligt is very much that.

De Ligt also relishes defending. He is not afraid to go at it with any attacker and is one of the best aerial defenders in Europe. This all-out defensive style can lead to errors, but more often than not, it is overwhelmingly positive and makes life very difficult for attackers. In this regard, De Ligt is similar to United legend Nemanja Vidić.

Bayern Munich reportedly want £42 million plus add-ons for De Ligt, which is a reasonable fee but could be negotiated down further by United. A final fee between £35 and 40 million pounds up front would be ideal, with add-ons.

United would be getting a top-quality defender, still only 24 years old, who could realistically be the next captain of the club after Bruno Fernandes and help to strengthen the team’s foundation, as well as raise the standards on the training pitch and in the dressing room. All things considered, this would be a good signing.

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