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With Erik Ten Hag now firmly set in place at Manchester United come the end of this long, drawn-out season, the Red Devils will be working day and night to secure the Dutch manager’s top targets going into pre-season.
Ten Hag, who has been in the United Kingdom for the past week, has met with Manchester United officials to clarify those players he wants in the door during the off-season, but also those who will be surplus to requirements.
Edinson Cavani, Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, Lee Grant and Nemanja Matic all have contracts that are coming to an end in June, while other players such as Phil Jones and Eric Bailly have been told that they would be best in finding pastures new.
There needs to not only be a player reset this summer inside Old Trafford, but also a cultural shift. Long gone should be the days of trying to sign players who are out of their prime on enormous wages, but instead shifting the dial to those who are on the rise with something to prove.
Manchester United have had a crisis this season in their defence, even after signing a world-class centre half in Raphael Varane from Real Madrid. While the France international has been sub-standard compared to his usual best, the surroundings and circumstances around him have not been ideal.
The Red Devils will likely sell both Jones and Bailly this summer, while also listening to offers on Victor Lindelof in case there is an interested party out there. That leaves space for a central defender to come into the fold and fight for his place.
AFC Ajax’s Jurrien Timber has been a man in form this season, having played over 40 times throughout all competitions and tipped to be the Dutch club’s next hottest prospect.
Having risen through the Ajax ranks, he has been blooded and nurtured by Ten Hag over the past couple of seasons and has not looked back since. The Red Devils are in dire need of a centre back with pace and intelligence to partner Varane, as well as Harry Maguire, should he remain at the club past this summer.
The benefit of Timber is also his versatility. Having the ability to play at right back as well is a big bonus, given Manchester United’s shortcomings in that position too. While predominantly a central defender, Timber’s athletic prowness gives him the flexibility to play in a vast amount of systems, which would help him thrive straight away.
A bonus in Timber’s corner is the fact that incoming boss Ten Hag knows all about him. At too many times over the past 10 years have players been signed without the manager’s complete conviction and sign off, causing a mixed and disruptive recruitment synergy at the football club.
As Ten Hag has said throughout his interview process, he will need the ability to veto any deals being worked on, and have a major input on recruitment. Given it will be his first summer in charge at the club, it makes sense to bring a few players into the group who have previously worked with the Dutchman.
Timber’s athleticism, workrate and speed will work wonders in the Premier League and, at the age of 20, is just at the beginning of his journey. While he might still be rough around the edges in some aspects of his game, Manchester United should aiming to complete this deal as early as possible.