Man Utd have free run at cheap Frenkie de Jong alternative but were told not to sign star

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Manchester United may have a free run at signing a high-quality alternative to Frenkie de Jong who would much cheaper thanks to Arsenal – but they’ve previously been warned off the player by Rio Ferdinand. United’s pursuit of Barcelona star De Jong is becoming a protracted saga with there suggestions Erik ten Hag is getting frustrated.

The Dutch midfielder will cost around £70million but United do not appear willing to pay that and say they will turn to alternatives rather than pay over the odds. One of those back-up options could be Leicester’s Youri Tielemans.

Sky Sports claim Arsenal are no longer as hot on Tielemans as they were previously because of Fabio Vieira’s imminent arrival from Porto. The Gunners are said to want to sign just one central midfielder this summer, with Vieira the chosen addition.

Arsenal’s cooling interest offers an opportunity for other clubs to swoop in, especially with Tielemans no longer as fixed as he was before on the idea that he needs to be playing in the Champions League next season. United, like Arsenal, can only offer Europa League football to any new players.

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Belgium international Tielemans might appeal further because he is out of contract at Leicester in 2023 which means he is available for below his market value. The technical midfielder has long been linked with United and has been an integral player for Leicester the past three seasons.

Ten Hag of course needs midfield recruits as he currently stands to enter the new campaign with Fred, Donny van de Beek and Scott McTominay as his only options in the middle. Tielemans could be available for around £25m to £30m and a move might make plenty of sense given his talents.

But United legend Ferdinand has previously warned his former club off of signing Tielemans and Ruben Neves. Asked about playing the duo alongside Bruno Fernandes in a midfield trio, he replied: “That wouldn’t be my choice, I have got to be honest. I like them and they are good players, but if you think that midfield is getting you closer to the other teams, I would argue against it. Mobility-wise, we would be lacking.”

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Ten Hag will be hoping to build a fluid and energetic midfield capable of playing his way on the ball and off it, with De Jong his top target thanks to his ball-playing education at Ajax. The Dutchman also wants another Ajax old boy in Christian Eriksen on a free, seemingly with the view to playing the duo together.

But those two might not be attainable. De Jong may be too expensive, and has publicly expressed multiple times he’d prefer to stay at Barcelona, while Eriksen seems to prefer a stay in London which means he could remain with Brentford on a new contract or rejoin former employers Tottenham.

In the very possible instance United sign neither, Tielemans is someone who could come into the thinking, regardless of whether or not Ferdinand thinks Ten Hag should sign him. Certainly the midfielder would at least have a point to prove to the Red Devils icon were he to become a United player before the summer’s out.

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