Managers always have players who are personal favourites, more often than not guys they’ve coached in a previous job.
Louis van Gaal arrived at Old Trafford on the back of leading the Netherlands to the World Cup semi-finals, with some fellow Dutchmen expected to follow in his wake.
Yet Daley Blind was the only Dutchman to land at United, despite links with a host of men Van Gaal knew well in his days with the Oranje.
The 29-year-old is renowned for his ruthlessness in the centre of the park but has elegance on the ball to match, looking a perfect addition for United in this area.
Without a strong, physical ball-winner to anchor the midfield, Van Gaal had a need and a familiar de Jong looked a textbook fit for it.
But despite an expiring contract at San Siro that would’ve seen the Dutchman’s transfer fee be quite reasonable, Milan were able to keep de Jong out of United’s hands.
That is, only for the links to resurface last month. As United stumbled out of the gate, De Jong remained on a contract ticking down towards the summer and a cut-price move was mooted.
Milan are said to be growing anxious about the situation regarding their star man, as losing him would be a massive blow to a midfield lacking another player of his quality.
De Jong has now spoken out on the situation and said he’s content to stay at San Siro, however, and is keen to extend his tenure at Milan.
He said in a press conference: “I’m happy here in Milan. I don’t see a problem with the contract renewal. Let’s hope. We still have time.”
Despite De Jong’s words, it’s still a worrying scenario with for Milan. The club seemingly have less than two months to tie him down to a new deal.
By January he would be free to sign a pre-contract elsewhere, at which time the Diavolo could be forced to accept a diminished check in order not to lose his services for nothing.
The hold-up may be that Milan want to reduce De Jong’s €3.5 million per season salary as he approaches age 30, the club slashing their wage bill year-on-year of late.
United would have no problem providing such a sum – especially with only a nominal transfer fee needed to acquire him – and could be coming into an advantageous situation.
A Milan stay seems to come down to the club’s willingness to put the right offer on the table, as de Jong certainly isn’t opposed to sticking around for a fair shake.
If the Rossoneri can’t do what’s necessary to keep De Jong around, then United may indeed be in luck, with the Dutchman possibly there for the taking should van Gaal want a reunion.