History suggests that when Manchester United and Manchester City are competing for the same player, it’s the Blues who eventually get the better end of the deal.
Both sides wanted Alexis Sanchez and Harry Maguire, with United winning both battles, but neither player have exactly shown City were wrong to pull out of the race. There was talk of United wanting Jack Grealish, but it was City who raised transfer funds and paid the released clause, while it was only ever going to be City signing Harry Kane, not United.
And even though it took City’s interest in Cristiano Ronaldo to force United to re-sign their former hero, the contrasting league finishes of both sides show City hardly missed out on the Portuguese. Now, City could do worse than return the favour and try to hijack a player United want.
In one of the stranger transfer stories of the summer so far, its seems there’s a chance Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong could head to United, to link up with his former Ajax manager Erik Ten Hag. This is one of Europe’s best and most promising players in his position, and despite Barcelona’s struggles, United would be at best a sidewards step for him.
However, Barcelona appear open to selling to raise funds, United are interested, and the Ajax connection could help make a move happen. So as City watch on, they could certainly do worse than making a move for De Jong themselves if he is available.
The Blues need a new holding midfielder either this summer or next, with Fernandinho gone and Ilkay Gundogan with only a year left on his deal. When De Jong joined Barcelona, City were linked and it feels a better fit now than it did in 2019.
De Jong wouldn’t come cheap, of course, and there are reports in Spain that Barca would look to Bernardo Silva if he left. Pep Guardiola joked that ‘they will have a difficult time’ if they want to sign City’s no.20. If City didn’t make a move, they wouldn’t necessarily be worse off for next season with Gundogan able to drop back.
In the long term, though, De Jong would fit the profile of player City would look to replace Gundogan and provide cover for Rodri in midfield. If he joins United, that chance may be lost once and for all.