New United boss Erik ten Hag has made his former Ajax midfielder De Jong his No.1 transfer target this summer but has not been able to get the deal over the line. With Barca keen to offload De Jong this summer, United feel that willingness to let the player go should be reflected in the transfer fee for the Holland international.
Barca want upwards of £70million for De Jong, while United are understood to be willing to pay an initial fee of around £60m, with a further £5m due in add-ons. But the Spanish giants are already under financial restrictions for breaking their salary cap and, as such, can only reinvest in their squad a third of what they make through player sales or save in wages.
Sources close to the negotiating process for De Jong say that is the issue Barca are using to drive up the asking price for De Jong, who finds himself in limbo ahead of the new season.
United are aiming to sign at least five players this summer and their ability to sufficiently strengthen other areas of the squad will be compromised if they pay over the odds for De Jong.
After detailed discussions with Football Director John Murtough, ten Hag has made a central midfielder his priority this summer, with Ruben Neves of Wolves another potential option. Cristian Eriksen, a free agent having left Brentford, is also on United’s radar, but it is understood the former Tottenham midfielder is keen to remain in London, with a return to Spurs not ruled out.
United are also pursuing a versatile attacker, who can play in any position across the front line, with another of ten Hag’s former charges, Ajax forward Antony, a realistic target.
There is hope within United that a deal for Brazil international Antony, in the region of £40m, can be struck with Ajax. Antony, 22, has scored 22 goals in 79 games for Ajax since joining from Sao Paulo in 2020.